Category : Hands-On Learning Games


Hands-on Learning Games: Teach Your Child the Months of the Year in Less Than a Week

Is your child struggling with memorizing the months of the year? Often children with a delay in language development have difficulty with concepts involving time. Younger children have trouble with using words like “yesterday” and “tomorrow” appropriately; you may find your child asking you when yesterday’s baseball game will be.

Older children, even well into middle school, may struggle with knowing what day of the week comes before Sunday, or what month a particular holiday falls out on. You may find that even your tween struggles with remembering the order of the months of the year.

This hands -on learning game will help your child learn the months of the year, as well as improve her sequencing skills, which are at the root of her difficulties with concepts involving time.  It can also be adapted to suit children and teens of all ages.


-Print out two copies of a paper with name of the month on top and the picture associated with it on the bottom. Take one copy of each month, and cut it in half. That will leave you with one set of pictures with both the name of the month and its picture, PLUS a set of labels with the name of the month, and a set of labels with only pictures.

Examples of pictures for each month include: January-New Year’s Day, February-Valentine’s Day, March-wind, April-flowers, May-rain, June-last day of school, July-Fourth of July, August-hot day, September-first day of school, October-Halloween, November-Thanksgiving, December- winter, or holiday.)

* You can use your child’s picture for the month their birthday falls out on. Also, if you can’t think of a picture, simply let your child pick out a picture that they like.

How to Play:

1. Choose a large space to work at so you will have plenty of space to spread out the materials.

2. Place the copies with the months and the pictures cut out to the side. You don’t need them yet.

3. Place the page for January on the table before your child. Say the name of the month clearly, and point to the picture (no need to name the picture).

3. Do the same thing with the next month.

4.  After 2 or 3 months, mix up the pages, and ask your child to put them back in order. If she can read, she should name the months after she has placed the pages in order. If not, then you can say the names of the months and have her repeat after you.

5.   Continue until you’ve completed all the months of the year, making sure to stop after every 2-3 pages. You have a choice whether or not to require your child to remember previous pages. It really depends on how hard or easy it is for your child. So, for example, if your child can easily remember months 1-2, then when you do months 3-4 you can ask them to order the pages from months 1-4, all at once.

If this is hard for your child, you can have them do only months 1-2, then 3-4, and so on. As they get better at it you can slowly increase the number of months they remember at one time.

7.  Continue until your child can recite the names of the months in order forwards and backwards.

TIP:  Younger children can simply match the cut out pictures with the complete pages. In that case as they place the picture they can call out the name of the month that goes with it.

Children who can read can sequence the names of the months only. This would be step number 8.

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Miscellaneous Writing

Hands-on Learning Games: 6 Activities to Help Your Child Learn to Spell (and Understand) Words

Practicing spelling is probably one of the more irksome activities children face in school. I remember every day pulling out our gold colored spelling workbook, and tackling that day’s list of spelling words. The rest of the week consisted of various reading and writing activities designed to bang the spelling of those pesky words into our not-so-interested heads.

Today some schools are more enlightened, and now there are all sorts of interesting ways teachers teach spelling, ranging from word walls, to make the magic word.

However, if you’re a parent at home with a child who has to memorize 10 new spelling words by the day after tomorrow, you might be kind of stuck. If jumping out of the window of a small plane seems preferable to another night of drilling spelling words, then these 6 activities might cheer you up:

1. Riddles

The 7-10 year old age group especially enjoy this ancient pastime. Using a spelling word as the answer, you or your child try and think of a riddle that goes with it. There are the obvious (“What lives in a cave and hangs upside down? A b-a-t), or you can get really creative and think of some real knee slappers.

If you want to go really wild your child can make their own joke booklet: your child can illustrate it and print out, allowing them to review the words on their own next time.

2. Missing Words

This is a fill-in the blank game. You start off by writing a few of the spelling words at the top of a paper. Underneath, you write sentences that can be filled in the blank using the words. Once your child understands the words, you can leave out writing the spelling words on the top of the paper; then the sentence itself is the clue, and the child has to guess the word and fill it in the blank.

