You don’t have to follow the instructions

Most preschoolers have at least one version of the game Memory. In fact, in my house, we currently have three: Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Dora the Explorer, and Disney Princesses. According to the manufacturer, this game is appropriate for children ages 3 and up. The instructions indicate that you should lay out all 72 cards face down and take turns finding matches. I would argue that most 5-year-olds don’t have the attention span to play the game that way, never mind a 3-year old. But I’ve come up with a few variations that make the game more kid-friendly and even usable for children as young as 2 years old (provided they are not still chewing on everything in sight).

Memory for children ages 3 and up

Start out with far less than the 36 pairs that are included with the game. This number of cards can be really overwhelming for most children. For a child who has never played the game before, 3 to 6 pairs is plenty. As your child becomes more proficient, you can add more pairs. If you have the classic Memory game, you can use any pictures you want. If you are using one of the character-themed versions, I would suggest picking out pairs that are not at all similar to each other. If the cards below were included at the same time, many preschoolers would have a difficult time recognizing that any two of these cards don’t actually go together. Choose pairs with different characters or objects.

I Found a Match (suitable for children as young as 2)

In this variation, you put out several pairs of cards with the picture side facing up. You and your child (or children) take turns finding matches and saying “I found a match.” As your child gets better at this game, you can add more cards. Again, if you are using a character-themed version, choose pairs that are not similar to each other. This game is great for working on the following skills:

  • naming pictures of objects
  • concept of “same”
  • counting to 2 (How many phones did we find? 1…2)
  • plurals (2 shoes, 2 cats, 2 Mickeys…)
  • taking turns
  • focusing attention

Categories (suitable for older preschoolers)

For this version, you really need to use the classic version of the game. You lay out one of each of the cards and ask your child to find all of the things that belong to a certain category – things you eat, things you play with, things with wheels, animals… Categorizing is a skill kids need so they can define words and understand the relationships between words.

What’s the First Letter? (suitable for children beginning to learn letter/sound associations)

Similar to the category version, you ask your child to find as many pictures as s/he can that begin with a particular letter. Some of the pictures can be named in more than one way (puppy/dog, flower/daisy/pink flower, hat/cap, bike/tricycle…). As long as your child chooses a name for the picture that matches the letter, accept it as correct.

Speech Sound Practice

This is an easy game to help your child work on speech sounds s/he is learning “in Speech.” Choose several pairs that have words that include your child’s speech sound. For example, if your child is working on the /f/ sound, you could use the cards for fish, flower, phone, and frog. Place all of the cards face down. Have your child turn over two cards at a time and say the name of each picture. When s/he gets a match, the word can be used in a sentence.

Try out one of these variations the next time you sit down to play with your child. If you don’t already have this game, it’s available for under $10 almost everywhere toys are sold, and I would suspect you wouldn’t have much trouble finding it at a garage sale for less than $3.

2 Responses to You don’t have to follow the instructions

  1. Tara Cohen says:

    Awesome ideas! Plus, if you don’t have a game of Memory, I remember our Pre-K teacher starting the kids out by just cutting basic shapes out of colored construction paper and having them start matching those! It was great for matching, colors, shape identification, and counting! You can even make your own “Memory” game by cutting up a couple of old cereal boxes into little squares and putting stickers on them to create matching sets! 🙂

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