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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Learning Fun is in the Cards

Learning games seem to be ever so important to parents, but some can be extremely expensive. A parent doesn’t have to spend a fortune to sit down and have some good old fashioned fun with their child and learn at the same time. In these games, the kids will be having a great time, and also be learning. The children don’t realize that they are learning, they just think it’s fun—and having fun is the best way to learn.

First let’s take a deck of regular playing cards—don’t cost too much. You can do so many things with them. Many of the games you play, you can play with your preschooler just tweaked a little. I wouldn’t be teaching them poker, although, my mother-in-law taught my son how to play a mean hand of poker—and this was before he entered kindergarten.

Anyway, children can play Concentration, Go Fish, War, maybe Gin-Rummy depending on their abilities. Each game can be manipulated to fit your child’s age. First let’s take Concentration or as we call it “Match.” The number of cards I would use in the game definitely depends on the age of the child. A younger child would have fewer cards than an older child. In the beginning I only use number cards and then later add the “letter” cards. I would just arrange the cards on the table and start matching.

Go Fish would be played the same way you were taught, but again the number of cards used would be lessened as per the child’s age, and in the beginning a match would constitute 2 of the same number gradually increasing with the child’s age. I always make the draw deck a “fish pond” by just messing the cards in a circular motion.

Finally, War is a little more advanced in that it helps to teach numerical value—which card is worth more. Again, I would lessen the amount of cards used; start with cards having numbers, and later graduate to more cards, and “letter” cards. If you’ve never played War before, each player gets an equal amount of cards, and then each player puts one card in the center. The player who laid down the highest card wins all the cards. The player at the end of the game with the most cards wins.

In each of these games you have helped teach your child colors (red & black), shapes (hearts, diamonds, clovers, & clubs), numbers, and then letters (J-jack, Q-queen, K-king, and A-ace). Also, in War you have taught greater than, lesser than, which has more, and even counting. If your child is not sure which card has more, have them count the objects on the card. You have done all this with some simple card games—and didn’t spend a fortune.

Uno is another great game that has many of the same concepts involved. I haven’t bought an Uno game in quite a while so I’m not sure of its cost. Again, the child’s age would dictate the amount and type of cards you would use. For younger children you could start out with just numbers, or just two types of colors, I wouldn’t use the word cards yet. Have the children just match the cards with the same colors, later have them match the cards with the same numbers, then later you can have them match either the number or color. As they grow, add more cards, add the cards with the directions (now you’re teaching reading). Here again, you have taught, colors, numbers, letters, and later words—all with a game of Uno.

And yes, we do always have a winner and a loser. Sometimes they win (quite often), sometimes I win (not quite as often), and sometimes we tie. It’s a life lesson. It usually goes pretty well as long as they win the first couple of times.

Holding cards can be difficult for the children too. I know there are some products that can be bought in a store that help hold cards. Or, I just have them lay the cards out in front of them upside down—for Go Fish or Uno games, and they just keep peeking. If the child is really young I would have them put them face up—try not to cheat too much.

Well there you go and you didn’t break the bank. So grab those cards, sit down, and let’s learn!

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