The Value of Games
Using games is a fun way to help your child develop areas in their learning that they can struggle with.
These areas of weakness have an impact on the child’s ability to learn and include:
- working memory (visual and/or auditory),
- poor ability to order and sequence information (visual and/or auditory) and
- hearing the sounds that make up words (phonological awareness).
More than just playing the game it is how we as parents can use certain language to help our children think more about what they are doing. This language parents can use is also shown below.
In the first section we consider games for overall development and in the second section we focus on specific maths games.
In this first section we look at
- Games for visual working memory
- Games for auditory working memory
- Games for visual discrimination and visual sequencing
- Games for auditory discrimination and auditory sequencing
- Games to help with gross and fine motor skills
- General language suggestions for parents
1. Games for visual working memory
- Make your own word searches on subjects the child knows about.
- Use coloured paper to reduce potential visual stress
Memory card game
- Involves turning cards upside down and turning them over until finding a pair
- Can use playing cards or special picture cards
- This game is when a variety of items are placed on a tray and the child can look at them for 5-10 seconds. The tray is then covered up and they have to say how many they remember
- Start off with a small number
- Make sure they know what the items are called before starting.
- Try to discourage your child from saying the names of the objects out loud, as this can trigger an auditory memory response instead of visual memory.
Variations on Kim’s Game
- Instead of asking your child to name the objects seen, secretly take away one object, uncover the tray and ask your child to tell you what object was removed.
- Make it harder still by rearranging the objects on the tray. This can be done under cover of the cloth.
- Using more objects adds to the difficulty…and it also gives you the option of taking away 2 or 3 objects and asking your child what is missing
- Ghost Blitz – good for visual processing as well. Is for children aged 8+
- Distraction Ages: 8+
- Uno - a card game Ages 7+, Available at all department stores
- What were the steps you used to find ____?
- What helped you find it?
- How else can you look for it?
2. Games for auditory working memory
- Do you remember playing “I went to the market and I bought a …….?” Well, this is a chaining game. You take it in turns to add a piece of information to a list and each turn you have to recall the list in full.
- To keep it interesting you can think of items in different categories:-
- I went to space and I saw…..
- I went to the zoo and I saw……
- I went to the park and played on….
- You can also add another element to these games by adding a description to your item. So rather than just seeing a tiger at the zoo, you could see a tiger with stripes. Instead of just seeing a monkey, you could see a monkey eating a banana.
- This is similar to chaining games, but you add information to each other’s ideas.
- For example
- “I played minecraft.”
- “I played minecraft on Saturday”
- “I played minecraft on Saturday and built a house out of sandstone”
Remembering parts of a story
- When you are reading with the child, before you turn the page over you can ask specific questions about the page you have just read.
- What was the boys name?
- Where did they travel to?
- What did they forget? etc
- This is a great activity as it also helps the child learn how to extract key pieces of information.
Recall of a spoken sequence
- List items and see if the child can remember them. Start at an easy level, for example 2 items and then gradually increase. You could try
- numbers e.g. 5, 1, 6, 9
- colours e.g. red, blue, yellow, green
- animals e.g. cat, dog, fox, sheep etc.
Orienteering/ treasure hunt activities
- Try giving the child instructions to find a hidden object. Again, initially you could give instructions one at a time, but as they improve you could give 2 or 3 instructions together. This could be made very motivating if you hide a treat or favourite toy!
- e.g. “go to the kitchen door, take 4 paces into the kitchen and look under the bowl”.
Drawing to instruction
- You could encourage the child to draw a picture and give them directions to follow.
- You can always draw the outline and just get the child to put on specific details.
- e.g. draw a square for a house and ask the child to put a green door on the left, then maybe 2 blue windows at the top etc. You can increase or decrease the length of the instruction for the child.
- Find strategies that help the child and encourage them to use them in the games.
- When the leader calls out an instruction, such as “Touch your nose,” the players are supposed to follow the instruction only when it’s accompanied by the words “Simon says.”
- If a child with weak auditory memory is struggling with the concept, forget the Simon Says part and make it a game of following simple directions.
- If a child is doing well, increase the complexity of the instructions.
