Category : Hands-On Learning Games

Gross Motor

Hands on Learning Games: Top 7 Games to Improve Your Child’s Gross Motor Coordination


Does your child struggle coordinating his eyes with the rest of his body?

Children with gross motor issues often expend a great deal of effort performing even simple actions like skipping, catching a ball, or jumping rope. And while most children are able to perform these activities without thinking, each activity strains a child’s memory as much as their muscles.

Consider a simple game of dodge ball, for example. In order for your child to successfully throw a ball at another child, she must coordinate several actions at once.  She needs to accurately gauge the speed at which the other child is moving, as well as guess which direction the other child might take.

At the same moment, however, she has to guess the angle and the speed at which to throw the ball. If you add in the fact that this all has to be done within the space of a few seconds, then you can probably imagine how frustrating this might be for a child whose gross motor skills aren’t up to par.

In fact, good gross motor skills (or lack thereof) are one of the ways children judge each other’s overall capability and success. A boy who can’t kick or catch a ball, and a girl who trips constantly while jumping rope, are unfortunately looked upon as less of a “boy” or “girl” than their more competent peers.

Being good at various types of athletic activities also gives kids a way to channel their natural competitiveness, showing how “cool” they are in a very public venue. After all, who gets more publicity and adulation than the school’s top athletes?

And while it is true that some children seem to be born with wings on their feet, your child doesn’t need to learn to fly in order to improve their gross motor skills. Here is a list of 7 activities you can play with your child (preferably without an audience!) that will help them master the basics:

1) Walking on the line. While this is a standard game in Montessori schools worldwide, it’s also an easy game you can play at home. Simply place a piece of masking tape on the floor in the shape of a half circle. It should be long enough for your child to go at least 30 steps.

Have your child practice walking forward, backwards, and sideways on the line. Once your child masters that, you can have her practice carrying things while on the line: for example, a tray with a glass full of water, or a lighted candle. You can also vary the game by playing music, fast or slow, depending on what skill you want your child to master.

2) Use a balancing beam. In order to play this game, you needn’t buy an expensive balance beam. You can make one easily enough with a plank of wood, and two bricks or concrete blocks. A low wall is also a good choice – and you won’t have to worry about storing anything, either.

Practice the same sorts of activities as above, gradually increasing the height of the bricks as your child becomes more proficient.

3) Place rope loops on the floor. You can use ropes, or small hoops for this game. Encourage your child to practice first walking in and out of each loop without falling. Then, have them pick up the pace, using music if that’s easier for them to follow.

Once they master walking, try having them jump, skip, or hop in and out of the loops.

4) Roll a ball with their feet to a partner. Have your child sit down on the floor. Explain to them that the object of the game is to kick the ball to their partner, without touching the ball in any way. If they are able to kick the ball straight to the target area (have the partner spread their feet apart), then they get a point.

If the other person misses the ball, then they get another point. Mix things up a bit by putting a time limit on the game.

5) Practice various jump rope activities. Games such as jumping over a wriggling rope, hopping over a slightly raised rope, and plain jump rope are great ways of helping your child strengthen her gross motor skills. Spice things up a little by singing a few jump rope chants.

6) Monkey bars are a great way of strengthening the upper body and arm muscles. You can encourage your child to use their own muscles, but provide support for them by holding them midway between the knees and the feet. This gives them the security of being held but still allows them to practice holding on and swinging themselves from one bar to the next.

7) Schoolyard games such as kickball, dodge ball, and high jump are also good ways of practicing more complex motor skills. The bonus: your child will be less embarrassed to play them at school if he gets to practice (again, in private-go to a park a distance away from your house if necessary) in a less stressful environment.

These games are actually great for the whole family. Why not make a family sports day once a week, and let your whole family have a chance to exercise, and spend quality time together?



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Auditory Memory

The Secret of a Good Memory: 3 Ways to Improve Memory in Children

Could you memorize 15 pages of material – cold?

My eldest has a memory that astounds even me sometimes. Although only in high school, the amount of material she has memorized is daunting.

