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"A good education for every child does not mean the same education for every child.  "

Please use what works for you and your child and ignore the rest.  Every child is different.  If this information does not seem to be a good fit for your particular child, then keep looking and experimenting until you find what works.


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 Games:  Tools for Making Learning Fun

Easy Board & Card Games

These easy games can be played with custom-made decks of cards, designed to practice all kinds of different skills.


Lotto is a great game for little kids.  Each player has a board with several pictures (usually 6 to 9) and there is a card that matches each picture.  Sometimes the pictures match exactly, sometimes they just “go together”.  Both of my kids enjoyed matching the pictures to the board by themselves, as well as in a two player game.  My favorite lotto game is one I made for my son Michael.  Each of the cards had a picture (stick-figure) of a family member as well as their name.  The board had six squares, each with a word in it (Mike, Matt, Mommy, Daddy, Judy, and cat).  In the beginning, Mike had to carefully look at each word to figure out where the cards went.  Soon, though, the game (along with other activities) helped Mike to learn to sight-read these “key words”.  I made another board for Mike which included car, truck, van and other vehicle words - definitely key words for my little vehicle lover!


This game, also called Memory or Pelmanism, involves finding matching pairs of cards by remembering the position of cards previously turned over.  This game can be played with any deck that consists of matching pairs of cards.  If played competitively, the player who has the most pairs after all cards have been taken is the winner. 

Almost anything can be put onto “Concentration” cards.  I have made cards with variations of nine-patch quilt patterns (a good pre-reading, shape discernment exercise) and math terms (parallel lines, trapezoid, square, etc.).  Since you have to have a mental label for the picture on the card in order to remember where it is, this game is perfect for teaching the names of things that can be shown pictorially.  A little kid can start out with about twelve cards (six pairs) and you can increase this as they get the hang of things.  (Having four of a kind, like in a regular card deck, makes the game more difficult and perhaps less effective as a memorization tool.)

The deck is thoroughly shuffled, then spread face down on the table so that every card is detached from every other.  (They may be laid out in rows if you prefer.)  The first player turns any two cards face up so that all players may see them.  If they are a pair (e.g. two aces), he removes them from the center and puts them in a pile of his own.  If they are not a pair, he turns them face down, and the next player takes his turn.

The whole game consists of remembering the position of cards previously exposed, so as to be able to make a match whenever the second card of a pair is exposed.  The player who has the most pairs after all cards have been taken is the winner.

About twelve cards (six pairs) is a good size deck for beginners.  Using distinct pairs (i.e. only two aces instead of all four) will make for a less confusing game for beginners.  Saying the card type as it has been turned over (e.g. "Ace.  Queen.") helps children remember.  Older children may be challenged to a silent game.

Games from Magazines

When my middle child was young, we subscribed to Spider and Ladybug magazines.  They had a “game page” on the back that contains a different game or activity each month.  It was nicely perforated and designed so that you don’t destroy the magazine by cutting out the game.  The games are both beautiful and educational, and you’d pay close to the subscription price if you bought just two or three of the games in fancy boxes at the store.  I tore the game out before giving the magazine to my kids, then brought out the game on a rainy day.  Often I laminated the game before cutting it out.  I don’t know if these magazines still contain games.

Laminating Your Games

If this is a game that you’ve put a lot of work into and you want it to last a while, laminate it with contact paper.  Do not rush into laminating everything your child makes up - you can end up taking the project (and the enthusiasm) out of his hands!  If your game includes a bunch of cards or paper pieces, it is easiest to laminate the page BEFORE you cut them out.  Obviously, you’ll use clear contact paper for the front.  If the backs are blank, you can use contact paper with a fancy pattern on this side.  This helps to make it so you can’t see through the back of the card.  Be sure you use a pattern with a small, random pattern (speckled or marbled designs work well).  This way you won’t be able to remember the cards based on what’s on the back. 

To laminate, put the page to be laminated on the table in front of you, with the long direction horizontal and the short direction vertical (“landscape”, not “portrait”).  Make sure the page and the table are free of dust and dirt.  Cut a piece of contact paper about 1/2 inch larger than your page on each side.  (Hint - for 8 1/2 x 11 pages, cut 12 inches off the roll, fold in half, then cut on the fold - this makes two pieces of the perfect size with no waste.)  Peel all of the backing off of the contact paper.  Hold it in both hands so that it forms a “U” shape.  Center it above the page, then lower it slowly so that you are putting it down from the middle out towards the sides.  Smooth it from the center out in all directions.

Flash Cards

Flash cards have gotten a bad name.  I don’t think they’re horrible in and of themselves, but a steady diet of them would be boring.  If you use them, they should be one of many different games you play.   Some kids love ‘em; some kids hate ‘em.  Kids who can read words in context can’t always read them alone.  Reading individual words can be hard for some kids – it doesn’t include context clues (such as pictures, the other words in the sentence, and the story) that are usually there in “real” reading.

Other kids like the challenge of flash cards. They may even enjoy reading “made up “ words like trom or feg.

 If your child doesn’t like flash cards, don’t use them.  If they do like them, you can easily make a deck.  Just write words on index cards and ask your child what the word is.  You might want to put a picture on the back, so the child can play with them alone.  Most of your deck should be words the child knows well.