Welcome back to my Top Toys series! Today I’m looking at picture tiles. I love our picture tiles! We found these ones from Hape which T loves. They are ideal from around 18 months onwards – I envision that we will still be using these aged seven and perhaps even beyond! Here are my ten ways to play with picture tiles…
1. Matching. The set of tiles we have has two of each animal. These can be matched to each other, or alternatively you might be able to find a selection of toy animals or cuddly toys and match these to the pictures. With a slightly older child, you could even play a game of snap! Matching activities are good for developing language, problem solving, and also develop early literacy skills such as engaging with print and recognising symbols. You can find out more about this here.
2. Identifying animals. Most children get your common farm animals down pretty quickly, but this is great for extending the language and recognising a wider range of animals! Say a name or make a sound and get your child to point at the animal!
3. Memory game. This is how this set is marketed. Maybe I should charge them for suggesting so many other uses for this toy?! Choose several sets of animal pairs, as many as you think is appropriate for your child (I would recommend beginning with three pairs for a 12-18 month year old and building from there). Lay them out face down – younger children can watch you do this to give them a starting point. Allow your child to turn over two tiles, and if they match, make a big fuss of them! If not just turn them back over. Then it’s your turn…you may need to fake a few errors or the game could be over quite quickly! I often try and help T out, for example if she turned over a monkey and a turkey, I will turn over the match of one of them on my go so she can remember them for another turn! Memory games provide good exercise for the brain, and also develop focus and attention.
4. Reading and matching. When your child learns to read, you can help them by providing them with various words and pictures to match. There are many jigsaws out there which have the picture on one puzzle piece and the word on another – beware that children will learn very quickly to just match them by puzzle shape and not by reading the word! Tiles like these can be used for this purpose, just write the words on a card and have them match them up. Remember that not all these words can be read phonetically (monkey, for example), so choose your tiles carefully! They are also varying levels of difficulty!
5. Writing stimulus. Much like the reading example above, you can also provide these tiles and ask children who are learning to write to write the names of the animals. As they progress, they might even like to choose a few animals and write a story.
6. Pattern making. Tiles such as these are really nice for creating patterns as they are different from the usual colour or shape patterns which children see. Obviously with only two tiles per animal, there can only be limited repetitions, but you could get around this by taking a photocopy of them or continuing the pattern by drawing!
7. Counting in twos. This is self explanatory! Pair up the tiles, and then count them two at a time.
8. Sorting. Find or print some images of the different habitats where you would find these animals. Encourage your child to sort the animals based on their habitat, and talk about what the habitats are like. You could also do a similar activity with food.
9. Use them as a creative stimulus. We’ve already mentioned storytelling. I really like the design of these tiles and the simple images. Children could recreate these by drawing, painting, or using various other art and craft resources. Older children could even create their own stamps by drawing onto polystyrene sheets and printing with them.
10. Small world play. These would be GREAT for telling the story of Noah’s Ark – perfect because they all come in twos. I remember setting up Noah’s Ark play in my Reception class a few years ago and suddenly realising that there were quite a few animals that we only had one of! All you need is a boat and a some figures to play the parts of Noah and his family, and you’re good to go! Of course, you could also use these animals in any small world scene you choose to set up, and that would be a great way of developing the habitats conversation!
Any other ideas, please comment below – I’d love to hear them!
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