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Liven Up Study Time with Fun Learning Games: 3 Ideas for Parents

written by: Sandy Fleming • edited by: Sarah Malburg • updated: 8/2/2012

Studying doesn't have to be a dreaded chore at your house! You can put a playful spin on learning with these cool study games for all ages.

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    Studying Can Be Child’s Play!

    Study time doesn’t need to be boring! In fact, studying will be far more efficient if it is engaging for students. Many children describe reading as “boring,” but adding an active component can take studying to a whole new level. Study games may be just the ticket. Most people are far more likely to stay mentally engaged with game-like activities than simply studying by reading. The mental effort doesn’t seem so onerous, and it actually makes studying more efficient. If your student makes these types of fun learning games, that’s one more opportunity to learn the material.

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    Try Flashcard Games or Dominoes

    There are many flashcard-based learning games that are ideal for situations where recognition or matching is helpful. Create flashcards on cards that are about 2.5 by 3.5 inches (like standard playing cards). Make sure the writing doesn’t show through to the other side, then play standard games like Memory or Old Maid. Any game that requires collecting pairs or groups of cards forms a great foundation for a similar flashcard game. It’s even possible to play games similar to Rummy, where players collect sets of matching cards to score. Information that can be paired, like words and definitions, work well for the matching games, and grouped items like equivalent fractions work well for Rummy-type games.

    Make dominoes from cardboard by cutting a collection of similar rectangles, then drawing a line down the center to divide them in half. Make a list of paired bits of information, such as math facts and answers or countries and capitals. You can calculate the correct number of dominoes to make by multiplying the number of pairs of information by itself. For example, if you have six sets of states and capitals, you need 36 dominoes (6 x 6). Write the first state on the left side of 6 dominoes, then write six different capitals on the right side. One domino will have the matching state and capital, and the other five will not match. Now, write the second state on another six dominoes, and write all of the capitals on the other halves. Keep going until you have used up all of your dominoes. Now, play by dealing seven pieces to each player, and trying to match the state to the correct capital as each person lays down a new domino.

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    Make Board Games or Active Games

    Students might also enjoy creating a board game to review facts or information about the topic at hand. Use a file folder and make a trail with a starting line and a finish line. Put questions on each space, then take turns rolling dice to move and answer them. Try a Bingo format, as well. Your games can be decorated with pictures or other art work to reflect the theme, and you’ll want to hang onto them so your student can review whenever necessary for tests or final exams.

    Give study games an active spin by writing questions (or answers) on an inexpensive inflatable beach ball with a permanent marker, then playing catch. Wherever your left thumb is when the ball is caught, that is the question to respond to. Many students who seem distractible and who need more movement than usual will respond well to this study method.

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    Tap Into Popular Television

    Most young people are avid consumers of popular TV shows, and they may well enjoy studying that is formatted around well-known game shows. Game shows work well for encouraging studying because of their question and answer formats. All you need to do is choose your child’s favorite show that uses questions and answers, and phrase the questions accordingly. Use a scoring system that awards points or play money in a way similar to the show’s standards, and even consider awarding small ‘prizes’ for milestones reached in learning the required information.

    The internet abounds with variations on game shows such as Jeopardy and Who Wants to Be A Millionaire. Some are interactive and others are templates for use with common programs like presentation or spreadsheet software. You can set these up with your own information and have a great time with practicing. JC has some great examples at Try using a game-show format with math problems or conversions among metric units.