We were taking some pictures of math manipulatives for online professional development program we are creating, and we got to talking about “bought” materials vs. “found” materials. Over the past couple of years, I have written a lot about both; from expensive hand-made, wooden puzzles to recycled egg cartons. They all have their place in the early childhood environment.
As we were sifting through some cabinets, we found an old deck of cards. We reminisced about all of the card games we played with our own children when they were young. We played “War” and a homemade version of “Uno.” We used the cards to play a simplified version of “Memory” and “Go Fish.” A simple deck of cards is one of those found items that is as good as any bought item. I say they are found because I don’t remember ever buying a deck of cards; somehow, they are always just there, in the drawer.
Begin playing War with an abbreviated deck so you can include very young children. Take out the face cards and everything higher than the 6s. You may want to remove the Aces as well, just to begin, since the representation of the number “1” may make it too complicated. Play with the children one-on-one and observe their number sense. Can they identify the numerals by name? Can they determine which number is higher? Can they follow the directions? When the cards match, can they count out 3 additional cards to have a card war? Once children have mastered the cards through 6, add the 7s and 8s. Later, add the 9s and 10s. Many children will be able to play a full game of War by kindergarten, face cards included.