Last Updated on March 11, 2024

If your preschool or early elementary school kid’s got as much energy as mine this summer, you might wonder with me, Just how did anyone get you to sit in a desk?

I don’t know that I’ve landed on that one yet. But here are a couple of (admittedly non-original) quick games to practice reading, spelling, or math that can burn off a little of all that pent-up energy and bridge the skill gap until next fall. My son loves these.

The Jumping Game

If you’ve got stairs inside or outside, stand at one end with your child. Have a list, or a stack of flashcards, with the same number of words as you’ve got steps (for preschoolers, use flashcards or index cards with numbers, letters, or colors on them). Have a handful of a small reward: M&M’s, jellybeans, craisins, raisins, goldfish, peanuts, dry breakfast cereal—whatever works for your child. With each word your child reads or spells correctly, he gets to jump one step, and get one of your rewards. Bonus: It’s an easy visual reminder to him of his progress! When your child misses a word, just try the word again at the end until he can reach his goal.

Mickey Mouse Math

On a piece of paper, draw a large circle with two smaller circles, each connected to the large circle on either side near the top—so that your three circles look like Mickey Mouse (surprise, surprise).

Using counters or small rewards again (M&M’s, jellybeans, cereal, craisins, raisins, goldfish, peanuts, Cheerios), have your child put a number of rewards in each “ear.” If you’re going for 5 + 2, for example, put five jellybeans in one ear, two in the other. Then, pull all of your items from the ears into Mickey’s “face,” and have your child count them up to get the answer. This works well to help your child visualize what’s going on when we add numbers together.

For subtraction, do the opposite: If you’re going for 7 – 5, start with seven jellybeans on Mickey’s face, and then move five of those into one of Mickey’s ears. The answer, of course, is the number of jellybeans left on Mickey’s face.

If you want to practice a few critical thinking skills as they advance, allow them to grab their own handful of a multi-colored or multi-shaped reward: “What’s the number of star-shaped Lucky Charms plus the number of rainbows in your handful?”

Now, some of you are thinking, If I use jellybeans or M&M’s, I’ve just given them more energy I have to find an outlet for. True, so choose your rewards wisely! Hope these help as you seek to make learning fun at your house.

Got any learning games you’d like to share?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  1. We play the "what if" game…what if I(he, she, we) ____?….then what will happen. We get really funny after awhile like that song There's a hole in the bucket dear Lizza.
    It helps all age kids learn to think ahead before they do something or say something that could hurt.

  2. Janel Breitenstein says:

    Great idea to teach safety and wise decision-making. Helps them to look ahead and foresee consequences! Thanks so much for sharing.