Cards: a useful tool for playful learning

Cards to learn and play with

Cards can be used for a lot of games to strengthen skills like math and make fun assignments with it.

Picture 1: More, less or equal:

In the middle of the table, there are 3 blocks with the signs <, > or = on them. With each turn, the players have to turn a card. Looking at both cards, they have to see if it’s more, less or equal and have to take the right block. If it’s right, they can give their card to the other player. If it’s wrong the other player can give his card to the player who got it wrong. You can compare it to the game jungle speed.

Picture 2: the right sum

You only use 1 to 10 for this game. The players have to turn two cards around at the same time. When they add or deduct the cards and the solution is on one of the blocks, they have to grab it. The one who grabs it can give his cards to the other player. The player who had no cards remaining is the winner of the game.

Picture 3: making 10

You only use 1 to 10 for this game. Each player has a stack of cards. They have to get rid of them by making 10 with the card that they have and a card in the middle of the table. (5+5, 3+7, 8+2…)

Clock and assignments

Picture 4:

To start this game you have to put the cards on the table like a clock. 1 card is being placed in the middle of the circle. You keep dividing the cards until you have one card left. This card is placed next to the stack in the middle. You have to look at the card and count where it should be on the clock. On this spot, you take another card.  When you get a king, you have to place it in the middle of the circle and take a card there. The game is finished when all four kings are found. When you have no cards remaining on the clock, you won the game.

Picture 5:

A minute to win it: You can challenge the kids to do a competition of a minute to win it. Who can win the most games?
– shuffle the deck and try to put it back in the right order by numbers.
– try to make a house of cards with 24 pieces.
– try to turn the whole deck around at once.
– put a card over the edge of the table and kick it up with your hand and catch it. With each catch, you add one more card. Who will have the most in the end?

Sudoku: training that brain in a fun way!

Sudoku puzzles

Sudoku is a fun way of training the brain. We all know the traditional one with numbers, but I have created some puzzles with colors, figures and letters. You can let the kids try to solve the puzzles and afterwards let them check the puzzles with the solutions.  In this post I will also give extra ideas that you can do with these puzzles.

Extra ideas

– You can let the children solve the puzzle on a computer or you can let them color it.
– You can make it harder by using colors that look like each other for example light blue and dark blue.
– Adding a color quiz to the puzzle can make it more fun. For example finding 3 yellow square objects. You can use the subjects you are learning the kids in the quiz. When they complete the task, they get an extra color to solve the puzzle.

– You can ask the children to make up their own figures. Then they can give the puzzle to another child that has to solve it or bring it home for a family member.
– You can make it harder by using the same kind of figures, like arrows but changing the direction of it.
– You can use this during a math lesson. The kids pair up in groups and get an assignment. When they get it right, they get an extra figure to solve the puzzle. The group who finish the sudoku first wins.

– All kids get a puzzle. And the teacher tells them a letter. They have 30 seconds to find something that starts with that letter. If they get it right, they get an extra letter to solve the puzzle.
– You can make the puzzle in capitals or in script letters so that they can practice writing both.
– You can also make a wordoku where at the end of the puzzle they should see a word in the diagonal cells from top left to bottom right.

Here you can find an empty sudoku puzzle if you would like to create one yourself. empty puzzle

Tangram: having fun with geometric shapes

Tangram puzzle fun

A tangram is a puzzle consisting of 7 flat geometric shapes. There are 100 kinds of puzzles you can try to solve, but with this post, I would like to show some extra elements you could add to a tangram puzzle.

Animals and people

– Give the children a picture of an animal and let them try to create it with the shapes.
– Guessing game: One child tries to make an animal and the other children have to guess what it is.
– Give the children the name of an animal. They have to try to make 2 different puzzles.

– Make a human shape in a certain position. The children have to copy this position.
– A child can choose to copy the position of one of the other children with the shapes.
– The children get 7 tangram puzzles in different colors. They have to use all the pieces to make a giant. They have to work together and think about what they have to create like a head, arms, body and feet.

Numbers, letters and exploration

– Give the children a number between 0 and 100. They have to race each other to make the number first.
– Give the children a tangram number on a card to look at for 1 minute. After a minute they have to turn it around and try to recreate it.
– A minute to win it: The children try to make as many numbers as possible in a minute. The one who has the most numbers wins.

– You could play a game of hangman and make the letters with the shapes.
– One of the children creates a letter, and the children have to race each other to find an object in the room that has that letter in its name.
– The children get an example of the tangram alphabet. Each turn they have to make a word with the letters but mix them up. The other children have to guess which word it is.

– You give the children a theme like sports and they have to create something with the shapes.
–  Give them 7 blank shapes so that they can create their own tangram puzzle. If they make a drawing on it, they can give it to another child and see if they can figure out how it fits together.
– Making a story: The first child creates something with the shapes and tells everyone what it is. Then the second child creates something next to it and tries to relate that to the former creation. That’s how they will make a story.

Here you can find the tangram shapes: tangram




The four seasons

Four seasons card game

To play the four season game, you need 4 copies of each card.

2 copies of each card are being placed in the middle of the table like a memory. The remaining cards are being divided between all players. The players put the stack of cards in front of them and turn the first two cards. They put them next to the stack. Each turn the children have to find a card in the middle that is the same as one of the two cards in front of them. If they succeed, they can have another try and take a new card from their stack. When they can’t find the same card, it’s the next players turn. The person who has no stack cards remaining is the winner of the game.