- You can say, “Simon Says touch your nose with one hand and your mouth with the other hand.”
- I have two things for you to remember, let’s practice by saying them out loud.
- Think about ________. Now think about _________. Can you compare them?
- How do you know you are remembering something?
3. Games for visual discrimination and visual sequencing
Visual discrimination skills enable a child to see and identify size, colour, shape, and orientation. Weak visual discrimination skills can cause them to have trouble distinguishing left from right on other objects, including letters and numbers. For example, they will confuse b with d or q with p. They may also confuse words that appear similar, such as “want” and “what.”
Visual sequencing is the ability to organise visual impressions in a certain order. This is an important prerequisite for good writing, reading and maths. Children who have difficulties with visual sequencing often exchange letters while writing or have difficulties with writing down numbers.
Activities to do
- complete word search puzzles that require you to look for a series of letters
- Play games such as Bingo which require you to look for a specific form.
- Where’s Wally books
- Sorting activities into colour, shapes, e.g., sorting socks, sorting pasta shapes and Nature objects
- Jigsaw puzzles
- Spot the difference activities
- Matching activities, for example, similar to the memory card game but all the cards are turned facing up. Have a few cards for the child to find in the turned up pile. To increase the difficulty add more cards to the turned up pile.
- Shadow matching cards
- Ages 6 years+
- No Stress Chess, Ages: 7 years+
- Set Ages 6 years +
- Swish – this uses visual discrimination skills and also visual spatial skills. Ages 8 years+
- What are you seeing in your mind right now?
- Tell me what you see in your head.
- How are these things similar?
- How are they different?
- What stayed the same?
- Is it still a ___________ or is it something different now?
- What is one thing all of these things have in common?
4. Games for auditory discrimination and auditory sequencing
Auditory discrimination is the ability to recognize differences between sounds especially distinguishing between the sounds that make up words (phonemes). Auditory discrimination difficulties are likely to affect the development of phonological awareness (the sounds that make words) and may also affect auditory processing of verbal information such as instructions.
Auditory sequencing is the ability to understand and recall the order of sounds and words. A child might say or write “ephelant” instead of “elephant,” or hear the number 357 but write 735.
I spy names (using the sounds in words)
Start the game by saying I spy someone whose name begins with… and give the sound of the first letter, for example /s/. Then ask: Who can it be? etc
- Call out a child’s name and make up a fun sentence starting with the name (e.g. Ben has a big, bouncy ball, Karen keeps a kettle in the kitchen, Tane has ten, tickly toes, Fiona found a fine, fat frog).
- Ask the children to think up similar sentences for their own names to share with others.
- Give your child a series of directions (e.g. two hops and one step) and ask them to follow your directions.
- You can gradually increase the length of the sequence as your child masters each stage.
Read an unfamiliar story to your child.
- Afterwards ask questions about the sequence of events (e.g. what happened first, who went out to play etc).
- Continue to ask questions until the events in the story have been reviewed.
- Another strategy is to ask the child to predict likely events in the story.
- Present well-known stories, rhymes or songs with one or more parts omitted and the child must supply the missing information.
- Play listening games such as “Simon Says”. Simon says can also be · played with your child imitating your speech sounds, volume changes, · changes in pitch and rhythm changes.
- Rory’s Story Cubes. Ages 8 years +
- Can you make a picture in your mind while I read to you?
- Just a moment…let’s think! How could we say (or do) that?
- No rush, think about what you want to tell me. I will wait!
5. Games to help with gross and fine motor skills
Gross Motor Skills
- A key to developing gross motor skills is understanding what the body can do.
- Fire up your child’s imagination and movement through pretend games.
- Have them waddle like a duck, fly like an airplane or hop like a rabbit.
- Or let them pretend to be something, and you can guess what they are.
Walking in a line
- Practicing walking on a length of tape on the ground.