3. Crossword Puzzles

Although there are software programs that do this, it’s a lot more fun to do it on your own. Between making the clues and making the boxes for each word (you have to spell the words in order to get the right number of boxes!), your child will have plenty of practice with their spelling words.

4. Classification

In this game, you dictate groups of words. Your child has to cross out the word that doesn’t belong, and explain why it doesn’t fit in that category.

5. Creative Writing

Choose a picture from a magazine or a book. Have your child write a sentence or two about it using one of spelling words. Older children might choose to skip the picture; you can then have them write a story using the spelling words. You write once sentence, and they have to write the next one using a spelling word. Afterwards you read the whole story together.

6. Word jeopardy

T his is a game of quick thinking. You say one word, and your child has to answer with a spelling word that’s related to the word you said. An easy example would be Thanksgiving: your child answers “t-u-r-k-e-y.”  You can have your child give a synonym or an antonym, depending on the types of words they need to study.

This also works with more technical words, such as those you might have in science or history. For example, if you say “plant,” your child would answer s-y-n-t-h-e-s-i-s.

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Hands-On Learning Games: Teaching Your Kindergartner to Spell

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This hands-on learning game is great for teaching your kindergartner to spell. It’s also good for intermediate spellers who need help seeing how some words share the same spelling pattern.


  • Lined paper with space to draw a small picture above
  • Cardboard or sturdy paper

Make the Game:

  1. Write one letter pattern, such as “-at” on a cardboard square about 1inch by 1inches.
  2. Next write individual consonant sounds on cardboard squares, one consonant to a square.

How to Play:

  1. Say a word, such as “cat.” Say it slowly, drawing out the first consonant. Then repeat the word.
  2. As you say the sound “c,” take the “c” sound and place it in front of you. When you say “at” place the “at” square next to the c.
  3. Say the word a third time, pointing to each letter as you say it.
  4. Have your child watch you as you copy the word on lined paper, again sounding out the letters as you write them. Then draw a picture of a cat in the space above the word you have written.
  5. Continue the game, saying a word, then letting your child do the rest of the steps on her own, or helping her as needed.

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Expressive Language

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

improve your child's vocabulary

The ability to communicate effectively is one of the most important skills a child needs in order to succeed in school. Children who can persuade, defend, elaborate- or even   exaggerate - have a distinct advantage over their less fortunate peers.

A child who possesses a good command of language is better able to manipulate ideas in his head, examine the various shadings of word meaning, and connect ideas common to several seemingly unrelated topics.

The child who is unfortunate enough to suffer from weak language skills, on the other hand, is often misunderstood, maligned, and made fun of. He may be considered less intelligent than his peers or other family members, since his inability to express himself is often assumed to be due to a lack of intelligence.

If your child often has difficulty recalling words, describing his day at school, or explaining why he feels he should stay up later, then you already know how frustrating this can be.

Fortunately, it is possible to help your child improve his vocabulary within a relatively short period of time. The following hands-on learning game is easy to make and fun to play. It can be played with children as young as 3 years old, and is also good for ESL learners or for those wishing to teach their child a second language.


-index cards

-recipe box

-rubber bands

How to Make the Game:

-Choose 10 names of objects you would find around the house, and write them on the cards. Make sure that your child knows at least 8 of the 10 names. This is to ensure that he feels successful when he plays the game. No one wants to play a game where they don’t know the answers, and making sure he is at least 80% successful ensures that he is sufficiently challenged and motivated enough to play the game.

- If your child is a non-reader, show him the card, and tell him what it says. Ask him to look around and find the object. Readers can read the card on their own.

-When he finds the object, instruct him to lay the card on top of or next to the object.

-When your child doesn’t know one of the words, name the card, and show him where he object is. Instruct him to place the card next to it.

-Once your child masters a card he doesn’t know, add another card with the name of an unfamiliar object.


