There are many educational games for the Nintendo DS. From subject-specific games to all-in-one generalized teachers, from IQ-testing to barely-educational, Nintendo’s catalog of educational DS games is a sprawling list. How does a parent make heads or tails of such a wide variety? How can a parent choose a learning game to fit a child’s needs?Well, we’re here to help.First thing’s first with educational DS games:Who’s it for?Some educational DS games are made for the younger crowd, 2nd grade and under. Some are aimed at the middle-school set. Yet more, usually created for the high schoolers or even university-level crowd, can hardly be called games in the traditional sense.Decide which of your talented, happy children will be the beneficiary of your educational DS game purchase. If he’s a young buck, you’ll need to move towards the more colorful, easy learning games. These games often have famous characters like Spongebob or Mickey Mouse plastered all over the boxes – a sure-fire way to help the younger crowd engage with the educational game.The middle crowd is often the most difficult for which to buy a learning game. They’re smart – there’s no tricking them with cartoon characters. Assuredly, they’ve played video games before, so the bare fact of being handed a Nintendo DS won’t be enough for them to be satisfied with playing some dorky educational DS game. Unless you’re blessed with a child who “takes” to learning like every parent dreams, the trick with the upper-grade school level and middle-school kids is to find a game that’s entertaining enough for the child to look past the fact that he’s learning.Finally, with the older crowd – there’s no trick. They’ll likely get their own educational DS games, or know to ask you for a specific game, making the whole search much easier for you. With them, it’s often unnecessary to mask the learning in the form of “edutainment,” so “game”-makers focus on packing in as much learning material as possible. There are, of course, exceptions.Educational DS games Part Deux – what do you want to teach?There are ESL-teachers, basic arithmetic learners, vocab-busters, and IQ-testers, amongst many, many others.What are you trying to do? Reinforce a skill? Teach the basics of a subject in which they’re falling behind? Instill a life-long love of learning and educational gaming?Much of what you end up buying will be dependent on what your intent is. Some games are fairly limited in scope – they promise to teach the rudiments of spelling, perhaps. Some will “stick to what they know,” and do it well; for instance, there are a number of game makers who sell an entire line of educational DS games that teach one subject, and one subject only. Some games go even further, teaching a specific subject to a specific grade or age-level. And finally, there are the more generalized games, which usually offer a greater and wider variety of games, and are geared to last longer than a typical DS game’s entertainment life.Educational DS games Part Three – how much are you willing to work?Here’s the hard-look-in-the-mirror part.Educational DS games are often a hard sell. Put a word like “learning” or “mathematics” in the title, and you kid’s gut instinct will likely be to either cringe or smile and let it sit at the back of the closet, unplayed, forgotten.The truth is, for ages 5-15 or so, you might have to show them how an educational DS game can be bearable. Even: fun. So, what kind of game can you stand to play? What kind of game will your kid put up with? Think about it: if you don’t enjoy adding columns of numbers, your kid likely won’t, either.So: can you afford to sit down and play a few rounds of “math” with your child? Can you bear it? A child will play a game as dry-sounding as “Vocab for 5th graders” if you’re there to make it fun. If you don’t have the time or patience to invest, you’re best finding a game that trends towards edutainment, or a generalized learning game.And finally: how to choose an educational DS game for your kidTake part one – your child’s age. Take part two – what they’d need to learn. Then, part three – your level of investment. Finally, take a look at on-line reviews, see what other parents have to say.For busy parents with kids of all ages, the best type of educational DS game is one of the generalized IQ-testers and learners. The “think” games, the “Brain” games; the ones that track a kid’s IQ (or branded-equivalent) seem to last longest with children of all ages – the competitive nature inherent in an IQ-tracking game seems to stimulate and drive children, teens, and young adults to keep playing.For parents with enough time to guide and cajole their kids into playing an educational DS game, games aimed at particular age groups, teaching particular subjects, are often the best idea. The targeted learning approach, when coupled with a parent’s coaxing, usually show stronger results within the subject the educational DS game teaches than the generalized games. However, note that these improvements are limited to the subject the software teaches in the case of these specified teaching games, whereas with the generalized software, smaller improvements are generally seen across the board.