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Games for paediatric educators


Learners have a broad menu of educational options at their disposal—educators with a world of well-developed flashcard apps, videos, podcasts and question banks. Teaching in person allows us to use active learning techniques instead of giving a lecture, but these need to be better than a podcast or video that is just a click away.

Games are an excellent way to make the most of our time together. They bring:

Active learning

A low-stakes environment to experiment and improve

Engaging education in settings with a high level of distraction

Why not consider one of the many free-to-print games for your daily teaching or to keep it in your back pocket for that session you forgot to prepare for?

Here are some that I like:

Cards Against Paediatric Dermatology

This is a matching game for (primarily infectious) rashes. I use a subset of 4-5 cases with the photograph, the name of the condition and presenting symptoms cards for faster play.

This, along with many other members of this family, are available from EM3 . Other games include Cards Against Paediatric Orthopedics, Cards Against Paediatric EKGs and the Zombie Sepsis Game.

Case generating slot machine

Why not discuss cases with a bit of downtime in the clinic? The case-generating Pediatric Slot Machine is a simple card-based game that inspires learners to think creatively and learn from their peers. Could you draw an age, symptom and finding, then discuss the differential diagnosis?

This, and more, are available from the University of Minnesota games closet.

Empiric Paediatric

Empiric has players treat infections. You score points according to difficulty whilst learning guideline-based antibiotic selection. Empiric uses traditional trading card game inspired iconography and colour coding to help teach antibiotic basics along the way. I use this one for teaching on the wards and carry a subset of cards for a quicker game in the clinic.

*COI: I get a small royalty for a printed version of this game sold mostly in the United States. All content is available for free.

Paediatric, adult, and EM versions are available free to print at Empiric Antibiotic Game Print and Play files.

Table Rounds

Table rounds have learners exploring the connections between concepts in medicine. It’s excellent for peer-to-peer teaching. Players build a network of related ideas and explain the connections they make to each other. I use this one to decompress with the ward team.

A trial version is available free to print at Table Rounds.

Clinical Coaching Cards

This game uses mechanics you may be familiar with, from Cards Against Humanity or Apples to Apples, to have educators explore clinical teaching techniques. The game flattens the hierarchy and inspires peer coaching. It is a good choice when inspiring senior residents around clinical teaching or for use in faculty meetings.

It is available as a peer-reviewed supplement in the MedEd Portal.

Make your own!

Our students and their learning goal vary and there is probably no one game that ticks everyone’s boxes.

Tips for teaching with games

Offer games as an option for your teaching session

Voluntary participation supports a sense of autonomy. If participation is not voluntary, then is it even a game?

“Would you like to do teaching at the white board or play a game to learn antibiotics?”

Be explicit about what you are doing

Active learning techniques are more effective than a didactic lecture but may be perceived as less effective. Make it clear to learners why you are using a game to teach. 

“This game will help us practice closed loop communication”

Inspire feeling of competence

Select games that you know your learners can ‘win’ at and then increase the difficulty with time. Give positive and specific feedback on the decisions made in the game.

“I like how you tried amoxicillin for that ear infection because it is a great drug for Streptococcus pneumoniae. In this case, purulent conjunctivitis suggests this may be a different bug”

Learning is social

Take advantage of the social nature of the gameplay. Learners are motivated by feeling valued and feeling like they belong. Pick games that encourage cooperation (cooperative or team-based games).

Match your game to your setting

Simple games fit best in the clinical setting, where learners have higher levels of extraneous load and less cognitive space for rules or bookkeeping. The classroom setting may be better for more complex games. In any environment, games should limit regulations to those that serve an educational purpose.


The abstraction of systems in games may lead to misperceptions by learners. Ask them what they learned at the end of a session to ensure you are teaching what you think you are teaching.

If you are interested in another post with tips on making games let us know in the comments.


Brar G, Lambert S, Huang S, Dang R, Chan TM. Using Observation to Determine Teachable Moments Within a Serious Game: A GridlockED as Medical Education (GAME) Study. AEM Educ Train. 2020 May 23;5(2):e10456. doi: 10.1002/aet2.10456.

Deptola A. Motivation: An Integral Component of Resident Well-Being. J Grad Med Educ. 2021 Feb;13(1):11-14. doi: 10.4300/JGME-D-20-00309.1.

Deslauriers L et al. Measuring actual learning versus feeling of learning in response to being actively engaged in the classroom. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2019 Sep 24;116(39):19251-19257.

Kamra P, Borman-Shoap EC, Zhang L, Pitt MB. Gaming the System: Creation of a Random Case-Generating Game for Use in Morning Report. Acad Pediatr. 2018 Mar;18(2):234-236. doi: 10.1016/j.acap.2017.09.009.

McGonigal, Jane. Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World. London :Jonathan Cape, 2011.

Rutledge C, et al. Gamification in Action: Theoretical and Practical Considerations for Medical Educators. Acad Med. 2018 Jul;93(7):1014-1020.

Watsjold B, Zhong D. Clinical Coaching Cards: A Game of Active Learning Theory and Teaching Techniques. MedEdPORTAL. 2020 Nov 23;16:11042. doi: 10.15766/mep_2374-8265.11042.


  • Michael Cosimini is an assistant professor of paediatrics at the Oregon Health and Science University. He is the designer of Empiric Game and an associate editor and contributor at Paediatrics Reviews and Perspectives (PedsRAP). His work focuses on educational scholarship in the areas of podcasting and serious games for medical education. He/Him.



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1 thought on “Games for paediatric educators”

  1. HI,

    I would love some help with how to develop games in our teaching. I work in an adult ED so there is plenty of opportunity.

    Many thanks