Memory Games for Preschool



Imagine something you did often as a child but don’t do anymore. Riding a bike, for instance, or playing basketball.  At the time when you did this often, you were fluent.  You could hop on a bike in a flash and get flying down the road in no time. 
Now imagine that you’re joining your childhood self on that ride.  You see a bike on the lawn and you pick it up—but you’ve had a long hiatus. You might find it awkward to get on the seat.  You have to adjust your body to the seats and the pedals.  You have to remember whether you brake by pedaling backwards or by squeezing the gears.  In a few blocks, you’re shaky but you’re moving.  After a few more blocks, you’ve got the hang of it—but your childhood self is way up ahead.

This exercise illustrates how much easier it is for your child to move ahead in school when she has mastered a concept to the point of knowledge,—and how hard it is for a child to keep up when she is still at the stage of recall.

You can help your child assimilate knowledge the same way that you learned to ride a bike:  by practicing.  Here, Codabear gives variations on memory games that you can play with your preschooler, and offers tips for using these games to memorize concepts and information in school.

The Memory Pairs Game.  You might have played the memory pairs game when you were young.  You start with a set of cards, each of which has one pair in the deck.  You lay all of the cards upside down, and you take turns so that each player turns over two cards.  If the two cards that the player turns over are a pair, then he gets to keep the pair.  But if the two cards aren’t paired, then the cards are turned back to face down and it is the next player’s turn.  As the game continues, players remember the location of the cards that were previously turned up—and they can remember where to locate pairs. After all the cards have been paired, the player with the most pairs at the end of the game wins.

A DIY Memory Pairs Game.  The classic game is fun and nostalgic, but you can create your own memory pairs game at home.  Take two sheets of paper and cut them each into eight identical pieces—so that you get 16 “cards”.  Draw eight items on the front of eight pieces of paper, and then draw the same eight items on the other eight pieces of paper.  You can decide what items to include—they might be animals, numbers, letters, cartoon characters—have fun with it!

Shuffle the sixteen pieces of paper and place them face down on the floor.  You’ve made your own memory pairs game!

Variations on the Memory Pairs Game.  There are lots of different ways to play this game. Here are a few Codabear favorites:

  • Take it outside. One fun variation is to make an outdoor game—use large pieces of paper or posterboard for the cards, and have the kids run around the yard to find their pairs.
  • Use cups or containers to hide pairs. You can make the activity kinaesthetic: instead of drawing on paper, you can hide paired objects.  For example, you could hide pairs of buttons under a set of sixteen plastic cups. 
  • Use pairs that aren’t identical. Instead of matching dogs with dogs, you can up the ante by using categories.  For example, you could pair an activity with something you might wear to participate in that activity.  “Cooking” could be paired with “Apron” and “Running” could be paired with “Tennis shoes.”  Or you could pair an object with the place where you might find it—a seashell might be found at the beach, and a swing might be found at the park.

Using the Memory Pairs Game with School-Age Children.  Research suggests that memory games alone do not improve memory.  However, the practice of repeating rituals or processes may help you to memorize faster.  This is the reason to play memory games with a preschooler:  if she is familiar with the form of the game, she may be able to use that game to memorize new information more quickly.

For example, think of something that a school-age child might have to memorize:  such as the multiplication table.  You can use a memory pairs game to help your child master these tables.  Take two sets of eight cards.  On the first set, write eight multiplication problems (such as 2×2).  On the other eight cards, write the answers (such as 4).  Shuffle the cards, flip them over, and ask your second-grader to match the problem with the solution.

Doesn’t that sound more fun than reciting the times tables in the car?