Start Off Smart
Flash cards – everybody has used them. If you remember them as boring ways for teachers to drill kids, think again. Flash cards for preschoolers are meant to be fun and there are lots of games you can play that will help your kids learn. If you don’t have flash cards, you can find an inexpensive set at the dollar store. Or make your own with old photographs or pictures cut from magazines... even labels from cans can be used. As you try these games with your child, remember to start with just a few for younger children, and add more cards for older preschoolers.
Memory: Played with pairs of cards, this classic game will help your child develop both memory and patience. Place cards face down on the table, then turn two cards over. If they match, keep the pair. If you’re playing with very young children, start with just two or three pairs.
Counting Clothespins: Use number cards, and have children clip clothespins on the card according to the number. An added bonus: using clothespins is great fine motor practice.
Guess Who? Take a card and don’t let your child see what it is. Give clues like “It has big ears” or “it lives in a tree.” Depending on the age of your child, you could read a short book before playing, and use only cards that match pictures from the book. You could even tell him, “Look in the book for something that bounces. I have something on my card that bounces!” Even two year olds can play this game with short books and just a few cards.
Color match: You don’t even need flash cards for this game; squares of colored construction paper will do. Hold up the color, and ask your child to find something in the room that is the same color. Be sure to talk about the color!
Scavenger Hunt! In this fun game, prepare by gathering cards that show something in your home. If you can’t find what you want, cut pictures out of a magazine. Ask your child to find something in your house that matches. You could even find pictures of her toys, and then ask her to put away toys based on the cards you give her. Older children might enjoy finding things of a certain shape. Or gather cards with pictures of things in the park and take a road trip.
Look at Those Labels: Put a few groceries on the table, and show your child where to find the numbers (the nutrition label is a great place to look). Then, ask her to match the number on the card with a number from the label. Don’t worry if it’s part of a bigger number.
Look at Those Labels, Too! Save labels from groceries you frequently buy. Ask your child to look for them in the store as you shop. Be sure to bring along a small coin purse or bag to put the labels in once you’ve put the matching item in your cart.
Can you? Show a card, then ask your child to do something based on the card. “Can you slither like a snake?” or “What sound does a cat make?”
Flash card Pictionary: For older preschoolers, take a card but keep it secret. Draw a simple picture of what’s on the card and have them guess what it is. If you’re working on sounds, use letter cards and draw a picture of something that starts with your letter: a ball for B or a zipper for Z.
Tag it! – A high energy, outside game for older preschoolers. Place cards around the yard on a calm day (or tape them down). Ask your child to very carefully listen to the word you say then run to the letter it starts with and tag it.
Oops, My Mistake: Hold up your card and say “this is a ____,” giving the wrong answer. Your child will love to correct you! For animal cards, make the wrong sounds.
Stack ‘Em Up: Find a number on a flash card, and stack the same number of blocks. Don’t forget to count as you stack! Knock them down, and start again.
As you can see, flash cards are so much more than holding up a letter or number to see if a child can recognize what’s on it. Flash cards are inexpensive, educational, and offer endless possibilities for learning through play. So dust off that old deck of cards you didn’t really know what to do with, and have fun!
For more ideas on learning through play, contact the Owen County Learning Network and Start Off Smart. Start Off Smart is a free program open to any Owen County family with children ages 0-5 and provides developmental information, free books and much more! For more information or to enroll in Start Off Smart, visit ocln.net or call 829-5869.
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