Make Early Learning Fun
Want playtime to pay off? We've got 16 fun educational games that'll set your tot up for success in preschool, kindergarten, and beyond.
Fishing for fun: Ages 2 to 4
Help your child make different-color fsh out of construction paper, and number each one. Then glue a magnetic strip (available at crafts stores) to each. Make a fishing rod by tying a string to a wood craft stick and attaching a small magnet (also sold at crafts stores) to the end. Then spread the fsh out across the carpet, call out a number, and take turns fshing.
Matchbox math: Ages 2 to 5
Number cars with washable marker. Build a simple ramp using wooden blocks and a piece of cardboard, and then pretend to be race announcers as you send the cars down the ramp. He'll practice basic numeral recognition by calling out which car wins. (Introduce engineering by altering the ramp's height to see when the cars go farthest.) Older-kid upgrade: Take it one step further by telling him that the “race rules” require the car with the bigger number to be in one particular lane, or to put multiple cars in order before they race. Don't forget to keep score, another way to build number smarts.
Make your own board game: Ages 4 to 5
The more board games children play, the better they perform on math tasks. But that doesn't have to mean endless rounds of Chutes and Ladders. Instead, make your own game together, suggests Sally Moomaw, Ed.D., a child-development expert at the University of Cincinnati and coauthor of More Than Counting. Get a piece of poster board and draw a squiggly line all the way around it. Help your child cut different-color squares out of construction paper, and then glue the squares side by side to cover the squiggly line. Encourage her to use her imagination: Is the squiggly line a snake? A road through a magical kingdom? A race track? Decorate the board accordingly, using markers, glitter, stickers…whatever she likes! Now make action cards in the same colors as the squares. They can be silly: “Take a nap. Miss a turn” or “Set the table. Move forward two.” To play, roll a die and move forward that number of spaces. Then pick a card in the color of the square you land on and follow the instructions. “This type of game is especially beneficial because you're working with a number line, a concept that children work with in kindergarten,” Moomaw says.