The Preschool Years

Flashcards in Action {a game for active toddlers}

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Flashcards are an amazing tool to help teach and reinforce concepts like letters, shapes, numbers, and simple vocabulary.

But if your toddler is anything like mine…you can spend hours saving, printing, coloring, laminating, cutting, and organizing free flash cards only to have them trampled on, stomped all over, thrown up in the air, tossed across the room, and completely disorganized within a few moments.

Oh you haven’t experienced this? Okay then, well, maybe it’s just my kid…

Over the last six months of attempting different methods of using flashcards in play and educational times, I have developed a game which has come to work very well for us.

flashcards in action pin

It includes the typical use of flashcards (ie. what is it? what letter is it? what number? etc.), along with action (in our house, that means running), fine motor skills, and sensory skills.

All you need is flashcards, a box, and about 10 feet of space. If you are not into the whole finding-free-printables-and-spending-hours-laminating-and-cutting-them thing, you can find cheap packs of flashcards at the dollar store or on Amazon. (These are the ones I used for this game.)

I use a diaper box because it has a slit in the top where the panels don’t match up. This function is key to the game. If you don’t have this kind of box, then you can still cut a slit in the top of a normal box with scissors or an exacto knife. I tape the top closed so the flaps can’t be opened until the game is over.

Set the box somewhere on the floor, walk about 10-15 feet away from it, and plop down on the floor with the stack of flashcards in your hand. (Did I mention this is a lazy mommy’s game?)

Give your child the flashcard. Your child will love getting the hold to card on his own. Have him tell you what’s on it.


Tell your child to run and go put it in the box:



Tell him to run back and get another one:







Just a few notes:

1) He doesn’t always tell me right away what’s on the card. I attempt to get him to tell me the answer BEFORE it gets in the box, but if not, that’s okay, and I tell him the answer anyway. Even the fine motor skills are good for him. So don’t get all hung up on the he-didn’t-tell-me-the-answer-and-he-just-wants-to-put-the-cards-in-the-box issue.

2) Distractions, running in circles, scooting across the floor, crashing into mommy on the way back, asking for hugs, and laying down and pretending the fold-up hamper that’s lying in the middle of the floor is a blanket are all normal and expected behavior. As is putting the flashcards through the handle sections instead of the top.  Just go with it. I think it’s toddler code for “creativity.” However, throwing the flashcards in the trash and between the washer and dryer, not so much. Crack down on that one.




*The original idea for this game came from this post about a diaper-box mail game from We’ve also put barrel-of-monkeys in diaper boxes. That’s another fun game. I think that the flashcard game was originally Ezra’s idea. He liked putting monkeys in the box, and the box was still sitting out one time when we were doing flashcards, so he started putting the flashcards in the box. The putting-the-box-far-away-to-make-him-have-to-run was my husband’s idea.


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