Tag: learning activities

How Playing Angry Birds Could Make Your Child Smarter

Have you noticed that kids nowadays are always glued to their phones or playing video games instead of going outside and hanging out with the neighborhood children? It seems that good ol’ fashioned games like duck, duck, goose are a relic of the past. Kids have moved on to something bigger and better: technology. We’re seeing less and less of crayons, hula hoops, and mud pies and more and more of iPads, TVs, and video game consoles.

It’s the 21st century, and things are different now. However, don’t despair! This can actually be a good thing.

You know how they say that video games and other forms of technology turn your brain into mush? That’s not necessarily true. Technology can actually improve your cognitive skills.

Not counting TV, that is. If you put a young child in front of a TV, he vegs out. If you give him a smartphone, he’ll become proactive and figure out puzzles and fine-tune his motor skills. Smartphone apps can actually make your kid smarter and put him ahead of the learning curve.

A study conducted by PBS KIDS revealed that children who used smartphones had better vocabulary than those who didn’t. Smartphones have also been proven to improve a child’s work ethic and collaboration skills.

Does that mean you should download a bunch of child-oriented educational apps on your smartphone or tablet? Not necessarily. Some fun games can be valuable learning tools! For example, let’s look at…

Angry Birds

Angry Birds is actually quite a great educational tool. It can teach children about physics and improve their problem solving skills. Angry Birds requires the user to think abstractly, and that can bring on so many benefits to a child’s cognitive development, including logistics, spatial skills, strategy, pattern recognition, mapping, and perseverance.

(Extra credit: check out one way a teacher extended his kids’ enthusiasm for Angry Birds into a fun classroom lesson that taught measurement, geometry, addition, skip counting and money on this YouTube video from Teacher Tipster.)

Bejeweled Blitz

Who ever thought some pretty jewels could teach your child some great life skills? Well, it’s possible! A 2011 study by PopGames and a researcher at University of Massachusetts Amherst concluded that Bejeweled Blitz could improve one’s cognitive skills, namely rapid decision-making, conjunctive visual search skills, and reaction time.


Sudoku helps develop a child’s or a teenager’s deductive reasoning process. It’s the process in which you think ahead and track from cause to effect. It also helps improve the ability to solve problems, train the short-term memory and working memory, and develop pattern recognition.


This trivia game app is more suited for teenagers, because some of its questions are too complex for young children. Trivia games have been directly linked to cognitive development. They improve working memory, sharpen memorization skills, and encourage more knowledge in different areas.

Playing interactive games online or on the phone is a more educational experience than ever, so next time your child asks you if she could play Angry Birds, by all means go ahead and say yes. Who knows? This time, the game could teach her all about gravity!

Kate Simmons, our guest blogger, is an occasional blogger and journalist specializing in social media and education, currently pursuing studies at Colorado Technical University.


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“Uno Más” Game Repurposing Post

Repurposing UNO as a learning gameFor those of you who have enjoyed playing our repurposed Candy Land and Twister games, here’s one for another game you probably have in your home that may or may not be collecting dust.


Take the subjects in which your child is expecting tests this coming week (spelling, vocabulary, math, history, science, to name a few) and make each of them an UNO color.

For instance, red = vocab; blue = math; green = science; yellow = spelling.

The object of the game stays the same – first player to get rid of all his or her cards WINS.

Begin playing UNO in the way you normally would. When a player has to play a RED card, s/he has to answer a RED subject question correctly in order to discard a card.

Did s/he get it right? If YES, discard a RED card.
Did s/he get it wrong? If YES, s/he gets one more chance at a correct answer.

If answered correctly, play rotates to the left—no cards are lost or gained.
If answered incorrectly, the player draws a card from the pile and play rotates to the left.

All other card “rules” are the same—reverse, skip, +2, etc.
Wild cards allow the player to choose the subject to tackle during his/her turn.

We’re betting this is one exercise drill your kids will ask to play “UNO más” time. :)

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Math Music to Your Ears

More than a quarter of a century after learning the states to the tune of “Do your ears hang low”, I still remember the states alphabetically in this way. And even though I’ve never had ANY use for the greek alphabet post high school, I can still sing the whole thing. But if you ask me concepts that I learned in school that weren’t put to music, they don’t come to mind as quickly.

