Somehow, growing up in California in the 80’s and 90’s, I was never required to take a geography class. Since I never took a personal interest in the subject, my geographical knowledge is downright embarrassing. I’m determined that my kids will not grow up with the same shortcoming. I’m always trying to find fun ideas to increase they’re awareness of places in the world (like Little Passports and these geography puzzles), however, the Scrambled States of America Game is probably the most fun way to learn geography that I’ve found so far.
Comments: This year, my first grader and I have been studying U.S. history using the Adventures in America curriculum by Elemental Science. (Not an affiliate link, but it’s great and I love it.) As part of that curriculum, we study a state or 2 each week using the book Smart About the 50 States, a great, not-too-detailed, but still interesting book for early elementary. (We supplement with several library books, but Smart About the 50 States is our favorite.)
I decided to buy my kids the Scrambled States of America book and game, because they looked like fun. It turns out I didn’t need to buy the book separately, because the game comes with a small copy of the book. The way the book personified the states and had them decide to switch places was really silly and fun. Even my 4 year old liked it. However, I was a little disappointed in that other than making my kids familiar with the names of the states, it didn’t really help them learn much about the states themselves or where they were supposed to be (when not scrambled). It’s great for supplementing knowledge that kids are gaining in another way, but not for teaching the information.
The GAME on the other hand, is fantastic for learning where states are located. As part of the game, each player is given their own map of the United States and then they draw state cards from a pile. My kids love just finding their states on the map using the color and shape. (If they were better readers, they could also match the names, but since they’re not, I just tell them what each state is called.)
The box says 8 and up, but with the simplified rules for younger kids (which basically just eliminate the racing aspect), my first grader can play with very little help and my preschooler enjoys playing it, though she definitely needs some assistance. Although we waited so long between reading the story and playing the game that I barely remembered the plot, my kids (with their amazing kid-memories) were able to tie it back to the story. My 4 year old for example always says something like, “Kansas, the grumpy one, ha ha!” The faces on the states also make them appealing to little kids.
In the game, each player is trying to “win” the most states. The players win states by matching the description on a Scrambled States of America card to one of the state cards in their hand. The Scrambled States of America cards have descriptions like “South of Colorado” or “No E’s in the name of the capital”. For the most part, my almost 7 year old can figure out whether or not his states fit the description. My 4 year old needs help. There’s no reason to hide the cards in your hand from other players, so it’s easy to help kids when they need it.
In the real version of this game, only the first person to make a match gets to add a state to their collection. In the little kid version, anybody who can make a match gets to collect the state, so there is no element of speed. We’ve never actually played this game until all the states were won. I think that would take at least an hour which is hard to do with a toddler and baby in the house. Instead we just play for 20 minutes or until a set time (like bed time) and then we say whoever has the most states is the winner. I can tell my kids are gradually getting more familiar with the shapes of the states and where they’re located on the map.
In isolation, this might not be the most ideal way to learn about states since the players don’t really learn much about the states themselves other than their location, capitals, and nicknames, but if you’re learning about the states in some other way, such as using the Smart About the 50 States book, this is the perfect supplement. Even if you’re not interested in learning geography, this is still a fun family game that can be adapted to different age levels.