Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Match It Up: A Nature Study, Sensory and Reading Game to Prevent Summer Slide

Happy first day of summer!

I cannot believe it’s supposed to be sweltering hot today when just 10 days or so ago, the kids an I were comfortably tramping through nearby woods in long pants playing an impromptu reading game that I made up and Luke named:

Match It Up

A Game to Promote Nature Study and Early Reading while Enhancing a Sensory Diet


·         a bag of word, sentence or phrase cards
·         an extra bag
·         a natural outdoor space


Match word cards to real objects in nature.

Set Up

  1. Make word cards.  (We usually use the backs of junk mail or misprint paper to make ours, and, since my children are just beginning to read, we use one easily decodable or puzzle word per card.)
  2. Put the word cards in a small bag or which can be easily carried.  (We used zippered baggies when we first played, since it had been wet out in the days prior to us playing and we thought that the woods might still be damp. In the bags, our cards would be protected.)
  3. Dress players appropriately and apply sunscreen and bug spray as needed.

Simple Steps to Play

Give each child a bag of cards tailored to the child’s ability and keep an extra empty bag for yourself.

  1. Head outside.
  2. Challenge each child to pull out a card, read it and then match it to an object it found in nature.
  3. Once a child has used a card to label an object correctly, have the child tell you a bit about what they notice about the object (color, size, weight, texture, location, etc.) and, then, place the card in your bag.  (No littering!)
  4. Continue to play as such until all cards are in your bag.
  5. Then, use the children’s to collect tiny treasures or, if feel comfortable doing so, to collect bits of stray trash.


    • Reading (decoding phonics, recognizing sight words or both)
    • Fine Motor Skills (opening and closing the bags, picking up cards, placing the cards on natural objects)
    • One-to-One Correspondence (matching one word with one object)
    • Gross Motor Skills (maneuvering around natural space)
    • Proprioception (bending and stretching to reach objects, maneuvering through woods)
    • Tactile (touching objects)
    • Focus (concentrating on finding specific objects) 

Quick Tips/Extensions

  • Indoors or in the yard?  Try a similar game we enjoy, Read and Run!
  • This game can be played as a competitive game, too.  Simply race to see who can finish matching the cards in their bags to objects first or see who can match the most within a given time frame.
  • For more sensory diet connection, mix this activity up with Tiny Treasures.
  • To encourage more proprioception, be sure to include words or phrases that will require children to look under logs and boulders (think bugs, salamanders, etc.), stretch high (think tree top, high branch, etc.) and bend low (think sand, soil, pebbles, moss).
  • To encourage more tactile input, think about the textures of words or phrases you include, such as moss, rocks, bark, petals, etc.
  • To encourage writing skills, after playing the game once or twice, have children make cards for you or for other children to play with.
  • For pre-readers in the crowd, simply include picture cards.
  • Work in grammar by using phrases that include specific types of words, such as adjectives (a large rock, a spotted rock, a gray rock, smooth bark, rough bark, velvety moss, spiky leaves, etc.) or verbs (a log you can balance on, a branch that has fallen, a leaf that is blowing, etc.)
  • To add more challenge for older children, use full sentences with new vocabulary included in them.
  • To add a problem-solving element for older children, write riddles on the cards instead of simple words or sentences, such as “I am food and produce food.”  (A leaf!  It produces food for trees and is food for insects.)
  • Combine with Nature Notebooking by having chidlren pause to sketch and take notes about their favorite "discovered" object.
  • Be sure to slow down for special things, such as noticing rare species.  (If you scroll back up to the first photo collage in the psot, you will see some lady slippers in it.  We were so excited to find these "rare" flowers in our nearby woods recently!)
  • As with any outdoor activity, be sure to review local safety concerns, such as poison ivy, ticks, etc. 

We just enjoyed this game again last night after dinner!  The kids saw me reviewing pictures of it and got busy making their own cards to play it in the yard.  It really is a keeper of a game here.  Hope it is for you and yours, too.

What games and activities do you use to prevent summer slide or simply to maintain year-round fun and learning, especially outdoors?


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