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Five Games To Learn States and Capitals

written by: Sandy Fleming • edited by: Noreen Gunnell • updated: 1/6/2012

Studying is not only more fun when you use games, it’s also more effective. Try these quick and easy learning games to breeze through the states and capitals unit this year! Try playing these games at home with a parent or a friend in your class.

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    Get Ready to Study

    Studying states and capitals doesn't have to be a drag! With a few simple supplies, you will be playing games to ace a test. You'll need to make two copies of each state and two copies of each capital on index cards. Make sure the words don't show through to the back of the card. You can also prepare by drawing a blank Bingo-type grid: A five by five square divided into one inch square sections. With these simple tools, you'll be all set to learn to recite the state and capital pairs in time for the test.

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    Play Concentration

    Since many classes use matching tests to assess student learning in this subject, matching games are a great way to practice. Use a single deck of cards. Choose six to fifteen pairs of states and capitals. Spread the cards out face down in even rows. Turn over two cards at a time until a matching state and capital is found. Remove cards as they are matched, or flip them facedown again if they do not match.

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    Try a Penny Slide

    This active game will help you learn state abbreviations. Put state abbreviations on a sheet of paper in small circles. Slide a penny or other marker across the page and have your child give the state name that matches the abbreviation. You can vary the game by asking for the correct capital instead of the state name. If you wish, mark states off as they are used and try to aim the penny for circles that have not yet been answered.

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    State Slap

    This noisy and boisterous game really appeals to kids who like a little excitement. Use both decks of state and capital cards. Separate the states into one pile and the capitals into another. Shuffle both piles. Choose one capital card from the capital pile. Turn the state pile face down. Players take turns flipping the top card from the face-down pile. Be the first to yell out the matching state when it is flipped over. When players get good at this version, try swapping the piles and choose a state, then flip the capital cards.

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    State and Capital Bingo

    Make and duplicate blank Bingo grids. Write states or capitals on several Bingo cards in random spaces so each card is different. Get small markers to cover the Bingo spaces. Use the state and capital cards to call one half of a pair. Players must find and cover the matching word if they have it on their card. In addition to covering a row, column or diagonal, try for four corners or even the entire card.

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    More Card Games

    Traditional children's card games lend themselves to matching tasks such as this one. Use a portion of the double deck to start with (matching sets of states and capitals). Add more cards as your players become more knowledgeable and confident. Choose a familiar game to be the study vehicle, such as Old Maid or Go Fish. Deal the cards according to traditional rules, and follow the usual course of play. The only difference is that instead of looking for the usual types of matches of suit or number, the players need to find matching states and capitals to score points.

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    Links and Resources

    Need a quick refresher course? You'll never be at a loss with these online resources:

    Here's a handy reference that lists all fifty state and capital pairs. The states are in alphabetical order so you can quickly locate the ones you need.

    This website not only includes the postal abbreviations, but also has links to practice worksheets, memory tips, and other helpful study aids.