Category Archives: game

Mitten Match

For those of you implementing a winter theme, consider creating a mitten match!  You could use actual gloves and mittens and have children pair them together, or create a type of memory game like the one I did here.

I made mine out of felt for quick and easy durability.  I gave each set different characteristics, but you can see, for my older children, I made it a bit challenging by making some pairs similar to other pairs.  I thought I had made each set as a matching pair (with one lefty and one righty), but it looks like a lack of sleep caught up with me and some are opposing and some are not.  I can see an argument for either.  If you make each hand you have an actual pair, but if you make them the same hand, you have an identical match.  I ‘ll let you decide for yourself, or just be like me and make them late at night and see how they look in the morning!  

You could easily create a set drawn on cardstock, or cut out of construction paper or scrapbook paper and mounted onto cardstock.  (You’ll probably want to laminate the cards if you make them out of paper.)  Make about 6 pairs for playing memory, though with younger children you may even want to start out with something as simple as 3 pairs.  Or for the most basic level, present three mittens and ask which two are the same and which one is different.

Matching games enhance visual perception– the ability to see and recognize differences.  This ability is what allows a person to recognize that a “b” is in fact different from a “q” or a square from a rectangle, helping with reading and math readiness.  It also helps with observation skills, critical to the scientific process and learning in general.  Playing this as a memory game, of course, strengthens memory skills, a key ingredient in cognition, while also teaching social skills as children take turns.  

Only a nerd like myself could make a fun game of memory sound so complicated!  At least now you’re armed and ready to explain to anyone else, just exactly why playing memory with children is not just cute!

For more wintry activities, click here!

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Filed under game, Learning through Play and Experience, sensory activity

Who Has the Pumpkin?

mini pumpkinsChildren love to be sneaky….or sometimes just to think  that they’re being sneaky.  Here’s a play on a sneaky old guessing game that is perfect for a group of youngsters in the fall!

This is a variation of “Button, Button, Who Has the Button”.    Have the children sit in a circle.  Have one child stand in the center and close her eyes.  Hand a mini pumpkin to one child and have him hide it behind his back.  Have all the other children sneakily pretend to hide a pumpkin by putting their hands behind their backs also.  When everyone’s ready, the child in the center opens her eyes and the whole group says, “Pumpkin, Pumpkin, Who Has the Pumpkin?”  The center child guesses and if it’s an incorrect guess, that child lifts up his empty hands to show there was no pumpkin.  At this point, you can have the center child just keep guessing, or you – or the child she chose- can give a clue about the person who does have the pumpkin.  “A girl has the pumpkin,” or “This person has on a striped shirt.”  It all depends on your group and whether or not they’re ready to give or use clues.  Once the pumpkin is discovered, choose another person to be in the center and another to hide the pumpkin and start again.  Try to give everyone a turn!  And just enjoy playing together!

Group games such as these build pro-social skills as the children take turns and learn simple procedures to group games.  They also build cognitive reasoning skills as they make guesses and provide clues.

You may want to precede this activity with another from the Fall Favorites page, such as the Surprise Pumpkin, the Five Little Pumpkins Fingerplay, or a great book!

Top photo provided by mOrnizstar.

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Book Activity: Runaway Pumpkin

Runaway PumpkinRunaway Pumpkin by Kevin Lewis, is relatively new, and completely new to me this year!  It’s a delightful story about what happens when two mischievous boys start a giant pumpkin rolling down a hillside.  One by one,  family members envision delicious pumpkin treats, as the pumpkin continues on it’s destructive path.  Finally, the pumpkin is stopped and well-used on a Halloween night.  The text on the page seems to bounce right along with the pumpkin, a great feature for building phonological awareness.  The children (OK, so did I) really get a kick out of seeing the whole family in their Halloween costumes!

Follow up this book by making a favorite pumpkin treat, like Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread!

You could also do an activity using these Jack-o-Lantern Cards , or your own.  (They didn’t scan so well!  They are just pumpkins cut from orange paper with different faces drawn on with a Sharpie.)  Be sure to print two of each so that you have matching pairs.  Keep one set yourself, and then give the rest to the children in your small group, two a piece in a group of four kiddos.  Have them look at their pumpkins and pay attention to the different facial features.  One by one, hold up a pumpkin and ask who has a match.  When someone volunteers theirs, hold it up next to your sample so they can make a side-by-side comparison as a group to decide if it is in fact the right match.  Repeat until all of the matches have been found. 

Matching these pumpkin faces requires visual perception, an important skill you can read more about here.  Discerning the different shapes in the faces brings geometry into play as well!

So snuggle up for a good pumpkin book, and then enjoy a fun pumpkin activity together!

For more favorite fall activities, click here!

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Book Activity: Pigsty by Mark Teague

Pigsty (bkshelf) (Scholastic Bookshelf)

At the beginning of each year, I really like to read Pigsty by Mark Teague with my new little ones.  It is a funny, and fantastically illustrated story of Wendell Fultz who decides he does not want to clean his room.  His mother tells him it’s his choice if he wants to live in a pigsty.  Wendell is content with his choice, even when a few pigs show up to live in his pigsty.  The piles keep growing, and soon, Wendell begins to discover some of his prized possessions have been chewed on, smashed, and lost in the mess.  He demands that the pigs help him clean up!  With the room nice and tidy, Wendell is happy, but the pigs don’t feel quite so at home, so they move to Old MacDonald’s farm and now only come to visit for game night. 

