As soon as our children are born we start to teach them. We stimulate their senses by splashing in the bath, looking at black and white images or just chattering away. As they get older we give them building blocks to knock over, shape sorters to solve, crayons to scribble with, and toy drums to pound. Once they reach pre-school we totally understand the concept of learning through play. But as soon as the formality of school takes hold, we get sucked in to the tedium of spelling and times tables. It’s so easy to forget that the best way to learn is to make it fun. Head to the educational games section of any toy store and you’ll have your pick of board games, construction sets, puzzles and musical instruments.
But there’s one game that no household should be without – bingo. The traditional game is more popular than ever. Cavernous bingo halls packed to the rafters with competitive ladies in search of a Full House may have had their day, but online bingo has become a worthy replacement.
In recent years, millions of people have answered the bingo call and joined the massive online community. The principles of the game have limitless applications. Whether your children are just starting school or about to take GCSEs, there’s a bingo adaptation that will help them learn. All you need is a piece of paper, a few counters and a bit of imagination and you’ll have a tailor-made game that’s top of the class. Very young children can begin to understand the concept of numbers by playing Ladybird Bingo. Place ladybirds, each with a different number of spots up to 10, on a six-grid sheet. Pull out a number and ask the child to match it to a ladybird with that many spots. As they get older, you can work on number recognition by playing straightforward bingo with numbers up to ten or 20 as appropriate. Make it harder by introducing sums and asking your child to find the matching solution. It doesn’t even have to be about maths, play bingo using sight words to help a child who’s learning how to read. Tricky words like “you”, “the” and “my” become increasingly familiar when they’re part of a game.
Or consolidate your child’s general knowledge by playing Capital City Bingo (match the country with its capital), Bookworm Bingo (match the author to his or her book) or Bilingual Bingo (match the English word with its foreign counterpart).
It’s not just children that can benefit from bingo. Research has found that people who keep their minds active can reduce the risk of developing dementia or Alzheimer’s. Games like bingo, as well as mind-stretching games like Sudoku and crosswords, play their part in stimulating the little grey cells. The social aspects of playing bingo, either online or in person, and tapping into a community of like-minded people is an added bonus.