Labor Day Weekend marks the end of the summer and the beginning of the new school year. If you are a parent (and a lot of you on Gamezebo are), this is the time to purchase school supplies for your kids:

Paper (check). . . Notebook (check). . . Pens (check). . . Games (check)? That’s right — Games!

I am not talking about the type of games that encourage your kids to steal cars or raise the ire of your local congressperson (that is the subject of another editorial some day).

No, this is Gamezebo so I am talking about casual games. Casual games have recently been praised for their health benefits. According to studies commissioned by Real Arcade and PopCap Games, casual games are the cure for everything from Alzheimer’s to the common cold.

But a benefit of casual games that has been overlooked until now is their educational value. Casual games can teach your kids how to spell, type, and think. Not only that, because casual games appeal to everyone in your family, casual games let you learn new things together.

I have never met a parent who has confided that they enjoy watching Tellebubbies on TV with their children. But play Bookworm with your child, and its an enjoyable shared experience.

To celebrate the first day of school, I kindly offer you Gamezebo’s picks for the best casual games that will both entertain your children . . . and actually teach them a lesson or two:

Typer Shark: As the Discovery Channel shows us, slap the word “shark” in front of anything, and it takes on a dangerous yet exciting meaning. That includes learning to type. In PopCap’s ode to the classic PlayStation title Typing of the Dead, you type words as fast as you can to zap the sharks before they eat you. Play this game for a week and soon your kid will be typing 100 words per minute.

Tradewinds Legends: Tradewinds Legends is a game of exciting adventure, engaging characters, and intriguing plot twists. But really, it’s a lesson in how to grow a business in the global trading economy. The game can essentially be described in 4 words: buy low, sell high. And there are pirates to boot.

Inspector Parker:A crime has been committed at Misanthrope Manor and it’s up to Inspector Parker to solve the case. How? Through deducting the room, weapon, and criminal through a series of logic-based clues. If you can solve the crime, your kid deserves to be on the Honor Roll.

– Sudoku: Speaking of logic, the most popular puzzle craze both on and offline today is Sudoku. There are hundreds of Sudoku puzzles to chose from, but two we are in the midst of reviewing are Sudoku Latin Squares and Sodoku Maya Gold.

– Word Games: Word games teach both vocabulary and how to spell. Just like Sudoku, there are hundreds of word games, but some of our favorites are Bookworm, Text Twist, Scrabble, and Flipwords.

– Trivia Games: What is the capital of Hungary? What year was the US bicentennial? Who provided the voice for the classic radio transmission of War of Worlds? You can learn all these factoids (some useful, some not) by playing a trivia game. The best casual trivia games are Jeopardy and Trivia Machine. And, we just got a sneak peak of new trivia game that will rock your cerebral world that we’ll share with you once it is released.

– Simulation Games: Strategy simulation games like Fish Tycoon and Virtual Villagers allow you to manage your own little world. Make the right decisions and your society thrives. Choose wrong, and your little fish or people die. These are great games to teach your kids about how societies evolve (as well as a test on whether your kid can take care of a pet). Note: mating and dying are natural parts of these games so they may only be appropriate for tweens or above.

Know of a good casual game that is both fun and educational? Tip us at [email protected] or write it in the comments section below.