20 Fun Learning Games

Simple, no-stress ways to help kids practice basic math and language skills this summer.

Learning Games 1 - 10

1. Tall Total

How many stories high is your family? Add everyone's height (younger kids can use feet without inches), including grandparents and cousins if you want. Then calculate how tall your "family building" would be (figure ten feet for each floor).

2. Silly Speak

Use goofy rhymes and alliteration throughout the day, suggests Sheila Clonan, Ph.D., assistant professor of educational studies at Colgate University, in Hamilton, New York. You might describe your child's sandwich as "Lunch, lunch, lovely little lunch" or make a straight-faced request like, "Please put on your moos -- I mean your boos -- no, your shoes!" You can also make your child laugh by starting all your words with one letter: "Feen-fup fime. Feese, fick fup four foys."

3. Personalized Plates

Have your child think of words starting with the letters on a license plate. For example, 7-year-old Kevin Iwai, of Mountain View, California, says that the "EHH" on his mom's license plate stands for "Elephants Hug Hippos."

4. Sing It

Make up a song featuring your child's name. Instead of B-I-N-G-O, try "A lucky mommy had a girl, and Katie was her name-o, K-A-T-I-E, K-A-T-I-E . . . ." Add siblings and friends ("A girl named Maggie had a brother, and Caleb was his name-o . . . .").

5. Pounds of Pets

Weigh your child, then have him get on the scale with each of your family pets to see how much they weigh. If he can't pick one up, check what she weighed on her last trip to the vet. Do a total and make comparisons. For example, does your son + your two beagles = Dad's weight?

6. Cartoon Balloon

Using pictures from old magazines or newspapers, draw cartoon speech balloons for people in the ads and let your child think of the script. Depending on your child's age, either she or you can write in the words.

7. Finger Phonics

Form a letter with your fingers and ask your child to guess what it is. Then think of a word that begins with that letter, suggests Lori Goodman, coauthor of Word Play.

8. Poetic License

"I spot a tree," Sonja Lyubomirsky, of Santa Monica, California, often calls out while she's driving. Her 5-year-old daughter, Gabriella, might respond, "Tree rhymes with three." Sonja comes up with another rhyme, and they take turns until they can't think of any more; then they start over with a new word. You can make it more challenging by asking your child to think of as many rhymes as she can before you get to the next stoplight.

9. Visualize This

Describe letters visually and see whether your child can guess the letter. You might say, "It looks like two mountains pushed together," or "It's round like a doughnut."

10. Word Detective

Before reading to your child, find a common word, such as the or you, in the book. Point it out and spell it out loud. As you turn the pages, ask if she can find the word. Give her hints ("I see that it's on this page three times"). Or find a word for her to follow throughout the book and see whether she can pick out words that rhyme with it (The Cat in the Hat works well for this one).

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