Updated: Sep 9
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I am often asked what sort of things families can do to reinforce learning between tutoring sessions. So here are my go-to recommendations for regular games that provide play-based learning that can be integrated into your week to help improve both reading and math skills.
Call me old school, but I love playing board games with my kids. It may be hard at first to pry the electronics out of their hands, but if everyone joins in, family game night can be a favorite activity for everyone. These suggestions focus on supporting skills for students with dyslexia or math difficulties, so you will not see games that rely on reading and spelling, like scrabble or boggle, which can frustrate kids and lead to resistance.
Pictionary or Pictionary Junior- Vocabulary, word retrieval, conceptual thinking. In this classic game, you take a card from the pile with a word on it. You then have to get your teammates to guess the word based on just your drawing! It helps to get a big drawing pad on an easel for this one! Ages 8 plus, but Pictionary Junior is for ages 7-12 and may be an excellent place to start since the words and concepts are easier to illustrate.
Mad Libs - grammar and vocabulary building. The paper version can be found in endless themes and on many subjects. Mad Libs Junior is for reading ages 5-8. Mad Libs is for 8+. They are inexpensive and provide lots of hilarious entertainment and learning!
Charades - Gross motor skills, vocabulary, word retrieval, creativity. Ages 7+ for family version. Everyone loves charades! This is your chance to build reading skills and get some energy out of the kids before bed. You draw a card and act out the word on the card. This is a great one to pull out on vacations or a family picnic, as it really just consists of a deck of cards.
Guess Who? - word retrieval, vocabulary skills. Ages 6+. In this game, you have to figure out who the other player's character is based on asking only yes or no questions. The best part is that this game's character-based versions will entice any interest. There is the classic version, Guess Who Star Wars, Disney Princesses, and more.
Don't Wake the Bees! - counting, fine motor skills, and comparing numbers. Ages 3+. In this game, you must carefully remove a leaf from the tree, trying to disturb as few bees as possible. The player with the fewest number of bees wins! This is a great way to demonstrate greater than and less than with cute bees as your counters.
Twister - Gross Motor Skills, left and right orientation, following spoken directions. Ages 6+. Knowing left from right can be a challenge for some. In this game, you get to put those skills to work as you try to twist yourself into a configuration that matches the commands on the spinner.
Yahtzee or Farkle - Pattern recognition, probability, recognizing pairs and sets. Ages 8+. For these games, allow a calculator or designate a grown-up as scorekeeper to avoid frustration. Make sure to narrate your scorekeeping. "I got two fives, so that makes 10."
Uno or Blink- color recognition, matching numerals. Uno is a game for kids 7+. It helps develop color and numeral recognition and naming skills. Another version of this is Mattel's Blink, which uses patterns instead of numerals and works better for younger kids.
Cooties - counting, matching, dice pattern recognition. Ages 3+. Bug building fun for your littlest learners!
Memory - right-left orientation, memory, matching. Ages 3+. This game is made in all sorts of themes: My Little Pony, animals, Disney Princesses. It is straightforward to set up, and kids love it. But you can also take a regular deck of playing cards and set out matching sets in a random order in rows and replicate the same thing.
Perfection - Focus, hand-eye coordination, shape recognition. Ages 5+. This may get frustrating for some kids, so have them turn off the timer at first. Once they are more confident, place half the shapes on the board and then turn on the timer for setting the last half, extending the time you have to complete the puzzle. As you get faster, work more and more against the timer. Or leave it off entirely. It is still functioning as a challenging puzzle even without the timer!
Operation - hand-eye coordination, focus. Ages 6+. Using the tweezers, remove shapes from the gameboard without touching the metal sides! Requires good focus and fine motor skills!
Simon - memory, hand-eye coordination, focus. Ages 8+. To play, repeat the sounds in the correct order by pressing the colorful buttons. As the pattern gets more complex, keep your cool and use your memory to play it back. If you mix up the notes, you have to start again!
Do you have any suggestions for play-based learning? Please comment below. And don't forget to subscribe to this blog and follow me on social media for more posts!