When reading this story with preschoolers, it is important to explain the term “pigsty” at the beginning.  I usually just let them know that pigs on a farm live in a pigsty, and it’s muddy and dirty and really messy.  So when people want to describe a place that’s really messy, we call it a pigsty.  As we read the story, I really emphasize the part where Wendell’s things get ruined in his messy room.  We talk a little about how he must feel about losing some of his favorite things. 

At the end, we talk about our room, and clean up time in particular.  If we didn’t clean up, what would happen to our things?  Would you be able to find all of the pieces to your favorite puzzles?  Would our books get smashed and ripped?  How would we color if all the marker lids were left off?   Talk about a few of the specifics in your room.  (You might even choose to read this book before doing a clean up and look around at what gets left behind.  Then set them loose to clean with gusto!)  Let the children know how happy you are that they help you during clean up time, because when we take good care of the fun things in our room, that means we’ll be able to play with them again.

When I use this story in a small group, we play a memory game as an extension activity.  Using an art tray, I arrange a few items, preferably some things that might have been in the pictures of Wendell’s room.  I’ll gather about ten items, and use about five at a time, using more or less depending on the age group and their ability levels.  I’ll let the children look at the items on the tray and talk about what they are.  Then I have them close their eyes and I remove one item.  The children open their eyes and try to guess what’s missing.  After doing it a few times, I let each child take a turn being the one who removes an item while the others close their eyes.  This activity fosters cognitive skills while also teaching the social skill of cleaning up and promoting language skills as you discuss the story.  It’s a great way to reinforce, right from the beginning, the importance of cleaning up our preschool room, and keeping the pigs out!

For more welcome week activities, click here.

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Filed under book activity, Building Readers, game, language activity, Learning through Play and Experience, self help skills

Hot Lava Hop

liquid hot MAGMA Though few preschoolers have had any direct experience with hot lava, it is a phrase they seem to use frequently, and they all know hot lava should be avoided at all costs!  This is a fun game that capitalizes on that childhood fascination!

I usually tie volcanoes in with my dinosaur unit.  As we talk about the changing earth and the theories of extinction, volcanoes make their way in.  After our volcano discussion, I get the children up for some movement!

Thanks to the magic of childhood imagination, using something as simple as a strand of red yarn does the trick for conjuring up the vivid image of hot lava!  I place the red yarn in a circle on the floor, and the children hop, one by one, over the lava.  After everyone is safely across, I make the circle larger.  We repeat this over and over until the children can hardly jump without catching a heel in the molten puddle.  Of course we all respond to this with great dramatics! 

I have also used this as a transition activity.  After playing for a while, I have children jump over it one by one, until I have a small group formed, then I send them on their way and do it again with another small group!  This hot lava hop is a fun game to play with children and is a great way to build large motor skills, strength, and balance.  So get hopping!

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Filed under game, Learning through Play and Experience, music and movement activity, Transitions

Mail Match Math!

dscn1304Who doesn’t love getting a letter?  To preschoolers the mail ranks up there with other anticipated special deliveries like their Easter Baskets and Christmas stockings.  Perhaps the one thing more exciting than receiving mail, would be getting to be the all-powerful letter carrier!  Here’s an activity that lets your children in on the fun of delivering the mail, while also reinforcing the basic math skills of numeral recognition and counting.

Create letters by writing the number name in the address spot.  Place the same number of 1 cent stamps in the stamp corner.  For the group I was working with, I did numbers 1-10, but you could adjust that to meet the needs of your group.  Next, create houses or mailboxes by writing the numerals corresponding to your letters.  These can be simple pieces of paper as I show here, or you could make actual house or mailbox drawings.  (I wrote mine on colored paper, and we began by putting the numbered papers in order, and then pointed out the abc pattern created by the colors.)  Put these numbered papers in your pocket chart or in the center of your circle of children.  Place all of your letters in a bag like a mail carrier.  Have each child take a turn being the letter carrier (add to the effect by giving them a postal hat to wear during that turn).  Each child will reach into the bag to select a letter and then place it in the appropriate spot by matching the number of stamps on the letter to the numeral written on the house/mailbox.  After the children have experienced this activity, you might consider putting it in your dramatic play area along with your post office theme!

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Filed under dramatic play, game, Learning through Play and Experience, math activity

Rhyme-A-Saurus

dscn1290For a fun rhyming activity with your preschoolers, create a Rhyme-A-Saurus!  This dinosaur is not a meat-eater or a plant-eater, he eats rhymes! 

Using a set of rhyming cards (you can find printable ones here or purchase a set at a teaching supply store)  give your children one card each, and keep the rhyming pair yourself.  Explain that this dinosaur is a rhyme-eater and loves rhyme sandwiches.  Ask them to help you make a sandwich by putting two rhyming words together and feeding them to the dinosaur! 

One by one, show and say one of your rhyming words and invite the child with the rhyming pair to put both words in the dinosaurs mouth.  Of course, this activity is enhanced by ferocious eating sounds, and burps are always a favorite! 

The dinosaur is made by drawing a dinosaur face on tag board or cardboard, coloring, and cutting a slot in the mouth.  I used the T. Rex on the cover of Trouble at the Dinosaur Cafe for my inspiration.  (Use this activity in conjunction with that story for a great book activity!)  You may opt for a less ferocious looking specimen.  If you’re not comfortable free-handing, use a copier or an overhead projector to transfer an enlarged image from a book.

This activity enhances language skills, and rhyming skills in particular.  Rhyming skills are a part of phonemic awareness, a huge predictor and precursor for reading success!

 Click here for more dinosaur ideas!

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Filed under book activity, Building Readers, game, language activity, Learning through Play and Experience, Uncategorized