Because her school believes students should also spend time exercising their memories, students are asked to memorize large amounts of material.

And although this is only one of the ways mastery of a subject is determined, the teachers place a high value on being able to have prodigious amounts of material available at the tip of a student’s tongue.  For example, on a recent test she memorized 15 pages of material – a minimal amount- and was tested in class the next day.

It would be hard enough for one student to have to stand up and recite all of that material, let alone a whole class. Instead, the teacher gives a three or four word phrase from anywhere in the material and the person called upon has to recite the subsequent material – until the teacher tells them to stop.

The myth of a good memory

Lest you think my daughter was born this way, think again. While she is bright, she wasn’t always able to memorize this much material. In fact, when she switched into her present school in fourth grade, she spent an hour and a half trying to memorize a short paragraph in history.

Research and numerous real-life examples show that a person can train their brain to remember larger and larger amounts of material. At the same time, scientists have also studied the brains of memory champs and found no superior cognitive abilities or structural differences in their brains.

Memorization is a skill that can be learned like any other skill

Memory is like any other skill: the more your child practices, the better they’ll get. So why don’t we have more memory masters around if strengthening your memory is so easy?

First of all, strengthening your child’s memory, while not necessarily hard, does require work. It’s not something you can expect your child to accomplish in a day, though if your child is consistent it can be done in two or three months. Many people, unfortunately, expect a quick fix to improving their memory, and are reluctant to invest the time in order to get the job done.

Second, you need to make sure your child is using the right techniques in order to strengthen their memory. Some popular techniques like making up a silly story in order to remember a shopping list, might work for memorizing a grocery list, but fail miserably when it comes to remembering more complicated material.



In order to improve your child’s memory, you need to know WHY they have trouble remembering

If you went to the doctor with severe stomach pains, you wouldn’t expect your doctor to send you home with a prescription for Pepto-Bismol. The same is true for memory: there is no one method that will work for everyone with memory problems.

Instead, you need to know about the different types of memory there are, and where your child’s memory dysfunction lays. Once you’ve determined where your child’s memory is falling short can you make a plan to strengthen their memory.

3 methods you can use today to help improve your child’s memory

Here are some practical methods you can use to help your child improve their memory. They’re not gimmicks, but are real methods based on the way we learn best. I’ve used them with my own children and countless other clients:

Visualize what needs to be remembered

One of the best ways to remember things is to form a visual image of what you need to remember in your head. Next time your child has to remember the story of Thanksgiving, for example, let her draw, trace, or color pictures that represent each key point in the story.

After she finishes 2 or 3 pictures, stop and ask her to tell you in a few words what each picture represents.

Teach your child how to paraphrase

Often children with learning disabilities have hard time pulling out the most important information from a chunk of material. They may listen to a teacher describing what they’ll be doing for the day, but be unable to remember a word of what was said, because it was all just one big blur to them.

They even miss hearing key words like “first” or “next” or “last,” which would help give them a clue that important information is about to be said.

You can use a wordless picture book to help your child learn this important skill.

Teach your child how to rehearse material they want to remember

Many children have no clue how to memorize. It almost seems as if they expect the material to enter their brains through osmosis. Good memorizers make an active attempt to remember material with rehearsal strategies: whispering under their breath, repeating it over and over again, testing themselves, imagery, or anagrams and other tricks.

Making a conscious effort to use specific techniques to remember can have a huge impact on how much your child remembers, even if they are preschoolers.

Was there a time when your child remembered something you didn’t expect them to remember? What was it? Tell me about it in the comments below.


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Fine Motor

Hands-on Learning Games: Helping the Child Who Has Trouble Cutting With Scissors


It’s not uncommon for children all the way up to first grade to have trouble cutting with scissors. Usually the child has trouble with her fine motor skills: the acts of grasping the scissors, holding and manipulating the paper, and opening and closing the scissors, are actually more difficult than most parents (and teachers) realize.