-       This game can be played with an endless amount of variations. Instead of writing a noun on the cards, you can write a verb or adjective. You can write short sentences, and ask your child to act them out: “Sit on the floor and kick the door.”

-       You can write a short paragraph for the reader, and ask them to act it out. This can help them understand the finer meanings of words that he might not otherwise understand.

An example might be: “The girl looked around her, eyes wide with fear. Clutching her sweater in one hand, she slowly turned around in a circle, peering at the shadows which shifted around her in the failing light.”

Acting it out will also allow her to demonstrate her understanding of the piece for you in a way that is less stressful than the “simple state and repeat the definition,” method.

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Auditory Memory

Hands-on Learning Games: The Ins and Outs of Auditory Memory


What is Auditory Memory?

Auditory memory is simply the ability to remember what you hear. It can refer to speech, music, or any other sound that makes it’s way up to your eardrums and to the proper centers in your brain.

Auditory memory is critical to your child’s success both at home and at school. It is what allows him to remember that he has to feed the fish, take out the garbage, and wash his hands before he sits down to eat dinner.

He also exercises his auditory memory when his teacher asks the class to put away their math books, take out their science workbook, and sit with their hands folded on the desk until she calls them.

Auditory memory is made up of three parts: short-term memory, active working memory, and long-term memory. Short-term memory is, as the name implies, information that lasts for only a short period of time.

You might use it when you call information for a number, and then hanging up quickly, try to dial the number you heard before it slips out of your head.

Short-term memory can hold only a very small amount of information: 7 bits of information plus or minus 2. That means that the average person can hold anywhere from 5 to 9 bits of information in their heads at a time.

This is one reason why telephone numbers started out as 7 numbers.

If you would like to hold onto the information for longer than a few seconds, you’ll need to find some way to transfer it into your long-term memory. Long-term memory is like the hard drive on your computer. It is permanently stored in your brain, barring accident, infection, or other misfortune.

However, just as with your computer, you must be careful to file the information in a way that it can be easily retrieved. You would find it impossible to find a file if you stored all of your documents as individual folders.

Instead, you automatically file all of your vacation ideas in one folder, your plans for the upcoming Bar Mitzvah in another, and your ideas for a new project at work in another. This makes the information much easier to store and to find.

The last type of auditory memory is active-working memory. It allows you to hold a piece of information in your mind even if you are in the middle of doing something else.

Some children, for example, find it difficult to write a book report and remember how to spell properly, and remember the technicalities of grammar. If you have ever walked to a room to get something, and then forgotten what it is you wanted, then you too have experienced a blip in your active working memory.

Can I improve my child’s auditory memory?

Most people think possessing a good auditory memory is a lot like having auburn hair and green eyes; that’s just the package they were given, and other than some surface changes, there isn’t much to do about it if you’re stuck with mousy brown hair and dishwater brown eyes.

However, while someone can be born with a better auditory memory, it is really a skill that can be improved quite dramatically if you use the proper techniques.

Stay tuned for my next post on fun games you can use to help improve your child's auditory memory.



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Thinking Skills

Hands-on Learning Games: Improve Your Preschooler’s Thinking Skills

You can improve your preschooler's ability to think creatively by playing "Secret Square." You can also make this game at home  inexpensively with just a few materials.

One of the best ways to help your child learn to exercise his thinking skills, is to give him open-ended problems that require him to consider possible solutions. While some children find it easy to free associate, often coming up with their own unique solutions, others have a hard time when the answer isn't fed to them or is not immediately obvious.

This game, although based on a traditional 20 questions format, is helpful for children like this since it uses a picture that serves as a visual clue, and helps them to stay on the right track.


You will need pictures of items in common categories: food, transportation, clothing, tools, animals, toys, and furniture are basic categories you can use for a beginner. You will need about five pictures for each category.

Glue each picture to a piece of heavy cardboard or plastic.

You will also need a coin or colored disc.

