Little boys love anything dangerous…and if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em! This engaging preschool learning game is a great way to get kids to practice academic skills in the context of a “death-defying” challenge. What is it with little boys and ANYTHING that involves death-defying stunts and destruction? When Little Man (now 5) was just starting to make up pretend play scenarios as a toddler, his favorite thing to do was to line up his small animal toys on the edge of the couch and “rescue” them with his fire truck. He would act out a dramatic scene where the animals dangled off the edge of the “cliff” yelling for help, and the fire truck would swoop in just in time to save them as they began to fall.
And that was just the beginning. Now, four years later, my boys daily still create games that involve dangerous quests with monsters, battles, and other perilous circumstances.
One of their favorite imaginary settings is an active volcano with lava (I blame their dad for playing Mario Kart with them). In fact, last summer when we went on a trip to Oregon and got to hike inside an old lava river cave, Little Brother was really nervous at first to go in the cave because I neglected to explain that there wasn’t REAL lava in the cave anymore. Oops. We got that one cleared up quickly, thankfully, and he enjoyed the hike.
Anyway, they still love lava, so I decided to take a classic game: “Don’t touch the lava!”–which you may have played as a child–and give it an educational twist. Rather than just hopping around on pillows or papers and trying not to touch the floor, I had them hop across placemats (you could totally still use paper) to find and “rescue” their sight words or numbers from the lava.
The great thing about this game is that it can be adapted to practice any academic skill you want to work on with your kids. For Little Man, we practiced sight words that he’s learning in Kindergarten. For Little Brother (3), we practiced number recognition. Because the game is so flexible, they were both able to practice different skills while playing the game together.
Here’s what we did:
Don’t Touch the Lava!
What we’re learning:
- gross motor skills
- any academic skill you want (we did sight words and number recognition)
- placemats (or sheets of paper, pillows, etc.) to be stepping stones through the lava
- cards/papers with numbers, letters or words written on them (whatever academic skill you want to practice) to “rescue”
- First, scatter your “stepping” stones around on the floor of whatever room you want to play in. We used the floor of our family room.
- Designate a safe starting spot to be “home”. We chose the couch.
- Scatter your learning cards around the floor, preferably on the opposite side of your lava river from your “home”.
- Explain to your child(ren) that you’re going to pretend that the floor is lava, and their job is to rescue the cards from the lava one by one.
- Call out a word/number/letter for your child to rescue. They can only step on the stepping stones. If they successfully get to the card, pick it up, and return to “home” without touching the floor, they get to keep the card and get a point.
- If they touch the “lava” at any time, they must put the card down (if they have already gotten it), and return to “home” to try again. (You can decide how strict to be on this rule.)
- Continue calling out cards for your child to rescue (taking turns if you have multiple children playing) until all the cards have been recovered. Then celebrate your triumph over the lava!
It was a total hit! The boys loved playing, and it was a great way to spend a half an hour on a cold, rainy afternoon.
Want more preschool learning activities? Try these…
- Four Corners preschool game about colors
- Alphabet Kaboom! (a simply brilliant preschool game)
- Chicka Chicka Boom Boom Alphabet Game
- The Rainbow Road: a life-sized learning game for preschoolers
Do you have any favorite preschool learning games to play?