Crafts & activities

3 back to school games for kids

Need some help easing your little ones into the new school year? Daisy Upton aka Five Minute Mum shares lots of simple and accessible five-minute activities to prepare children for starting school in her new book Five Minute Mum: Time For School. We've picked out our favourite writing, spelling and maths games. 

Daisy Upton

Owl Post

A photo of a young book looking out of a window holding a paper owl with a letter
Image: Five Minute Mum: Time For School by Daisy Upton

Grab:

• Some paper

• A pen

• A hanger

• String

• Stickers (optional)

• Tape or Blu-Tack

• Pegs

To set up:

1. Draw an owl that’s roughly the size of your hanger and stick the drawing on it. Pop pegs on the hanger or the owl’s feet.

2. Write an example letter to somebody. Use stickers (if you have some) to close it, and write a magical address on the front.

3. Leave paper, stickers, and a pen nearby.

4. Tie string from somewhere high to somewhere low. I tied it to an upstairs window and to our slide in the garden below, but absolutely anywhere that goes high to low will work too.

To play:

1. Start the game by hanging the owl at the top of the high end of the string, attaching the example letter to the hanger with the pegs, and sending the owl down the line to your child. (Or you can leave the owl at the bottom of the line and wait for your child to find this mystery letter.) Read the address and letter together.

2. Encourage your little one to write a letter. A magical one! To a Harry Potter character, to the fairies, to a naughty troll, to the Christmas elf – whoever they like.

3. Attach the letter to the owl using the pegs.

4. Send the letter down the zip wire to deliver it.

5. I waited at the bottom while Ewan wrote mystery messages to me or our family members and then sent them down with the owl.

Spelling Pairs

A photo of a selection of rectangular, green pieces of cards with basic words written on them in black pen
Image: Five Minute Mum: Time For School by Daisy Upton

Grab:

• Two A4 pieces of card, the same colour

• A pen

• Scissors

To set up:

1. Fold one piece of card in half, then half again and again. Unfold it to reveal eight equally sized sections.

2. Do the same for the second piece of card. Then write eight spellings words on one, and repeat on the other so they’re identical.

3. Now cut out each word so you have sixteen spellings words, and lay them face down, mixed up on a table.

To play:

1. Take it in turns to turn over two-word cards.

2. As you turn over each card, say the word aloud to help your child read along and encourage them to do the same.

3. If your words match, you keep the pair.

4. If they don’t match, return them to being face down.

5. The winner is the one with the most pairs once all the words have been matched.

Split The Deck

A photo of a pack of cards on a marble surface; two are facing up, a four of spades and a six of diamonds
Image: Five Minute Mum: Time For School by Daisy Upton

Grab:

• A pack of playing cards

To set up:

1. Remove all the jacks, queens, kings, and jokers.

2. Split the deck evenly between the number of players.

To play an addition game:

1. Each player draws two cards from the top of their own deck.

2. Add the numbers together and say the total out loud. (In other words, you have to work out the sum of the two numbers.) For this game, ace equals one.

3. The person with the highest total wins and takes the cards that were drawn by all the other players.

4. Keep drawing two cards at a time and play until one person has all the cards.

To play a place-value game:

1. Each player draws two or three or four cards from the pack, depending on how confident your child is with numbers.

2. Line them up in a row and read out the number in full. So if you draw a 3, a 6, and a 2, you would say, ‘I’ve got three hundred and sixty-two.’

3. The person with the highest number wins and gathers the cards from the other players.

4. Keep playing until one person has all the cards.

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