Think back to high school or college and you will probably not have fond memories of flashcards. I know I don’t. I break out in a sweat when I remember quizzing myself on the date of the transcontinental railroad for my AP US History test and, later, on the mating habits of bonobos. (That last one was for Evolution of Human Sexuality, an unforgettable anthropology class in college, in which my professor stood on a chair at the head of a 300-person lecture hall and pretend-birthed a baby doll. Awesome!)
But unless you’re prepping your kid to get into that genius pre-K program (please tell me you’re not), your preschooler hasn’t formed an anxious association with flashcards just yet. So it’s time to get in on some flashcards fun!
Flashcards will be your new favorite on-the-go toy
Flashcards are ultimately portable. They are about the size of a deck of playing cards—small enough to toss in your purse or diaper bag. They are cheap: I pick up a pack for only a buck when I’m at the Dollar Store or at Target. And they’re good for so much more than quizzing your kids.
I have passed them back to kids on road trips. I included them in my ultra-light carry-on when we flew cross-country. And I break them out in the hotel or AirBnB because they’re a fun toy that doesn’t take up a ton of space.
Don’t limit yourself to the literal use of flashcards, though. Here are 5 more ideas to keep your preschooler happy using nothing more than a set of animal flashcards. Have fun!
Flashcards fun: 5 games to play
- What’s Missing? Thanks to the Land of Make Believe, Peeper loves What’s Missing?, a game Daniel Tiger plays while he’s waiting for his food at the restaurant. She’ll line up 3 or 4 or more items, then we take turns sneaking one away and challenging the other to figure out what’s gone. Flashcards are perfect for this game: Continue to add flashcards or change them out for challenge.
- What’s Different? What’s the Same? Recognizing patterns, including similarities and differences, is a pre-math skill that sets the stage for arithmetic success later on. So identifying what sets a cheetah apart from an anteater (“cheetahs have shorter noses”) and what is the same (“they both have two eyes”) is fun and helps kids develop critical thinking.
- I Spy. Set out a bunch of cards depending on your child’s readiness (more cards are harder). Then take turns giving clues and searching. You can change up the questions depending on where your child is developmentally—e.g. I spy an animal that says “moo,” I spy an animal with yellow fur or I spy an animal whose name starts with R.
- Go Fish. Deal five flashcards to each player. Then take turns asking for different categories—say, “Do you have any animals that have wings?” or “Do you have any animals that have sharp teeth?” Give up any cards that match the request.
- Charades. Take turns picking out a card then acting out that animal. The other person has to guess. Bonus points if you do this one in public—you’ll definitely get some weird looks, but who cares? Your preschooler is not running into oncoming traffic. That, my friends, is a win.
What’s your favorite way to entertain little ones when you’re out and about?