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Learning Games

The time we can spend with our young children is precious because we have so little of it. Playing learning games is a way to have fun with your child and help him learn at the same time. Children don't need a lot of expensive educational toys to learn. What they do need are parents who are their first and best teacher.

Tips for keeping learning fun:

  • Pick the right time, not when your child is tired, hungry or you are irritable.
  • Play for short periods of time, 5-10 minutes is about right.
  • Eliminate distractions, turn off the TV, put away other toys.
  • Praise your child with a hug, smile or kiss.
  • Be flexible! Your child may find new, fun ways to play learning games.
Try some of these learning games with your young child:

Close Your Eyes
Ask your child to take a good look at you, then close her eyes. While her eyes are still closed, ask her, "What color shirt am I wearing?" Vary the game by looking at a room or a picture. What can she remember? Let your child take a turn and you try to remember. This game helps children develop memory and will help later when your child learns to read and do math.

Sound Detective
While you move around the room making a funny sound like, "Moo!" your child tries to find you with her eyes closed. He points to where you are and then opens his eyes. Be sure to take turns with your child. Sharp ears lead to sharp readers!

Dot to Dot
Draw dots on a paper in rows. Take turns with your child drawing a line between two of the dots, either up and down or across. The object is to make as many boxes as possible. When your child makes a box, put her initial in the box. When all the boxes are completed, the person with the most boxes wins.

Guess What I'm Doing
Act out something that your child can try to guess, such as brushing your teeth, dialing the telephone, making a sandwich. Do simple things that are familiar to your child. Take turns. Children enjoy acting things out and pretending. They will enjoy watching Mom and Dad pretend too and you will both have fun with this game.

Sorting Silverware
While you are doing the dishes, let your child put the silverware away. Young children love to sort and also like to imitate and help you. Show your child which slot the spoons go in and which slot the forks go in. Be sure to praise him when he puts them in the right spot!

These ideas came from several books: Playing Smart by Susan K. Perry, Free Spirit Publishing, Minneapolis, MN. 1990; You and Your Small Wonder, by Merle B. Karnes, American Guidance Service, Circle Pines, Mn. 1982; Games for Learning, by Peggy Kaye, Noonday Press, New York, 1991.

Prepared by Rebecca Douglas, Extension Educator, Family Life.