This exercise is useful in helping your child master the practical skills of how to cut paper; however if your child also has trouble buttoning his clothing, manipulating food or writing implements, or other fine motor issues, then you should do additional fine motor hands-on learning games with them.


-Scissors. These should be comfortable for your child to use; try out several different pairs. It’s preferable to use regular scissors vs. “training scissors.” This will avoid your child having to learn how to cut twice-once with the training scissors and once with the regular ones.

-Small squares of 4”× 4”heavy paper. Your child will enjoy especially enjoy cutting if you use colored paper.

How to Play the Game:

There are ten different cutting patterns. Start from the first one, even if you think it’s too easy for your child; if it is, he will finish it quickly and move onto the next one.

Once your child is fully able to cut out one pattern (100% of the time) he may go on to the next pattern. Stick to this routine even if your child wants to just “try out” a more complicated pattern; it is the excitement of trying out something new that will help motivate him to complete the present pattern.

You can practice cutting with your child once a day; you should see significant improvement in a few weeks.

cutting pages 2

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Visual Memory

Hands-on Learning Games: 2 Games to Improve Your Child’s Visual Memory

hands on learning games

Hands-on learning games are an ideal way to help your child improve his visual memory. If you find your child often has trouble remembering where she places her things, or finds it hard to locate familiar places, then these games, played regularly, can help increase the amount of space on your child's visual "hard drive."

Game #1: Picture Perfect

Gather your materials:

You will need actual objects or pictures of common items, such as: a small ball, fork, toy car, play figure, etc.

Play the Game:

  1. Choose three items. Lay them on the table in a horizontal row in front of your child. Putting your finger on each item, ask your child to name each one.
  2. Then ask your child to leave the room. As she leaves the room, cover the objects with a baby blanket or other suitable material. Then sing a song, asking her to come in.
  3. When she enters, see if she can remember what items are under the blanket, preferably in order.

This game can be played alone, but it is also great fun to play with friends or other family members. Here are some fun variations on the game:

  • Once your child is proficient at remembering three items, you can go up to 4 or more items at a time.
  • Try adding an item after your child leaves the room. She then has to guess which one was added.
  • Try taking away an item. She then has to remember which item is missing.

Tip: In the beginning it will be easier for your child to remember items that are dissimilar, such as a ball, a shoe, and a fork. Later you can make the game more complicated by sticking to one category. For example, you might use a fork, a spoon, and a knife. 3-4 year olds should be able to remember at least three items, while 5-6 year olds should be able to remember at least 4-5 items, sequentially.

Game #2: Devious Dice

Gather your materials:

You will need large foam dice, which can be found at most toy stores.

Play the Game:

1. Start with three dice. Place the dice in a horizontal row in front of your child, then turn the each die randomly.

2. Tell your child to look at the dice for at least 7 seconds; encourage them to look at them for the full amount of time, as often children think they have it down after only a glance, only to find they don't actually remember.

3. Ask your child what numbers they saw, in order.

Here are some variations to this game:

  • Add another die for more of a challenge.
  • Ask your child to remember only the color of each die, to make it easier/
  • Advanced players can have the dice laid out so that there is a die above and/or below another die. They will then have to remember, for example, 2,4, 6, and a 2 under the 6.

Tip: This is a game on the harder end. Play only twice a week, and make it more exciting by taking turns, playing "challenger" rounds, or giving a small prize to the winner. A prize need not be material; it can also be staying up a half-hour past bedtime, or getting to choose the menu for dinner.

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Hands-on Learning Games: Animal Coverings Sorting Game

Go to fullsize image

This hands-on learning game is a great way for kids to learn about the different types of coverings animals have. The extra set-up of close-up cards challenge children to identify the animal in addition to its’ covering. Plus, your child can play the game with another child, racing against a clock to see who finishes sorting their cards first.


-          4 close-up pictures of fur, feathers, scales, and a shell.

