Memory games exercise the brain. It's helpful to think of the brain like a muscle: the more we condition it, the stronger it becomes. Memory games will not only strengthen the brain, but they also boost attention levels, reading ability, and reasoning skills. The more we practice the act of concentration - which any good brain game requires - the more we "exercise the muscle."
7 Fun Memory Games for Kids
Below, you'll find 7 fun memory games for kids. This selection of vocabulary games to improve memory is perfect for helping children and students boost their ability to remember important information.
1. The Rhyming Word Game
This memory game can build vocabulary and be played as early as first grade.
- Begin by stating a simple sentence, accentuating one word in particular. For example, "To play baseball, you need a bat."
- The next player responds by repeating the word "bat" and adding a rhyming word. For example, he or she might say, "Bat, cat."
- The game continues, with players repeating every rhyming word and adding one of their own. The third player will say, "Bat, cat," and then add another word, like "hat." And so on.
- Of course, it gets harder as more words get added because you have to remember every word spoken and come up with a new one of your own. You're "out" if you say a word that's already been used.
To make sure your little learners really perfect their rhyming game, check out these Examples of Rhyme. They cover the different types of rhymes, including assonant rhyme, ear rhyme, identical rhyme, and more.
2. The Memory Word Game
This is a good game for the classroom, second grade and above.
- List a set of words on a large sheet of paper in a particular order. Place that list somewhere everyone can see it, like up on the board.
- Tell the participants they have to remember the exact order of the words.
- After everyone's been given time to commit the order to memory, cover the list.
- On a worksheet with blank boxes, ask the students to write down the words in the order they appeared.
To make the game easier, you can include a word bank either on the board or on the worksheet, in a scrambled order, so participants know which words to choose from.
3. The Missing Item Memory Game
This is another great game that can be started as early as kindergarten.
- Place a number of common items on a tray, like keys, a pen, lipstick, and a spoon.
- Allow your students to study the items.
- Determine the length of time you'd like the participant to study the tray. Younger children will need longer amounts of time, while older kids can test their abilities with shorter spans of time.
- When the time is up, cover the tray and secretly remove one of the items.
- Uncover the tray and ask the children which item is missing.
- Everyone who can recall the missing item wins a little treat.
4. The Money Memory Game
This is a great game to play in the classroom, at home, or when traveling on a plane or train. Really, it can be played anywhere there's a tray or table. Since we start to teach money skills in the first grade, you can consider introducing this game then.
- Gather a selection of coins for both you and the players.
- Set out eight coins on a tray. (You can use a different number if you'd like.)
- Arrange the coins a particular way, like three pennies on the top row, four nickels underneath, and one quarter at the bottom.
- Once the arrangement is set up, reveal the order and placement to the players. Give them time to study it.
- Cover or remove the coins.
- From their own selection of coins, the players need to set out the same coins in the same arrangement as they appeared on the tray.
- Changing up the order of the coins every time, this game could go on forever!
As you play, feel free to toss in a few of these Idioms About Money.
5. The Memory Train
This one's a classic and can be played as students start to develop stronger memories. Third or fourth grade is a nice time to put this classic into the rotation. It's a memory game that tests recall with a long list of items.
- Start the game by saying, "I'm going on vacation and I'm packing my suitcase. I'm taking…"
- Select the first items. Perhaps you'll say, "I'm going on vacation and I'm packing my suitcase. I'm taking my toothbrush."
- The next person in line must repeat the opening line, your item, and add one of their own. So, they'll say, "I'm going on vacation and I'm packing my suitcase. I'm taking my toothbrush and my pajamas."
- Each player in succession will repeat the items already listed and add their own. If a player can't remember an item, or they say the wrong item, they're eliminated.
- The remaining players continue until only one is left.
For more games like this one, check out these Vocabulary Games to Play in Groups.
6. The Storytelling Game
This game is similar to the memory train. However, it takes on a greater complexity as the game continues. As such, the storytelling game is more suitable to fourth or fifth graders.
- Players sit in a circle.
- One participant starts to tell a story with an opening line. They might say, "Once upon a time, there lived a fairy princess with red hair."
- The next player must repeat that line verbatim and continue the story. So, the next player might say, "Once upon a time, there lived a fairy princess with red hair. She drove a pink car."
- The player after that must repeat both sentences verbatim, and add on another.
- The story continues to build as you go around the circle. Of course, it will be most difficult for the last person to remember the entire story and repeat it exactly right.
7. Word List Matching Game
Word lists lend themselves well to memory games. The rote-memorization offered by word lists engages our brains in active recall. With a solid list of vocabulary words, you can create a matching game out of flashcards.
- Print out or handwrite two sets of flashcards.
- These could be two sets of the same words, so the players must find the pairs. Alternatively, they could be words that go together in some way (like opposites), so players must find the corresponding pairs.
- Spread the cards out face down.
- Players take turns to try to find the matches.
Use the template below to create your own set of flashcards today! Download the PDF template file. Then, you can type in your words before printing, or print and handwrite vocabulary words. For younger kids, you could add picture pairs and label them accordingly.
For exploring the alphabet, we have "Words That Start With..." lists. Start with "Verbs That Start With A." You can select a new letter for your students to explore each day. Consider working through the alphabet with Adjectives That Start With A, too.
Build Those Brain Muscles
We hope you'll have some fun exploring the never-ending depths of your brains with these memory games. Remember, the more we exercise our brains, the stronger and more resilient they become. Wouldn't it be great to have lightning-fast recall?
Before beginning your strength-building journey, take a read through Types of Memory. It'll help you make the most out of your little learners short- and long-term memories!