From Parenting 24/7: University of Illinois Extension


Games for Learning

Posted Sep 27, 2006.

Games for Learning

It seems as if young children learn something new each and every moment. They are learning about colors and shapes, how to count, how to get along with other people, and how to do things by themselves.

Young children learn best through normal, every-day play and activities, especially when they are having fun. They learn math, language, social/emotional, and large and small motor skills through simple activities. Expensive educational toys are not needed to learn.

Consider the following simple games and activities to teach your children new skills.

Mathematical Thinking

  • Sort socks by color, size, or pattern
  • Match lids on the right plastic containers
  • Set the table for dinner. Your child will learn if there are five people in your family, you will need to have five forks, napkins, etc.
  • Put silverware away, sorting each piece into the right slot.
Language Development
  • Pretend you are having a conversation on the phone with your child.
  • Have your child help you cook dinner, cookies or prepare fruits and vegetables. Talk about the names of the foods and ingredients.
  • Practice singing songs—check out a children’s CD from the local library and dance while you sing. Talk about any new words.
  • Take turns acting out something and trying to guess what the other person is doing, such as brushing teeth, dialing the phone, or making a sandwich.
  • Encourage your child to use complete sentences.
Social/Emotional Development
  • Play dress up - have a box of old clothes, shoes, purses, hats, and scarves and let your child pretend to be someone else.
  • Change roles - let him be the mom or dad while you are the child.
  • Pretend your child is taking care of a baby or stuffed animal.
  • Use manners when asking for a toy, sharing a cookie, and trying to pass by someone.
  • Take turns using one marker together - waiting to take turns.
Small Muscle Development
  • Have a tea party.
  • Punch holes in cardboard and lace a shoestring through the holes.
  • Glue buttons or round cereal onto a piece of paper.
  • Use children’s scissors to cut through play dough.
Large Muscle Development
  • Stir the ingredients for a cake.
  • Sweep the floor.
  • Ride the tricycle to “work”.
  • Play ‘Simon Says’, “Mother May I”, and ‘Head and Shoulders’ song.

Remember that young children love to spend time with their parents doing ordinary activities and that each ordinary time offers extraordinary learning opportunities.

Source: Reschke, K. (1999) What are they learning?: Seeing the concepts and skills children can learn through play.

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