Making flashcards fun for a 1st grader or any elementary school kid can be a tall order.
Like Mount Everest tall.
I should know, I have had my fair share of mental wrestling matches with a deck of flashcards and my kid.
Most parents (homeschooling or not) find themselves drilling their kids with flashcards at some point in the elementary school years.
Depending on how you approach it, this can be a great time of building confidence, teaching study skills, and retaining important information….or a mind-bending test in patience, self-control, and anger management for both kid and parent.
Since so many kids tend to struggle with the monotony and boredom associated with flashcards, you may often wonder…
Isn’t There a Better Way to Learn Besides Flashcards?
Flashcards get a really bad rap.
Oh, and let’s not forget the enormous amount of computer games and apps that are designed to help kids learn.
Maybe your kid may learn better this way, but that has not been my experience.
I find that my kids get frustrated when trying to play a game that assumes they already know the material.
It becomes stressful for a kid when they just don’t know the answer and a timer is counting down, their character is going to die, they can not move past a level, or someone else (more knowledgeable) will win the game…again.
That’s because the games are not designed to be the primary teacher. They are designed to reinforce learning that has already happened.
Not teach them cold.
You get to control these key factors with your kid’s flashcards:
Exactly what facts your child is working on
When and how many new facts are introduced
How much time your child has to answer a question
How much “stress” your child can handle in a flashcard game
****I don’t know about you, but I also find that all of these apps and computer games tend to have a ton of fluff that distracts from learning. My kids get so excited about earning stars/tickets and they spend ridiculous amounts of time “buying” things for their avatar. If I’m not watching them, they spend more time doing that than actually playing and learning.
Benefits of Using Flashcards for Kids
1. Flashcards Build Confidence
Flashcards are a wonderful way for kids to feel good about learning a skill.
The more they work through that deck of cards, the more a kid knows a concept forwards, backwards, and sideways – and that feels great!
Then they can transition to pick up that fun math fact game and have a blast!
2. Flashcards Build Speed
Worksheets, new math concepts, and all the games become a breeze when kids can quickly recall this information.
Flashcards do a great job of helping kids practice, practice, practice – which builds speed!
3. Flashcards Do Not Require Writing/Typing
Kids’ hands get tired very quickly.
I love flashcards because they allow my kids to do a ton of repetition orally – no writing required!
To be honest, some kids even tire of hunting for the correct key on a keyboard to answer a question.
It’s just nice to be able to say the answer and move on.
Save their little hands for handwriting and language arts lessons!
4. Help you Narrow Down Trouble Areas
There is nothing like a deck of flashcards to help you find out what your kid is solid on, a little wobbly, and what areas they need more teaching.
Once you know these areas, you can tailor your child’s learning to fit exactly what they need.
5. Introduction to Solid Study Skills for Their Future
There are not always going to be fun games to help your kid memorize and retain information.
Eventually, everybody has to learn how to study effectively as their education level progresses.
Flashcards are an excellent way that older students can quiz themselves, increase their recall, and prepare for exams.
Showing them at a young age that flashcards can be fun and beneficial is a great first step towards future educational goals.
10 Tips for Making Flash Cards Fun for Kids!
Okay, so we know that flashcards can be a huge foundation for your kid’s educational future…but how do we make it not so terrible?
How do we avoid the “drill and kill?”
Dare I say…make it fun??
Well, I’m glad you asked! After years of doing flashcards with my kids, I have figured out some pretty important guidelines, tips, and hacks to make sure flashcard time is beneficial and enjoyable for student and parent!
1. Show Enthusiasm
I don’t care what educational carnival ride you have in store – if the parent shows up looking like they’re attending a funeral – it’s going to bomb.
If you want your kid to be engaged and excited…then you need to be!
You can’t say things like:
“Okay Bud, let’s just get through this.”
“I don’t want to do this either, but it has to get done.”
“Let’s get started, so we can get this over with.”
You get the idea.
You need to kick off flashcard time with things like:
“I’m so excited about flashcard time today! It’s going to be really fun!”
“I’ve been looking forward to this since yesterday! I know you’re going to do awesome!”
“I love spending time with you doing this! This is one of my favorite parts of the day – learning with you!”
Words are powerful. Body language is even more powerful.
If you have to – fake it till you make it.
2. Know Your Time Limits
Depending on the age of your kid, flashcards should not take longer than 5-10 minutes tops.
Any longer, and you could be doing more damage than good.
Some kids really appreciate you setting a timer on your phone. That way they know that they will be done in a certain amount of time. They don’t have to trust mom or dad to know when to stop.
Expectations are everything.
3. Only Introduce 2-4 New Facts at a Time
It is overwhelming to introduce a large number of new math facts or sight words all at once.
I would start with 2-4 cards.
When those are mastered, add 2-4 more cards the next day and continue on in this manner.
This may feel painfully slow, but you will make much more solid progress with this system than if you tried to teach your kid 10-20 new facts at a time.
