Your child will never know she’s learning when you play one of these games that secretly nurture everything from listening and memory skills to vocabulary and counting.
1. Mystery box
Cut two fist-sized holes into opposite sides of a cardboard box. On your side, put an object into the box (like a ball or a banana) and then have your child put her hand through the hole on her side and guess what she’s touching. Pre-school children tend to be more visual and this game helps them understand their sense of touch.
2. Hunt for shapes
To play this game, which builds both visual and attention skills, ask your child to walk around your house looking for circles. See who can find a variety of them like the biggest one, the smallest one, a red one, and so on. Move on to other shapes like squares and triangles.
3. Flipping coins
Each player lines up five to 10 coins, face-up. After someone says, “Go!” the first person to turn over all her coins wins. This game builds the finger strength and pincer grip needed for writing. However, it is not suitable for kids under the age of three as coins are a choking hazard.
4. Name that theme
Name five related things and ask your child what they have in common. For example, fridge, oven, sink, dishes and food are all things you find in the kitchen. Take turns giving the clues and guessing. This game helps develop listening skills, the concept of categorisation and memory.
5. Point and jump
Challenge your child to jump from one spot to another in a certain number of steps. For example, across the hall in three jumps, or by jumping on five pillows to get across the living room without touching the floor. The game boosts listening skills and helps kids practice counting.
6. Scout about
Both players close their eyes and one person chooses a location, such as the jungle, Mars, or the bottom of the ocean. Then, both of you open your eyes and take turns saying what you see or feel and what you are doing. This is ideal for the early morning when your child is awake, but you’re not quite there yet. It helps to develop skills for reading like imagination, vocabulary and narrative skills.
To play this memory game, start with four objects and put them on a tray. Let your child look at it for a minute, and then have him close his eyes. Remove one object. Tell him to open his eyes again and to determine what is missing. With each round, swap out some of the objects for different ones.
8. Roll the dice
Using the kind with dots (and not numbers), see who throws the highest number. Playing with dice helps kids learn the number of dots without counting them, an important maths skill. You can also play this game by drawing one to six circles on index cards and shuffling the deck. Have your child choose a card and then put down that many crayons, cars, or other small toys next to it. This version helps children understand that numbers represent a quantity and can correspond with objects.
9. Sort it out
First, encourage your child to collect objects such as rocks, shells or leaves and ask her to help you sort them into big and small piles. Then ask her to sort them without telling you how, and when she’s done, try to guess what her process was. The game helps kids recognise patterns and develops pre-math skills.
10. Mixed-up nursery rhymes
To play this listening game, recite a nursery rhyme or song that your child knows, but change one line and see if your child catches the error. For example: “Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great ball.” This one is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser if you belt out the lyrics to her favourite song and pretend that you don’t know that you’ve made a mistake.
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