Election 2010: Games and Puzzles Teach Kids about Civic Responsibility

November 2, 2010 | Just because kids aren’t eligible to cast their votes in today’s midterm elections doesn’t mean that they can’t get a head start in learning about the electoral process, past presidents, and American geography.

Several toymakers have created election-themed games and geographical puzzles … and parents wishing to introduce their children to complex, timely topics will gravitate toward these educational products found on many store shelves.

“Oftentimes, kids don’t even realize they’re learning when they’re playing,” said Adrienne Appell, senior manager of public relations at the Toy Industry Association. “The best part about this category of products is that they’re all really educational, and they inspire kids to learn about their country.”

Here are some examples of games and puzzles that appeal to the civic-minded child:

Games

In Race for the White House Game (Aristoplay; ages 12 and up), players involved in a hard-fought presidential contest move around the board acquiring votes and entering them into the Voting Blocks on the Tally Sheets. While learning about Red States, Blue States and Swing States, children get a taste of what it feels like to be a politician forced to please, pacify, and avoid alienating various constituencies and interest groups in order to reach the critical 270 electoral votes needed to win the election.

Hail to the Chief Game (Aristoplay; ages 10 and up) is a trivia board game that teaches about the electoral process. Players move around the game board by answering questions about presidents and the Constitution; they become presidential candidates along the way, and have to travel from state to state on the campaign trail answering questions about U.S. history and geography in order to win electoral votes.

The Scrambled States of America Game (Gamewright; ages 8 and up) is a madcap game of observation and quick reflexes. Players collect cards, and then match states to a “Scramble” card or find a state’s closest neighbor. Whoever scrambles to match and collect the most state cards wins.

In 10 Days in the USA (Out of the Box Publishing; ages 10 and up) players learn all about American geography as they travel the country by jet, car and on foot. The game involves strategizing a trip’s trajectory from start to finish using destination and transportation tiles – the first traveler to make connections for their 10 day journey wins the game.

The award-winning Get Going American Time Activity Tote (Peaceable Kingdom, ages 7 and up) is an activity game tote that has 17 spiral-bound pages of fun -filled, educational games for one or two players including Word Find, Bingo, Mazes, Magic Numbers and Story Fill-ins. The tote includes two write and wipe pens and a clean-up cloth.

Puzzles

Puzzles teach kids about shapes and colors; they also sharpen memory and logic skills. Melissa & Doug has created two great puzzles that have the added benefit of teaching kids about their country: the Presidents of the USA Floor Puzzle teaches kids about past presidents  while the Large Wooden USA Map Capitals and States Puzzle is an excellent way to learn about U.S. geography. The Scrambled States of America Puzzle and Book Set includes a 150 piece jigsaw puzzle that contains 10, secretly hidden state-shaped puzzle pieces.

These are just some examples of the many products on the market that cater to young political activists and budding geography buffs. For more information on current toy trends, visit the “Trends” section on www.ToyInfo.org or “The Toy Biz” on the Toy Industry Association website .