4. Never Show Frustration
I thought I was going to lose my mind trying to teach one of my kids 6+8=14.
I could not understand why she couldn’t remember this fact, even though we had worked on it for so long.
Trust me, I understand the frustration and short tempers, but those things have no place when you’re working with your kid.
No sighing, eye-rolling, crossed arms, or edgy remarks.
Everything should be positive and encouraging from you in order to create a healthy, FUN learning environment for your kid.
Capitalize on any and all progress made and reassure your kid that you’ll hit the cards again next time and they will only improve.
When your kid is struggling, be sure to smile, lean in, and tell them you remember struggling with certain things in school too.
It is all part of the learning process and completely normal.
5. Don’t Push Too Hard
Make sure you are very well acquainted with the standards for your child’s grade level.
Are you pushing them to do things too early?
Is your zealous, type A personality wanting to learn things that are beyond your kid’s development level?
Be honest with yourself (I had to be too), and make sure that the things you are working on are appropriate and attainable for your kid.
6. Invest in Fun Flashcards for Your Kids
When my middle kid started working on addition facts, I went right down to Dollar Tree and picked her up a pack of Disney Princess math flashcards.
Have you ever seen a Disney character on a Chiquita Banana sticker? There is a really specific marketing reason for that.
Kids like stuff that has their favorite character on it – even if it is obviously just a banana.
Your kids will be more drawn to play flashcard games with you if you have a fun deck!
Check out these fun flashcard deck options here!
7. Start with A Flashcard Confidence Building Game
I like to start flashcard time with a simple, confidence-building game that I call “Clear the Table.”
Think of it as a warm-up. A stress-free way to prime your kid’s brain for playing a fun flashcard game.
Instead of shuffling the deck and going through the cards at random with my kid, I lay all the cards out on the table in front of her.
My kid then quickly finds the ones she knows and makes a stack. This increases her confidence as she starts with the “easy ones.”
She continues through the cards till she gets to the “hard ones.”
I give her time to go at her own pace as she tries to figure them out. If she is struggling, I give her hints or break down the entire concept and briefly reteach it.
Now she is warmed up and ready to shuffle all the cards and play a game with confidence!
8. Make the Flashcards into an Exciting Game that Your Kids WANT to Play!
So this is arguably the most important tip.
Kids just want to have fun. Period.
Play is what their minds and bodies crave!
Just going through flashcards at random is a very easy way to put your kids to sleep.
Luckily, it is VERY easy to make fun games out of your flashcards with little effort on your part.
It’s always good to have more than one game up your sleeve, so you can keep your flashcard time fresh.
For a list of my favorite games that include the ones I’ve designed such as “Save a Life” and “Road Builder,” check out Part 2 of this post- HERE!
9. Filter Out Mastered Flashcards
As your child masters cards – has instant and solid recall – remove those cards from daily play.
Keep them in a stack and occasionally bring them back 2-3 times a week or as you think your kid needs help staying fresh.
Well, as you add facts into your deck….that deck is going to get really thick. The games get longer and your kid gets bored and overwhelmed.
Kids also hate answering the same questions over and over and over again.
One of my kids actually said to me once, “Ugh. Don’t you have any new facts in that deck?” Ha!
Keep the stack thin and the flashcard sessions short!
Motivation is a huge key in keeping just about anybody engaged – and that includes kids!
Consider showing your kids a fun learning computer game or app that relates to their flashcards.
Tell them that once they have learned all their flashcard facts fluently, they can trade flashcard time for computer game/app time.
Or maybe you can celebrate learning all the cards with a family trip to get a favorite treat.
Or you will purchase a fun learning board game that will let them practice their new skills!
Interested in Free Custom Flashcards for Your Kid?
I love free homeschooling resources, and I happened to know where you can make and print your own flashcards for your kid!
Lakeshore Learning is a chain store that is very popular among teachers. Their website has amazing free resources that you should definitely be taking advantage of!
One of the best things they offer is a custom flashcard builder.
You can type in any facts/answers for the front and back of a flashcard, download the PDF, and print it out for your homeschool!
To make some extra flashcard fun, you could also have your kid spend time drawing or coloring the 2-4 new flashcards you introduce at a time as a way of familiarizing themselves with the information.
How to Make Flashcards Fun Recap
Hopefully, you are super motivated to have a blast using flashcards with your kid!
It does not have to be a slugfest to get through it!
Remember: Be engaged, know your time limits, only introduce a few new facts at a time, control your frustration, don’t push your kids beyond their development level, make the flashcards themselves fun (a la Chiquita Banana), start with a confidence-building game, use games instead of random drilling, don’t overdo it, and motivate them!
That may sound like a lot to bite off, but you can do it!
And trust me, it’s a lot easier than trying to keep your kids engaged and learning with traditional flashcard methods.
Do you have a few fun flashcard tricks up your sleeve? Please drop your wisdom in the comments! We’d all love to hear about it!
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