Monday, December 6, 2010

Making up games... we're never too old

Have you ever noticed how kids play intently with homemade toys (pots + wooden spoons = drum kit)? I watched my boys play with plastic grocery bags filled with broken toys. You say, "What!!?" I know, I had the same reaction.

I should rewind 15 minutes. The boys found an old beach toy and proceeded to break it into a TON of pieces on my driveway -- nice, really nice. For their efforts, I gave them each a grocery bag and asked them to pick up the mess. A few minutes later, I came to check on their progress because I had my doubts. To my surprise, the mess was gone, and they had moved to the front yard. What were they doing? Ah, yes... they were throwing their bags into the air and giggling as the trash-filled bag flipped once and darted back to the ground. "They're rockets, Mommy!" Oh, of course, they are... right. In an effort to keep the mess contained, I tied a knot on the end of the bag, and they were set for at least 30 minutes of joyous fun. To be honest, I enjoyed watching them play so innocently.

Somewhere in our adulthood, we forget how to play like this. Kids seem to use their resourcefulness with great ease, and I want that ingenuity, too. Over the past two years, I have been trying to tap into my inner-resourcefulness. This blog is an outlet for me to document some of those ideas. Plus, I wanted to share my love of homemaking and teaching, so I hope to be resourceful here, too. We'll see!

With two fast growing preschoolers, I have a plethora of toys and games. My mom has been nice enough to always buy the boys toys that double as a "learning" activity. I love the duality of it all. However, I find that most educational toys are quite expensive. Enter the resourcefulness... let's see what I can turn into an educational toy. The game I want to share with you really is an educational toy, but it is very inexpensive and can be used in MANY different ways.

I'm sure many of you remember the MEMORY® Game. It's the pair-matching game. In our house, it's called, "The Matching Game."

Well, when my oldest son turned 3, I thought he'd be magically ready to play it because, well, he was 3... and that's the starting age on the box. Yes, I was that naive. Please hold your laughter. At any rate, after trying to play the variations list in the instructions for younger children, I was distraught because he was not interested at all. He'd rather just mix up the cards again. I just decided to put a few of the cards picture-side-up. I picked up the duck card and said, "Can you find another yellow duck?" He went hunting and excitedly found it! In my joy, I cheered, "You found a match!" We continued this until he found the matches in the small pile and begged for more. Wow!! I somehow kept his attention for 5 minutes, and he was begging for more. So the game continued.

This continued for a few days. Then I thought, "Wow! I think I can use this in another way!" I showed him how to group the pictures together by color, then by category (toys, food, animals, etc). Who knew the  Memory Game was a sorting game. A few days later, we tried to play the game again the traditional way but with only three sets. I even let him study them face-up for a few minutes. You might say, "Hey! You're cheating!!" Nope... I wanted him to get the idea that he needs to remember where each card is. When I turned them face-down, he knew exactly what to do. He is now 5 and loves playing the traditional game and our sorting game. My youngest is now 3, and he started getting interested with he was 2. Even then, I just did the face-up matching. He can play with us just fine now. However, I think he might have photographic memory like my Dad... no fun for the rest of us. He beats us all!!

The next version I am going to try is: Which one doesn't belong? Put out several cards of the same category (ie, food) plus one that does not match (ie, toy). You can make this as simple or as complicated as you want. Obviously, this will require discussion with your little one. Say something like, "Yum, I see lots of food. What foods do you see?" Together, you can then name each one and then make a silly face, when you get to the non-food object. Then say, "Oh, this one isn't food! What is it?" This will help set the stage for the next set.

So the point of this post is to look at your kid's toys and games a little differently. Plus, this saves us a little money from having to buy separate toys for each skill.

Do you use the "Memory" game in a different way? I'd love to hear it!

Next... I want to go into some fun games with books that are fun for all ages, even toddlers.


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