Game variants and ideas

– Before you play the game with the children, you can play a game of which cards match with which season. When they know this, you can give them a season card to play the card game. Then they have to find all the cards that belong to the season on their card.
– When they find a matching pair, they have to tell a story about it. For example a memory or something they would like to do in the summer or another season.
– you can add or remove cards/seasons to make it more difficult or easier.
– You can also play it as a normal memory or a quartet.



Uno: the card game, but with a twist

Uno: adjusting the game to fit all players

Everyone likes a game of Uno. I adjust my version of Uno to the age of the children playing it.

Every player starts the game with 7 cards. None of the other players should see the cards. All the remaining cards are placed in the middle of the table. The first card is placed next to the pile and then the game begins. The first player needs to match this card by color, number or the same symbol. They can also use one of the special cards. When a player has only one card left, he needs to yell Uno! If they forget this, they have to take extra cards. Once a player has no cards remaining, he is the winner of the game.

There are four special cards:
1) all colors card:
With this card you can change the color of the cards.
2) skip a turn card:
When you place this card, the next player has to skip a turn.
3) + cards:
When you place this card, the next player has to take +2, +4 or +6 cards.
4) question mark card:
With this card, you can choose what your next action will be.

Changing the game

Depending on the age of the players, you can change the game:
– You can adjust the amount of numbers you are working with. For younger children, you can work with the numbers they have learned like 1, 2, 3. With older children, you can add extra numbers like 8, 9, 10.
– You can adjust the way you show the numbers. In this card game, I used images in the form that numbers are shown on a dice. You can also use written numbers like 1, 2, 3 or numbers by using squares.

– You can adjust the special cards. For younger players, it’s better not to use all the special cards, because it can be difficult for them to understand. For the older players, you can add extra cards or by using the question mark card you can stimulate them to use their imagination and invent a new card.
– You can also add new elements to the game. For example a card with an assignment with a game of a minute to win it. When they complete the assignment, they can put two cards away. When they don’t they have to take two cards extra.

Flower power: think fast or take all the cards

Flower game

This is a card game where you have to think quickly. There are four flowers in the game. A sunflower, a tulip, a rose and a violet. The cards are being divided between all players. Each player turns a card without looking at it and place it in the middle of the table. Then the player has to name the object he sees on the card. You would think it’s rather easy to just name an object you are seeing, but here comes the catch. You can’t say the name of a flower twice.

To make the game a little bit harder, there are also cards with a red cross over the flowers. When they have this card, you can’t name the flower that is crossed. Because of this, you will get in a situation where you have a red cross and the same flower. You can only use the names of the flowers in the game.  When you do say it twice or name the flower with a red cross, you have to take all the cards that have been placed in the middle of the table. You have to play the game fast so that there is not much time to think. If you wait more than 5 seconds then you also have to take all the cards.

Once a player has no cards remaining, he is the winner of the game.

Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate’s game for me!

Pirate’s ship race

In this pirate’s ship race, the children play with their own ship and have to race each other in order to get to the treasure chest. But there are also traps in the game. So will they win the race or will they be cursed?

Each pirate chooses their color of ship and places it on the compass. The players take turns in rolling the dice. Then they have to look at the color they have thrown and put the ship on the same color. There is also a  purple color on the dice, because of this they have to skip a turn. The players also have to watch out for the curse in the game. When a player has a space with a treasure chest on it, they have to open it and take out a coin without looking. When they get a golden coin, they can keep it. But there are 3 other coins that have a curse on them:
– green: You have to put a golden coin back in the treasure chest.
– blue: You have to go 5 steps back.
– red: You have to switch with the person behind you.

The ship that reaches the treasure chest first, get’s to keep all the golden coins in it and is the winner of the game.

Dinosaurs: got to catch them all!

Dinosaurs card game inspired by Pokémon

When children struggle with certain skills, using a game with a topic that they are interested in can help them to strengthen those skills in a fun way.  And this is why their enthusiasm of Pokémon cards inspired me to make this dinosaurs card game.

I’ve made a dinosaur card game inspired by Pokemon. There are 6 dinosaurs in this game. Each dinosaur can evolve 3 times. So you have a baby dinosaur, a mid-age dinosaur, and a full grown one. On the cards you have the following items:
1) the name of the dinosaur
2) a picture of the dinosaur
3) the name of the attack and the points that will be reduced
4) the icon of the energy card and the amount you need for it
5) the value of the card

Next to the dino cards you also have special cards:

1) the evolution card: This card is necessary to evolve the dinosaur, otherwise they can’t use the evolved one.
2) the switch card: They can choose a player and switch a dinosaur with this player.
3) the game on card: Everyone has to battle against each other.
4) the extra points card: They can choose if they add the extra points to their attack or to the value of the card.

How to play?

Each child gets 5 cards to start with and the rest of the cards are in the middle of the table. Each player decides if they want to challenge another player or if they want to take another card.  When they challenge a player, they have to look at their value on the cards and the points of their attacks.  So in a playful way, they are using math to know which cards are the best ones to use. The player who has the most dinosaurs in the end, wins the game.

The first time the children played this game with the rules I invented. But then I let them play on their own. Soon they began to make their own rules and the game evolved. When they are playing it now, you can see that each group has their own way to play it and are inspired by each other to create and invent new rules. As a result the game stays interesting and fun to play.

You could make this game in all kind of themes and use it for math or other subjects they learn in school.

workshop erika van tielen

Customized workshop for Erika Van Tielen

Playful learning in first grade

Before I had this blog, I also did workshops. I made a workshop for Erika Van Tielen about the skills the children learn in first grade. It was about how you can practice them in a playful way. In the article above she made a post about the way she experienced my workshop. It’s in dutch, so if it’s not a possibility to translate the page, I will be more than happy to translate it for you. Enjoy the article!