Learning United States Geography with Games

While planning for the school year, I was looking at our geography curriculum for Animal Lover, and I noticed she will be using state flashcards to memorize the states. I decided to see if we had any games that would help her learn U.S. Geography that I would be able to include in our plans. “I think we have a couple,” I thought. When I went downstairs to look at the game shelves, I was shocked to learn that we had not only a couple, but 10 United States themed games.
I love using games for school time because many games are fantastic learning tools but still give a break from “work.” These will provide us with lots to play with during geography time after we’ve done our flashcards.

My favorite place to buy board games is any thrift store, but I have always thought Savers had the best selection and the most complete games. Sadly, the Savers that was closest to us closed not too long ago. Several of these games came from there. Because many of these came from the thrift store, a couple may be out of print, which means if you look for them online, the prices will be crazy. (Sequence States and Capitals on eBay for $63?!) However, if you can find them in person at your local thrift stores like Goodwill or Savers, they should be priced just the same as any other used game. And many are current games that can be found anywhere that board games are sold.

So, here’s what I found that we will be using to support our geography curriculum this year:

The Scrambled States of America Game

My kids love this game! It is based on the book, The Scrambled States of America by Laurie Keller. (The game even includes a mini copy of the book.) In the book, the states decide they are all sick of being stuck living where they are and decide to swap places, but they all quickly realize that there’s really no place like home.
In the game, the states are scrambled, just like in the book, and you are trying to send them home. Each player receives state cards that they match to “scramble” cards to send the states home (a personal discard pile basically). The scramble cards have all sorts of different stipulations, such as the state nickname starting with a specific letter or bordering a certain amount of states. If your state card matches the requirements on the scramble card, you get to send the state home. When all the state cards are gone, whoever has the most state cards in their home pile wins. There are adjusted rules for younger players and early readers.

Game of the States

In Game of the States, you travel across the U.S. buying products that are top producers for different states. You then have to travel with your cargo to a different state and sell your load to the bank. After all the products (blocks) arrive at their destinations, the game ends; whoever has the most money wins. For younger players, or just if you are looking to shorten the time playing, you can limit the number of product blocks you put out.

Trekking the National Parks

This is the only game on the list we haven’t played yet, but I am looking forward to it. I’ve just been waiting for Mike and me to play it alone first to learn the rules before playing with the kids. I love playing new games with the kids, but for some more complex games, it easier to learn the rules just adults first. This game was created by a family that loves National Parks and board games, which I think is so fun.

Ticket to Ride: First Journey

This is the Jr version of the popular board game Ticket to Ride. We have the “real” version also, but First Journey gets played much more often here. The object of this game is to claim routes to connect cities across the United States.

Brain Quest Game: Know the States

This game includes two levels of questions, 3 & 4th grade and 5th-grade &up. Although none of my kids are in that age range, we’ve been fine playing lower-level cards. You answer questions to collect state flags, trying to secure one from a state in each region.

Since I love bargains, I need to mention that this game was the best deal on this list. It was only .29 cents during the Savers closing sale. I really do miss Savers!

Great States

My kids like this one because of the fancy fun timer. I like this game because you choose how many cards you need to get correct to win each time, so you can make it as quick as you would like. You use a spinner to determine what type of question you need to answer, and the first person to reach the predetermined number of winning cards wins.

USA Geo Bingo

A well-loved classic! This version of Bingo has labeled silhouettes of states on the bingo cards and includes wooden bingo markers. The calling cards have the state marked with its capital city and show it surrounded by its bordering states, which are labeled. Also included on the calling cards are the state nickname, population, and total area in square miles.

Sequence States and Capitals

Sequence is a classic game, and in this version, you are matching your capital cities on your cards to the states on the board. When you have a match, you place one of your tokens on the board, and when you get five in a row up, down, across, or diagonally, it’s a sequence. This game is pre-kids, very well-loved with the board in two pieces, but it still works.

Professor Noggin Geography of the United States

There is probably a Professor Noggin game for any topic you’d like to study. We used the North American Birds edition in our bird unit, and have a couple of others. It’s basically just a trivia game, but the kids enjoy them, and the cards have great photos and illustrations. They have two levels of questions, so they will grow with the kids and allow for different levels to play together.

Rolling America

The map on this one is not accurately shaped, so maybe won’t help with geography, but it’s United States themed and fun, so I included it anyway. This game is more about strategy, probability, and a little bit of luck. In Rolling America, you roll dice to fill numbers in each of the states on your U.S. map while making sure each neighboring state’s numbers only differ by 1. The person who can fill the most states wins.

I’m excited to play these this year! Do like playing board games? What are some of your favorites?

2 thoughts on “Learning United States Geography with Games

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