How to Play:

Variation One:

    1. Mix up the cards.
    2. Lay the cards face-up.
    3. Have the child close their eyes, and place the coin or counter directly under the card that you choose.
    4. Your child needs to guess where the secret counter is. For example, if you placed the counter under an ice-cream cone, your child will need to guess where you hid it, but he is only allowed to ask indirect questions.  For example, he can ask: "Is it something you wear?"
    5. If the answer is no, then he needs to turn over all the things you wear. This part of the game is nice since it sneaks in a little categorization as well.
    6. If the answer is yes, then he turns over all the things that you don't wear. He must then ask more specific questions, like "is it something you wear in the winter?" Th eony restriction is that the child may not ask directly, "Is it a chair?"
    7. When the child locates the secret counter, then he is the winner, and he gets to place the counter under one of the cards, while you guess.

Variation Two:
In this variation, you turn the cards face-down. You still place the counter under one of the cards, but this gives an added dimension involving memory: your child will now have to remember what types of things he saw, as you will not take away any cards until he hits a "yes."

He will have to remember which cards he chose and asked about, in order to find the secret counter.

Tip:You could make this game even more challenging by using less common categories. For example, you could choose to feature different types of vehicle parts: i.e. a boat engine, truck engine, motorcycle engine,etc. Your child would then have to identify the item as an engine, and would also need to know what it does.

You might call this a Gold Challenger round, and involve the whole family.


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Expressive Language

Hands-On Learning Games: Improve Your Child’s Expressive Language Skills

expressive language skills

Hands-on learning games are a great way of helping your child build his expressive language skills. Being able to express one's self is a crucial skill that affects every aspect of your child's life. Not being able to explain himself, persuade his listeners, or simply share a funny event because he has an expressive language disorder can seriously impact your child 's self-esteem.

Imagine being unable to explain why you had a bad day in class, or why you want to go to a friend's house. Or, what if you wanted to convince your sister to let you borrow her bike, but you didn't have the words you needed to persuade her?

You may find your child is easily frustrated, since he can't use language effectively. He might resort to hitting, kicking, or even biting when he doesn't get his way, because he cannot use language to help him solve conflicts with others.

The best way to help your child is to give her plenty of opportunities to play with language, in a fun, engaging activity that doesn't pressure her to produce. This hands-on learning game is perfect as it allows your child to strengthen her language in a totally naturally way, and even lets her use visuals to help get her point across.

In order to play this game, you will need to take a trip first with your child to a fun place. During the trip, make sure to take separate pictures of  everyone who goes with you on the trip. You should also take pictures of all the main events. For example, if you go to an amusement park, take a picture of each ride and game that your child plays.

You should also take pictures of your child as they leave the house to go on the trip. If you plan to travel by car, take a picture of your child sitting in the car. You will use all of these pictures to act as cues to help your child tell a story about his trip.


Card stock (to print out the pictures on)

Regular size photo album (to store the pictures in a story format)

How to Play:

  1. You're going to make a story of your child's trip using the pictures you took. First, organize the pictures in the order in which they occurred. You can separate the pictures according to the different events that took place during the trip.
  2. Your child should sit on the floor or at a large table with plenty of space to move the pictures around. Point to a picture of your child, and ask, "Who's this?" in a playful manner.
  3. Place that picture to your child's left.
  4. Now take an event picture, and place it to the right of the first picture. You have now created a sentence, only with pictures instead of words.
  5. Say to your child, "This is - (your child should say his name, or "me ," if he is able to.) Next point to the event picture, and ask your child to name it.
  6. Lastly, your child should put the two together : "I rode on the merry-go-round."
  7. Underneath the merry-go round picture place another event picture. Point to the picture of your child, prompting him to say, "I rode in the  bumper cars."
  8. Continue with the rest of the pictures.

Tip: You can make this game harder by letting your child sequence all the pictures himself. Instead of telling you the story bit-by bit with in sentence form, he should first arrange the pictures in story form, and then tell the entire story using his own words.

Don't forget to reward your child at the end of your learning session! It need not be a large reward, but it should be something that is enticing to your child. It could be a treat, or it could be being allowed to stay up a half-hour past bedtime, or going to a park you don't usually visit.