-          Pictures of : turtle, lobster, snail, starfish, crab, crayfish

Bear, tiger, rabbit, deer, mouse, monkey

Chicken, ostrich, duck, sparrow, peacock, parakeet

Snake, komodo dragon, green lizard, angelfish, butterfly, gecko lizard

Close-ups of each of the above animals that show only one small part

How to Play:

  1. Place the 4 category pictures (fur, feathers, scales, and shell) in a row horizontally.
  2. Mix up the cards, putting them all in a pile, face-down.
  3. Have your child draw a card.
  4. The child then places the card underneath the correct category.

The close-up cards should be matched in the same way.


You can have your child play this game together with another child. Simply give each child two category cards, and see who can finish sorting their cards first. Children on two different levels can play also; one child places the close-ups while the other places the regular pictures.

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Listening games

Hands on Learning: A Twist on the Traditional I Spy Game

Remember how kids played I Spy before the days of Walter Wick?

Usually played on long highway rides during summer vacation, in those days it was you, a few siblings, and a sharp pair of eyes.  The object of the game was to find a particular object – a license plate with a particular number, a certain car model, or a landmark.

This listening game is like I Spy with a twist: instead of looking for a noun (car, doll, book) your child will look for an object that fits the description you give.

Let’s say, for example, that you choose the word “thin.” Your child’s job will be to find an object that fits that description. In doing so she not only learns new vocabulary words, but she learns to listen carefully and discriminate between the word thin and other words that are similar, such as “small” or “narrow.”


-index cards with descriptive words written on them

List A                          List B                                  List C

big           hot             broad      heavy               bitter        fragrant

small      cold            narrow     light                 sweet         odorless

rough     short          thick         soft                   sour             flat

smooth   tall             thin          hard                  salty          curved

How to Play:

1. Place the cards face down on a flat surface.  If your child is familiar with I Spy, explain that this game is similar to I Spy.

2. Ask your child to pull one card, and read it aloud for them.

3. Tell them to look around the room (or several rooms), and to try and find something that’s like the word on the card.

4. If your child is unfamiliar with a word or has difficulty, simply find an item in the house and show them how the word they drew fits.

TIP:  You can make this game harder by giving your child a set time to find the item in the house. If your child’s language skills are really weak, pair them with a sibling or a friend, and allow them to work as a team to find objects.

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Hands-On Learning Games

Learning While Shopping With Your Child

Today I'm at, with a guest post on "5 Tips to Improve Your Child's Learning Skills While Shopping."

In it, I explain how you can help your child boost critical learning skills like visual and auditory memory, with just a few easy - and fun - games you can play together with your preschooler.

So visit, and let me know what you think in the comments section!

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Expressive Language

Hands-on Learning Games: Improve Your Child’s Vocabulary

This hands-on learning game is great for improving your child's vocabulary. A game that is easy to make and fun to play, both gifted children and children who have speech delays will benefit from playing.

Parents whose children suffer from language delays can use this game to help build up their child's everyday vocabulary, or to teach new concepts.

Often children who have language delays have trouble learning and recalling the names of common objects. This results from a weak auditory memory. They may also speak in very simple sentences, and struggle in general to express themselves.

On the other hand, many children with language delays are great spatially, and have good visual memories. They are often able to find their way around easily, are good at finding lost items. They may also be talented in fields like dance, sports, or building things.

Because this game uses your child's strong visual memory to help bolster his weak auditory skills, your child will actually acquire and retain what he learns. Seeing the actual object is a strong reinforcer for him, especially if it is something found in his house.

Parents of gifted children will also find this game useful. You can use this game as a springboard for new concepts. If your gifted child is still too young to read, you can use the cards and pictures to teach her the names of various things, such as the parts of a flower, the names of common trees, or unusual parts of the body.

If your child can already read, she can use the game alone as an introduction to material she will read later on.


Index cards with box

How to Make the Game:

If you'd like to teach common household objects, make a card for each object you'd like to teach. All words should be items that you actually have in the house. You can use also use this game to teach transportation, wild animals, parts of the body, names of different types of trees, or practically anything else. For less common items, you can use miniatures, or pictures of the actual object pasted onto an index card.