If you’ve got a musically-minded kid that could use a little motivation on the math front, the lyrical lessons on Flocabulary’s CDs and DVDs could help your kids rhythmically recollect fundamentals for quizzes, homework and tests.

Flocabulary has earned its place as this week’s Kidzmet Educational Product Pick for a fun way to stretch your child’s “music smarts” into all aspects of math…and other subjects like social studies, science, and language arts, to boot!

But don’t just take our word for it…check out some Flocabulary samples here.

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Learning Tricks & Treats

Reading Tricks & TreatsIn our house, we’re working with my 1st grader on quickly reading letter blends instead of sounding them out. (E.g. ing, ack, ou, tion, kn, etc.) But, flashcards are boring–not just for HER but for ME.

Being that I am all about making learning FUN for kids as inexpensively as possible, I re-purposed an old board game that she’d recently become bored with–Candy Land–and made it into a reading “trick” game.

The result? My “people smart” daughter who has less of an interest in the reading-to-herself realm asked to play four times in 36 hours. It was a real treat for me to see her have so much fun learning…and to see it translate into much more fluid bedtime reading last night.

This game can easily be aged up based on your child’s grade/skill level. Try it with Latin roots to expand vocabulary or help with spelling… Try it with math skills based on their level… Or even with language verb conjugation, historical events or the periodic table.

(Want to just mix in questions with the traditional deck? Try our Candy Land printable template to insert the questions in an easy-to-use form, then print them on Avery Clean Edge business cards.)

Here’s how to do it:
1) make a BIG index card for each color with the key skill being practiced (we used the letter blend). Cut index cards in half for 6 examples of use. In the picture, we were practicing the ACK blend, so I made small index cards that used the letters BL, SN, SH, CR, R, P.

2) Use a matching symbol on the opposite side of the card so you know which little cards go with which big cards. We used hearts, diamonds and stars of each color, which gave us 18 blends to start.

3) Have your child pick one symbol “set” of each color.

4) Play Candy Land as you would normally with the CL deck, but…

(a) when you pick a SINGLE color, you have to get the right answer to make the move.
In our case, my daughter had to make the correct sound. If using it with a Latin root, the child would have to know that “rupt” means “break”; if using it as a Chemistry game, they would have to know that H=hydrogren; if using for Spanish practice, the child would have to know that “jugar” means “to play”.

(b) If you get a DOUBLE color, you have to get the blend correct to move forward.
In our case, my daughter had to know that “TH” and “ING” together made the word “THING”. Using the same examples as above – if the child got a double color, the question might be what does “INTER” “RUPT” mean? If using with Chemistry, what’s something that H and O make together? If using for Spanish practice, how would you conjugate “jugar” for “we”?

5) As with traditional Candy Land, whoever gets to the end first wins.

ALTERNATE VERSION: If you’ve got several kids and want to make it a learning game for the whole family, assign each child a different symbol with different skills they’re working to learn. If your 1st grader selects a red, the question will be different than your 6th grader.


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Autobiographical Cube

Inspired by an activity in Multiple Intelligences in the Elementary Classroom: A Teachers Toolkit by Susan Baum, Julie Viens and Barbara Slatin.

Take a square box (or die) and put 4 of your child’s FAVORITE multiple intelligences on the sides and two of your child’s LEAST favorite MIs.

Have your child roll the “dice”. Whatever side they land on, they have to talk about one of the ways they MOST enjoy flexing that mind muscle.

Next, you roll the dice. Now talk about the way YOU most enjoy flexing that mind muscle.

Invite other family members to join the game.

Do you find similarities? Differences? Based on your child’s responses, can you think of new activities or pursuits to which you’d like to introduce them?

Have each participant roll the dice at least 10 times. At the end, each participant should have revealed at least 10 ways they feel they are SMART. Note them on a piece of paper you keep handy. If discouragement crops up at any time during the school year for your child, remind them of all the ways you randomly discovered they were smart during this exercise…and how the other participants’ “smarts” differed from theirs.

Remind him or her to not ask IF they are smart…but HOW they are smart.

Extra Credit: Make TWO autobiographical die. Roll them simultaneously. How does your child like to use these intelligences in concert? (E.g. logical & linguistic intelligence together in whodunit puzzles…creating new lyrics for music blends linguistic & musical intelligences…creating art from natural elements…etc.)

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