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Listening games

Hands-on Learning Games: Help Your Child Be A Better Listener

This hands-on learning game is great for improving your child's auditory processing skills. Children who have auditory processing issues need to first learn to pay attention to what they hear before they try to improve their auditory memory or sequencing skills.

This game is fun, and uses the natural medium of language to improve listening skills. Give your child a treat by making a treasure hunt where they find a small treat or toy hidden in the house, and you will add to the fun and indirectly improve their sequencing skills. You can also choose to reward your child with a small treat after every three correct answers; a chocolate chip, raisin, or other small treat is fine.

I have found that not only do kids beg me to "play" with them, but their brothers and sisters also demand a turn!

Choose a song:

Your child will listen to a song and follow along as it is sung, using pictures as an aid. The song you choose will depend on the age of your child and the severity of his auditory processing issues. For children ages 4-6 the best types of songs are traditional nursery rhymes. You can also try popular children's artists such as Raffi.

For children 6 and up,singers such as John Lithgow and Hap Palmer are good choices: the songs consist of more than one sentence, offer a refrain, are interesting, and have catchy tunes.Teenagers and adults can use folk tunes, or any other song, as long as there is some sort of story being told;one-liners don't offer any complexity.

Create a presentation:

Next, you will create pictures to go with the song. These pictures will help your child "hear" what is in the song, since they offer visual support (their strength) to an auditory activity (their weakness). You will need to make pictures of all the nouns; in later songs you can add verbs. There is no need to add the words.


The first time you play a song, help your child follow along by pointing to the words as the song is sung. This helps the child to become more familiar with the song.

After that, your child can follow along on his own. If it is too hard, you can stop the song after each pictiure. In this case you'd be using a really easy song with a slow pace and not more than 4-6 different pictures.

You can also sing along with the song, emphasizing the nouns (and verbs, if applicable), or help a younger child by gently holding their hand and pointing together.

You'd be surprised how hard this is for many children, however they will enjoy it as long as you make sure that they are at least 80% successful.

You need to work with your child at least 3 times a week for about a half hour. In the beginning it may be less, until your child gets the hang of it. You will begin to see better listening skills after about 2-3 weeks.


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Colors, Shapes, and Size

Hands-on Learning Games: Using Litter to Teach Your Child Colors

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This is probably one of the more unusual hands-on learning games that you'll find, but I guarantee you it works.

My husband and I are fostering two little girls, ages 5 and 3  1/2. They have been with us for nearly nine months. When they came to us, they suffered from some serious delays, so we went to work pronto on using every minute of our time to teach them, particularly the older one.

I find that the best way to teach kids with disabilities is to think of every minute as a learning opportunity. Initially it seems hard, but once you get into the habit of it, it will get easier and you will definitely get unbelievable results.

I used the vast amounts of street litter and daily walks- to the store, to visit a friend, order to learn colors. How? First I chose a color to focus on. We started with her favorite color, purple. I knew it was her favorite color because she always pointed to and requested items that were that color. Also, when I would ask her what color something was, she would always say,"purple," whether or not it actually was.

Each time I saw a purple ice-pop wrapper, potato chip bag, or any other purple object, I would point it out to her. She then ran to it and stomped on the item. If it wasn't stompable, we just touched it. When I saw that she mastered that color, we went on to a new color.

For this to work  well you need to stay with one color until your child knows it absolutely cold. Then, when you go onto a new color, add on the new color as well. However, don't focus on more than two colors (one old and one new) at a time, because it takes away your focus.

Not only did she learn primary and secondary colors, she also learned "light" and "dark" as well as a few names such as turquoise and silver- all within about six weeks. I think that's pretty good for a 15 minute activity that requires no advance preparation!

A side benefit: her younger sister and brother (age 2 1/2) got so used to this game, that even after she no longer needed it, they insisted on carrying on the game! They were so determined to play, that I had to carry on the game with them as well.

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