- Add element of difficulty by
- having a small bean bag on their head,
- walking toe to heel
- Playing and squeezing with playdough, clay or plasticine
- Chasing and popping bubbles
- Keeping a balloon off the floor
- Rolling down a hill
- Swinging on a swing
- Movement dances – eg hokey tokey, Macarena
- Throwing and catching bean bags or koosh balls
- Crab walks
- Jumping and skipping – start with hopping
- Roll big balls of playdough into smooth balls
Fine Motor Skills
- String games like Cats Cradle
- Colour with short/broken crayons and pencils. Being short means they are more likely to hold them correctly
- Threading beads onto string/ pipecleaners
- finger knitting
- Cutting out paper shapes with scissors
- Following lines – mazes
- Connecting the dots
6. General language suggestions for parents
“Hmmm…” It invites the child to participate, is non-threatening, and provides time to think.
“Yes and…” Encourages your child to continue talking about their ideas.
Try using the first three questions as much as possible.
- What do you see?
- What is the problem?
- What is your plan?
- I know you are frustrated right now, but if you try one more time, you might just get it!
- I will help you, let’s not give up!
- Hurray, you got the first step done!! Do you want to try it again or are you ready to try the next part?
- How can you break this task down?
- How does it feel to do something difficult/easy?
- Remember when you learned how to _________? Let’s plan on that sense of accomplishment happening again!
- How else can you try this?
- What could you do differently?
Games for developing maths
These areas of weakness have an impact on a child’s ability to learn maths and include:
- working memory (visual and/or auditory),
- poor ability to order and sequence information (visual and/or auditory), and
- maths anxiety
Playing games can:
- help reduce your child’s math anxiety.
- give children a practical way to practice math skills.
- help them with strategy as well as basic number skills.
Not all math practice has to be on paper. In fact, playing math games can be a good way to teach math skills to kids who are struggling. You may not even know that some of the skills you use every day are math skills. Once you know what skills certain types of games work on, you can pick games that help build the skills your child most needs.
In this section we look at games that support building your child’s skills in maths.
- Supporting memory
- Spatial Strategy
- Numerical Strategy
- Resource management
- Sequencing Games
- Developing accuracy
- Board games help kids practice matching the sets of dots on a die, or a set of objects, to the correct number of spaces to move. For younger children it can help “tune them in” to maths concepts.
- A game like Candy Land, for example, would fit into this category.
- Matching games ask kids to keep track of where they saw items and patterns.
- Dominoes also lets kids practice matching numbers and sets.
2. Supporting memory
- Consider games such as 20 questions or Guess Who? which ask kids to keep information in mind to use as a strategy for narrowing down to the correct answer.
- Play memory with playing cards (matching pairs)
- Other games include;
- RAT-A-TAT-CAT- Ages 7-Adult. Memory based and counting backwards. Highest to Lowest numbers. Builds memory, confidence numeracy knowledge. More exciting played with two packs together.
- Brain Box My First Maths 5+ and Brain Box Math 7+- Good for memory. Kinesthetic and visual learners. Builds confidence, math knowledge and recall.
- 4 Way Count Down- Addition, Subtraction, Division and Multiplication. Ages 6+. Designed for memory, Strategies and repetitive learning kinetically
- Matchmatics- Beginners – Fast paced for memory. Aged 8-10yrs.
3. Spatial strategy games
- These games ask kids to come up with ways to move pieces in order to block or capture other pieces.
- This includes games like chess, checkers, Connect Four and Battleship.
4. Numerical strategy games
- These involve removing, getting rid of or rearranging pieces to win.
- This includes games like Mancala and card games, such as Uno and Trash.
5. Resource-management games
- Games such as Monopoly or Carcassone, ask kids to think about how much money or resources (such as property) they have and how they can use them to get to a goal.
6. Sequencing games
- Super Circles- Aged 7+ number and sequencing game good for speed and dexterity.
7. Developing Accuracy
- Number Cruncher – Basic math equations. Improves mental ability and extends their understanding.
- Math Magic Mixer- Ages 8+ Good for the whole family. Quickens computation skills, enhances problem solving and develops quicker thinking.
- 7ate9- Fast paced game for addition/subtraction under 10.
- Double Shutter- Ages 8-Adult. Lowest score wins the game. Fast paced, good for adding and accuracy skills, probability and strategy.
Parent advice from Youcubed.org