How to Teach Game Design in Kindergarten

The Power of Games

Games and play are powerful educational tools, especially for pre-K and Kindergarten students! The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) clinical report, The Power of Play: A Pediatric Role in Enhancing Development in Young Children, explains how gameplay is important for learning 21st-century skills like problem-solving, collaboration, and creativity. Playing games can help improve children's abilities to plan, organize, get along with others, and regulate emotions. In addition, play also helps with language development, math, and social skills. There are so many benefits to teaching game design in Kindergarten!

Why Teach Game Design in Kindergarten?

So we know playing games can help with early childhood development, but what about the process of creating games themselves? Recent studies indicate that Kindergarteners are not only capable of developing game design skills but that school activities that encourage game design have a positive correlation with student ability to find and solve mathematical problems.

As a teacher or parent of a Kindergartener, you know that they are at a special point in their development. At this age, children can read simple things, have active imaginations, and are beginning to realize that the world around them is impacted by logic and reason. Through game design, we can nurture these strengths and give children opportunities to express themselves creatively!

Keep reading to find out how!!

How To Teach Game Design in Kindergarten:

1. Get Inspired

Before jumping into game design, help students see what is possible! Invite students to brainstorm some of their favorite games and have a class discussion about how they think these games were made. Help students realize that behind every single game, there are humans that created it! If they work hard, they can create someone's favorite game too.

How the Inventor of Mario Designs a Game

2. Research Different Games

In this case, "research" is just a fancy word for play! One of the best ways to evaluate how games work is the play them. You may have your student try out board games, card games, physical games like tag, or online games - whatever works best for you and your students!

As they play, have students think about the different parts. Ask your students, "What makes this activity a game? What does a game need?" Here are some ideas for things that make a great game (but make sure you let your students brainstorm a list on their own!)

3. Break Down the Game Design Process

Based on their brainstorm during game "research," help your students think about the steps they will need to take to make their own game. You'll likely find that inventing a game is not too complicated once you break it down into parts!

Kodable breaking down how to teach game design in Kindergarten.
The Game Design Process by Kodable

4. Create a Physical Game  

Remember, games don't have to be complex! If you're unsure where to start with a game design lesson, try seeing what items you already have lying around your classroom or house. You can invite students to design an obstacle course with random items, a board game with cardboard, or even a variation of a no-materials game like "Simon Says." As long as students are using their imaginations and thinking critically about how the game works, the actual product they produce is less important.

5. Design a Game with Code

Kindergarteners are not too young to code a game! Once students have built a physical game, coding a game will feel like a logical next step, you just need to find the right coding tool.

You may have heard of some super popular game coding programs, like Scratch, Roblox, or Minecraft. These programs are awesome for older students! However, these can be overwhelming for Kindergarteners who need more scaffolding and guidance.

We developed Kodable with this in mind. Kodable is a coding game explicitly designed for kiddos with Kindergarten-level abilities. We’ve made it easy for young students to design their own levels and games through multiple choice and drag-and-drop programming.

How to Design a Maze Game Level Using Kodable

Students design a maze in the Kodable Maze Maker. Then, they write a program to code their Fuzz character through the maze. Check out our scripted lesson plan for more classroom support.

How to Design An Asteroid Blaster Game Using Kodable

Students select and modify properties like background, speed, and difficulty to design their own exciting game. Game options are presented as images in a multiple-choice format, so even pre-reader students can participate!

Love these projects and want to try them with your students? You can sign up to use Kodable with your class for free!

6. Share the Game

One of the best parts about a game is that multiple people can play it. With this in mind, the final step to teaching game design in Kindergarten is to make sure your students have a way to share their hard work. Games are collaborative by nature, so don't forget to invite students to share any games that they create with their friends and families. 

Are you Ready to Teach Game Design in Kindergarten?

As President Obama once said, "Don't just buy a new video game, make one. Don't just download the latest app, help design it. Don't just play on your phone, program it."

Your Kindergarteners have the power to design their own games, and you can help!

President Obama encourages students to design their own games!

Create your free Kodabe account today to get started!