When play is their work, you're not wasting time

September 20, 2002|by LISA TEDRICK PREJEAN

"Mommy, will you play a game with me?"

Children love to play games, especially when their parents play along.

But I'm almost always in the middle of something when they ask. Aren't you?

Most adults don't have time to play games - at least not children's games. We have way too many irons in the fire.

Oftentimes we need to be reminded by experts that children learn through play. Play is their work. So by playing along with them, we're not wasting time. We're investing our time toward building their futures.

Lately I've been using games to reinforce the math concepts my children are learning.

My 7-year-old enjoys "Making 10." This game, which is recommended in Saxon Publishers' second-grade curriculum, only requires a deck of cards.


To play, remove the tens, jacks, queens and kings. Aces are used for the number one.

Put an ace, two, three, four and five face up in the center of the table. Deal seven cards to each player.

Take turns playing one card at a time. Cards can only be placed on another card if the sum of the two numbers is 10.

For example, seven can be placed on top of three, six on top of four, nine on top of the ace, etc.

If none of your cards can be placed on one of the cards in the center, you lose a turn, draw two cards from the pile and wait for your next turn.

The object of the game is to play all your cards.

(And for your child to learn the "sum of 10" facts.)

To prove that the game can make a difference, time your child on how fast he or she can do 15 or 20 sum of 10 facts. Play the game. Then time the child again. You'll probably be surprised at the improvement.

Younger children may want to play along.

Since our 3-year-old is included in most everything we do, she enjoys playing this game as well.

She likes to match the cards - put an eight on top of an eight, etc. - to which we make encouraging comments, "You found a match!! Now, can you find a two to put it on?"

Many times the last part of that comment comes from her older brother who's always anxious to play by the rules. Even if she has no idea what a sum of 10 is, she's learning number identification, and that's an important skill at her age.

Another game that my children have enjoyed, "Sums of 10 Concentration," also comes from the Saxon Publishers' second-grade curriculum.

Here's how to play: Remove the tens, jacks, queens and kings from a deck of cards. Place the remaining cards face down in six rows of six.

Take turns turning over two cards. If the two selected add up to 10, the player keeps the cards and takes another turn.

The player with the most cards after all the cards have been matched is the winner.

While "Making 10" and "Sums of 10 Concentration" are obviously school-type play, sometimes I play "games" with my children and they don't even realize it.

The kitchen is a great place for these games - and to practice math skills.

I ask my children to guess how many pieces we'll get as I first cut an apple in half, then into quarters and then into eighths.

They measure as I cook and keep track of where we are on the ingredient list.

The community is also full of potential.

On primary election day, my children not only received a civics lesson; they practiced math skills as well.

While voting, I asked them to watch the county commissioners tally on my ballot.

"I voted for three, how many more may I select?" I asked my 7-year-old.

My 3-year-old's assignment was to count the total number of lines I drew.

I sensed that they felt important because they "helped" me to vote.

If you missed the primary, there's a general election in November.

You too can turn it into a math lesson.

Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Send e-mail to her at

The Herald-Mail Articles