True or false: Too much time on the computer will turn your child’s brain to mush. The answer? Both and neither. Any parent will tell you that one of the trickiest aspects of parenthood these days is navigating how to raise a child in the era of technology. Unfortunately, you really can’t micromanage everything your child consumes on a daily basis, but you can point them in the right direction. For example, you might not let your 9 year old have social media (fair), but you can grant them extra time on the computer if they’re playing kids computer games that get a parental stamp of approval. 

Ah, computer games. Remember those? Shiny discs you used to pop into the computer, fictional storylines you’d lose yourself in before Facebook or, better yet, MySpace, was a thing. While some computer games are designed for sheer entertainment, others are designed with children in mind so that they can embark on digitized adventures that actually teach them something.

From hiking the Oregon Trail to fighting alien dictatorships, the best kids’ computer games are entertaining and have important life lessons and skills embedded in the storyline. These are some of the best kids’ computer games you’ll find these days — they’re oldies but goodies your kids will have fun playing, and you’ll feel good knowing their time spent on the computer isn’t time wasted.

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1. The Learning Company Oregon Trail 5th Edition

Is your child fascinated with the wild west? Oregon Trail from The Learning Company invites children nine years and older to blaze the trail in true pioneer style. Along the way they’ll encounter settlers from all different backgrounds — Irish, African American, Native American and more — traverse rapid waters, hunt, fish and search for food, piecing together their own historic adventure. The game takes them from the banks of the great Mississippi to the Willamette Valley, with seasoned trader Captain Jed Freedman to guide them. It’s equal parts interactive history lesson and problem solving activity, so you won’t mind giving your kiddo the OK to play for an extra few minutes.

2. The Learning Company Zoombinis Logical Journey

Talk about a blast from an intergalactic past, your child will love solving puzzles to help Zoombini aliens escape untrustworthy Bloats and reach a new utopia. Their expedition is packed with activities to strengthen their math and logic skills: think algebraic equations, analysis, graphing and more.

3. The Learning Company Scooby-Doo! Showdown in Ghost Town

Ready to be hit in all the nostalgic feels? The Mystery Incorporated gang’s all here in this spooky kid’s computer game from The Learning Company, and you might want to pull up a seat to watch the storyline unfold (if your child doesn’t mind you peeking over their shoulder, of course). When Scooby, Shaggy, Fred, Velma and Daphne make a pit stop at Los Burritos, they’re served up a lot more than just some spicy Mexican food. As it turns out, the town is haunted, and it’s up to Scooby’s squad to uncover the story of the Faceless Rider with a little help from your little one. Zoinks, indeed!

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