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Engage Students During (and After) National Game and Puzzle Week [Downloads]

Between traveling (or hosting), cooking (then cleaning), Black Friday shopping, and keeping track of kids who are out of school for two extra days, the week of Thanksgiving tends to be a hectic one for most families. After all is said and done, it’s very tempting to sink into the couch and just let your eyes glaze over, so it’s no surprise that America’s annual “National Game and Puzzle Week” falls on the same week as Thanksgiving every year. As families gather, National Game and Puzzle Week encourages them to sit down together, play some games, and enjoy one another’s company.

Research shows that playing traditional board games or digital games has many positive benefits for children. Not only does it strengthen interpersonal relationships and collaboration skills, but it can also strengthen connections in the brain.

  • Reading and spelling skills can be learned and expanded by almost any game that involves words, like Apples to Apples and Scrabble.
  • Games that require banking or counting, like Monopoly and Life, promote math skills.
  • Games like Pictionary and Charades promote creativity, storytelling skills, confidence (drawing/performing in front of others), and thinking outside the box (how do I draw/act out “fabric”?).
  • Strategy-based games like Chess and Settlers of Catan encourage problem-solving, decision-making, and thinking ahead.

Playing games also bolsters various social skills, such as taking turns, following directions, resolving conflicts, communicating clearly, and handling a loss (or a win!). Here’s a list of 2017’s best family board games, although there are many equally engaging and imaginative games you can play for free or with a basic deck of cards.

Games have also been helping children learn in the classroom for decades. Evidence shows that gamification—the process of using game design and game theory to make a product or service more gamelike, interactive, and engaging—significantly enhances the learning experience. More and more, districts are implementing digital solutions that are built with elements of gamification to help keep students engaged, as well as technology-enhanced items that are similar to what they may see on high-stakes exams.

Using educational games in the classroom provides opportunities for students to examine important content in a more lively and enjoyable manner than the traditional worksheet or lecture can offer. Teachers especially like being able to use games to excite and hold the attention of students who are more challenging to engage. Games tap into students’ thrill of and desire for mastery.

Since your students are off to spend time with their families for Thanksgiving and National Game and Puzzle Week, encourage them to host a game night over the break. And be sure to send them home with our Thanksgiving crossword puzzle and word search below (or test your own knowledge)! Then, to keep students engaged when they return, check out our ideas and tools for creating relevant and compelling assignments for online and blended learning classrooms—like crossword puzzles. Just add some gamification!


Long, S. (2016). Charades & Pictionary: Fun games that target social emotional skill building. The Autism Helper. Retrieved from

Marzano, R. J. (2010). Meeting students where they are. Educational Leadership, 67(5), 71–72.

National game and puzzle week. (2014). Mansfield/Richland County Public library. Retrieved from

National game & puzzle week. (2016). School Specialty. Retrieved from

Sung. K. (2016). Research about games in the classroom. Digital Promise. Retrieved from

Wise, R. (2016). 5 highly-rated kids games for practicing social skills. Retrieved from

About the Author


Ashleigh Lutz

Ashleigh graduated from Arizona State University with a BA in Psychology and a minor in Women and Gender Studies. She spent over three years in higher education developing resources and helping students succeed in online courses. Ashleigh is eager to support Where Learning Clicks and the team’s commitment to helping teachers and students meet important goals and explore their passions. In addition to writing, a few of Ashleigh’s favorite things include rock climbing, chocolate, and cats.