A handy tool for reviewing everything from math facts to states and capitals to sight words, flash cards are an effective way help kids learn information. They are a convenient size to carry and store, and because information is printed onto separate cards, you can study and review only the information you need.
Yet if your vision of flash cards consists of the mind-numbing drill and repeat, you and your child are probably not anxious to pull them out for another practice session. Fortunately, flash cards are flexible enough to be used in a variety of games and activities, making review an eagerly anticipated part of the day.
We love flash card games. Here are a few of our favorites:
1. Kaboom – Play this game by taking two of your cards and writing the word “BOOM” on them. Turn all the cards face down and spread them out randomly on the table. Take turns selecting a card; if you can answer correctly then you get to keep it. If the card has BOOM on it then you have to return ALL of your cards to the center of the table.
You can play for a set amount of time or to a pre-determined number of cards. See the game in action in a short video of my son and I playing a game of Kaboom with his reading cards.
You can also add variety by adding a “SHAKALAKA” card. If you draw that card, then you get to take all of your opponents’ cards as well. Kaboom is best played with homemade cards, because it is important that the BOOM cards you make for the game look exactly like the others.
2. Slap – Spread out your flash cards on the table face up. One person is the caller and calls out the answer — number for math fact, sight word, phonogram sound, definition for vocabulary, etc. The first player to slap the correct card gets to keep it.
This game works great for everyone from preschoolers learning their letters to middle school kids reviewing science vocabulary. You just have to make sure they only slap the cards and not each other. Play for a pre-determined amount of time, a set number, or until all the cards are gone. The person with the most cards wins.
3. Climb the Stairs – Use a fat marker to draw a quick staircase on large paper or use an actual set of stairs in your home to play this fun game. You will need to have two to five more cards than you have stairs. The more extra cards you have, the more chances your student will have to win.
If you are using paper stairs, use a marker (button, penny, teddy bear counter). When the student answers a question correctly he moves his marker to the next stair. If the answer is incorrect, he has to stay put. Miss too many, and he can’t make it to the top of the stairs.
We have fun playing the live-action version of this game. My son sits on the steps and gets to move to the next one with each correct answer.
This can also work with two players. Just double the number of cards and take turns, making sure everyone gets the same number of turns. Either the first one to the top will win or there will be a tie.
4. Play FLASH – The flash card version of BINGO, this takes a few minutes of prep time for mom. Use the FLASH template (provided in the download pack below) to create an answer card variation for each player — write in math answers, Latin vocabulary, letters for preschoolers, etc. This works best when you have at least 24 distinct items to review so that none of the answers repeat.
You will use your discard stack of cards to determine if the winner was correct. For older kids this works best with two or more players, but preschoolers and kindergarteners will sit and play it alone for a long time just for the novelty of playing.
5. Around We Go – Place the cards in a LARGE circle on the floor. Grab a die, roll, and move that number around the circle. When you land on a card, if you can answer it correctly you get to keep it. Incorrect cards get returned and the next person has a turn. Play until all the cards are collected.
If I am playing this one as an adult with a younger child I always “miss” a few to see if they can catch me in my mistake and also to level the playing field. Another variation is to place the cards in a smaller circle on the table and use one of the child’s favorite toy characters to travel around the circle. Sometimes using the character is extra motivation, while other times kids just need to get up and move.
While I have a number of pre-made sets of flash cards, we often make our own card sets. My daughter makes her own Latin cards as an exercise to help her learn the words. Other times I want a set that focuses specifically on what we are learning for a certain subject.
I like to buy my index cards in bulk so I always have plenty on hand. These fun colors are fabulous for color-coding flash card sets — math in one color, sight words in another — to help with organization. The colors also help with not being able to see through the cards.
These half-sized cards come in 1000 to a pack with a storage box, are colorful and nice and thick. Finally, another tool we have found extremely valuable is the binder ring for keeping card sets stored together.
What about you? How do you have fun reviewing flash cards with your family?
>>Click here to download a free printable with instructions for all five games and the FLASH game template.
Pam is the author of Plan Your Year: Homeschool Planning for Purpose and Peace. She lives in the deep south with her husband and three kids, and helps homeschool moms live their best life with great resources and practical inspiration at edsnapshots.com.