1) Choose your items. Make a list of about ten items. Write clearly in print the name of the object; the word should be at least 1 1/2 inches long. It's probably easier and quicker to type it, and print it out on cardstock.

2)Read a card out loud. Choose one card, and read it aloud to your child. Then ask your child to find the object. If the child has difficulty, show them where the object is, and have them place the card next to or on top of the item.

3)Play with no more than 10-15 cards at a time. No more than 20% of the cards you use should be new to your child. If these are all new vocabulary, then start with 5 cards, adding more only when your child knows nearly all of them.

Tip: You can also learn actions this way; read the card out loud, and show the child the action that goes with it. Don't limit yourself to walk, run, and skip. Try out dribble, slouch, or saunter for a change. If you show your child what you mean, these words need not be harder than any other.

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Hands-On Learning Games

Fun Flower-Themed Activities To Do With Your 4-8 Year Old

hands on learningIt sounds like a cliché, but there’s something about spring that brings my kids to life.

As soon as warm weather makes an appearance, shirts and pants become too short, shoes miraculously start wearing out, and a mischievous sparkle shines in their eyes.

My 8 year old wanders back into the house after what should have been a ten minute trip to the grocery store, with mysterious smudges of dirt on his forehead, and a story to tell.

I spend my afternoons trying to resist the charms of four little ones eager to stay outside until the last possible minute. It’s amazing how many excuses for staying at the park a rosy-cheeked four year old (supported of course by his 5, 6, and 8 year old siblings) can think of when push comes to shove!

I can’t say I blame them – I’m not too anxious to go inside either.

So I’ve been taking advantage of the beautiful weather and my kids’ newfound curiosity, by starting a new theme based on spring. Normally I afterschool for about two hours in the afternoons, but for those sessions we usually spend our time doing table work. There’s plenty of hands on learning of course, but it’s still relatively sedate.

Instead, we’ve flipped the order of things: now, we go out on long adventures “to see what we can see.” We wander around the city, letting our eyes lead the way. Lately, the kids have been interested in all things green- especially flowers and leaves. So I’ve taken their natural interests, and built a curriculum around flowers and leaves.

Here are some of the things we have done:

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Help Your Child Blend Words with this Hands on Learning Game

Is your child struggling to blend words together? Hands on learning game for Things That Go

Blending words is not what you think it is.

Knowing how to blend words is an essential reading skill. But if you thought blending words means seeing the letters c-a-t and sounding them out until you said the word "cat," then you'd be only half right.

Children who are able to blend words successfully also have another critical skill: they are able to recognize what a word is after seeing just a few letters. In the word "cat," for example, a good reader will know what the word is after the she sees the letter "a." While technically the word could have been can, car, or cap, a good reader will use context (and pictures, at this age) to tell her what the meaning is.

Good readers do more than just blend letterstogether.

In fact, most good readers never read an entire word, letter by letter: they recognize the word in its entirety after a few letters, and them on to the next word.

As studies that tracked readers' eye movements show, this allows them to read quickly, and fairly accurately, since they constantly check the meaning of the word from the context of the sentence as they go along.

Being able to determine what a word is when seeing a part of it is due to having good visual closure skills. You can help strengthen your child's visual closure skills by having them build puzzles, solve I Spy's or other hidden pictures, and by playing Spot the Difference games. A great site for hidden pictures is, especially since you can adjust the level of difficulty.

Here's your free hands on learning game.

In a previous post, I gave you a free sequencing game for Goodnight iPad, a modern child's spoof on Goodnight Moon. In this post I've included a hands on learning game from the same online book site, based on the book "Things That Go."

The game is a great way to build up the skills that help your child blend words together.

Hands on Learning Game -Things That Go

Want 3 extra hands on learning games based on the same book?

By the way, if you're a subscriber, check you e-mail. I just sent you a bonus game based on the book, PLUS a few new ways to play the game included in this post. If you're haven't subscribed, subscribe by Monday Feb. 16 and I'll make sure you get your hands on one too...

Instructions on how to play are in the PDF of the game.

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