Learn how using something as simple as flashcards can enhance your child’s early learning and better prepare him for kindergarten.
As parents we all want to help our children learn and succeed. Teachers encourage extra at-home
practice because it reinforces important academic skills such as number or letter recognition,
letter sound identification, or even math facts. So, how can we accomplish this without meeting
our child’s resistance of a typical flash card drill? It’s simple! Turn the drill into a game.
Before you begin playing games, it’s important to know where your child is. You need to do an
assessment to determine which numbers, letters, sight words, math facts, or letter sounds your
child knows and which he doesn’t. Go through the flash card stack and have your child verbally
identify. Place the known cards in one pile and the unknown cards in another. For example,
your child can tell you the letter names for a-m (known), but not n-z (unknown).
Next, use the known cards as your base set for the game. Each week, add a few more cards
(between 2-4) from the unknown pile as a goal for your child to master. If your child struggles,
do not add more cards until your child has mastered the current set.
Last, you may need two sets of cards to play some of these games. You may choose to buy two
identical sets, print these from your computer, or write them on index cards. If you choose to
make yours, laminating them or sealing them in clear Contact paper will make them more
Ready to play?
1. Concentration: From your known card pile, mix two sets of flash cards together. Place the
cards upside down in a square or rectangular pattern. Each player takes turn flipping over cards
to find a matching pair. The player with the most matches wins! For math facts, it is best to
have one set of problem and one set of answer cards (ex. 4-2=? and 2). For number cards, have
one set of numerals and one set of picture cards (ex. 7 and a card with 7 fish). For letter
identification, an alternative is to have one set of upper case to match to one set of lower case
2. Go-Fish: From your known card pile, mix two sets of flash cards together. Each player
receives 5 cards and the remaining cards are placed upside down in the “Go-Fish” pile. Each
player takes a turn asking an opposing player if he has a card which matches that in the asking
players hand. If the opposing player has the card, he hands it to the asking player. If the
opposing player does not have the card, the asking player takes a card from the “Go-Fish” pile.
The winning player runs out of cards in his hand due to matches.
3. Flash Card Match: The child is given a set of flash cards from the known pile. The goal is
to match one of set of flash cards to the next. To make it fun, use a timer and set a goal to beat
the last time record!
4. War: Using two sets of flash cards, mix them together and divide evenly between two
players. The cards are facing downward so that neither player knows which card is next.
Each players slaps a card down quickly. The player that recognizes a match (or cards with
equal value in math), quickly takes the whole pile of cards before the opponent. Play
continues until both players are out of cards. The player with the most cards wins.
5. Bang: For this game, use one set of flash cards and add two cards that say “Bang!”. Place
these cards in a paper bag, shoe box, or coffee can. Each player takes a turn pulling out a card.
If the player can correctly identify the number, letter, letter sound, sight word, or math fact, the
player keeps the card in his pile. If the player cannot correctly identify the card, the card is put
back in the container. When a player pulls out a “Bang!” card, he must put all the cards in his
pile back into the container. The player with the most cards wins!
6. Flash Card Line-Up: Using one set of flash cards, have your child line them up in ABC, or
numerical order. This game works for number recognition, letter recognition, or even math
facts that are arranged by the answer to the equation.
7. Child as the Teacher: Children love to be in charge! It’s your child’s turn to give you a flash
card drill. It’s best to use flash cards that don’t show the answer anywhere, or you can cover
up the key with a piece of masking tape. Be sure to include mistakes so that you can test your
child’s knowledge and he or she can have fun correcting you!
8. Sight Word Sentences: Using a set of known sight word, picture, and punctuation cards,
your child can practice building sentences. Begin by asking your child to build simple
sentences such as “I like my dog .” (The underlined word is for a picture card.) Your child
will build the sentence and read it back to you, using an index finger to point to the words
while reading aloud. If your child makes a mistake, mention that you see a mistake. Ask your
child if he can figure out what it is. If he can, ask him to rearrange the cards to make the
sentence correct. If your child cannot, point out what the mistake was and help him correct it.
Re-read the corrected sentence and move on.
9. True or False Quiz: Use one set of flash cards for this game. As the quizzer, flash one card
at a time using known cards. As you present the card (such as the letter Z), you say “This
letter says /b/”. Your child will answer either “true” or “false”. Present some as “true”
answers and some as “false” to make the game interesting. Keep score of how many your
child got right!
10. Active Letters: Assign a movement for each letter card (whether upper or lower case). For
example A is airplane movements, B is pretending to bounce a ball, C is clap your hands, D is
dance in place, etc. As you flash the cards, your child will respond with the corresponding
movement. This is a great way to get the wiggles out! Make S stand for sit. It’s a great way to
end the game.
The key to using games as a learning tool is to keep sessions short and fun. You don’t want to
wait until your child asks, “Are we done, yet?”. Try a variety of games to stimulate your child’s
interest and promote willing participation. In no time at all, you will have helped your child
accomplish more than possible with a flash card drill or worksheet. You may find your child
begging you to play again soon!
Julie Rebboah has years of experience with young readers. She has
been a professional educator since 1998 and has taught at an award-
winning school. She has been an Early Reading Intervention
instructor, an English Language Development teacher, a private tutor,
and an award-winning author. Julie wrote Magic Letters; The Keys to
the World of Words and Magic Words; Discovering the Adventure of
Reading out of a need to provide materials to support and extend
learning in her diverse classroom. Passionate about children’s
education, Julie presents workshops to teachers across the country.