Category cards are a fantastic way to improve your child’s language skills (ages 3 and up). The cards offer many different ways to use them so your child will not get bored. The best product of category cards that I have found include very simple cards. Each card has one large colorful picture of an object. The set I use offers 13 categories, with three items per category (39 cards total). Some of the categories included in the set include; fruits, vegetables, hats, zoo animals, and sea animals. Below I listed 5 ways to use these cards with your child.
1. Vocabulary (Receptive/Expressive)
The cards in the set offer great visuals of common objects and animals (i.e. an apple, an orange, an elephant, a fish, a bowl, a hammer). See how many items your child can identify. Start off by placing sets four to six cards in front of your child. Ask your child to point to or give you a specific card. If your child is able to receptively identify most cards, then have them label the cards as well.
2. Understanding Categories
To practice understanding categories you can place two sets of categories (6 cards total) mixed up in front of your child. Ask your child to separate the cards that go together. For example, you can place the three fruit cards and the three tool cards on the table. Ask your child to put all the fruit on one side of the table or floor and all the tools on the other side. Once your child masters this skill, you can place more categories or even all the categories in front of your child to sort.
If your child is having difficulty organizing the cards himself, then you can modify the task. Place two objects from a category in front of your child, such as two zoo animals. Then hold up two more cards and ask your child which card goes with the other cards on the table, such as another animal and a ball. This may help your child successfully place cards together in a more structured way.
3. Labeling Categories
To practice labeling the categories, place the three cards from a category in front of your child and ask them what group they all belong to. You can challenge your child by asking him to think of more items that belong to that category. For example, if you show your child the vegetable cards, you can see if he can name additional vegetables that aren’t shown in the cards.
4. Understanding Items That Do Not Belong to a Category
Once your child has mastered identifying and labeling categories, you can challenge him more. Now place four cards in front of your child, three from a category and one from a different category. Ask your child to identify the item that does NOT belong. This may take a little time for your child to understand. You can also rephrase the request and ask your child to show you the card that is different.
5. Expressing Why an Object Does Not Belong to a Category
If your child is able to identify the object that doesn’t belong to the group, now he is ready to explain why. An example of this would be to place three hats and one shoe in front of your child. Once your child points to the shoe and says it doesn’t belong then ask him “Why?”. If your child struggles to answer this question, model for him “The shoe doesn’t belong because it’s not a hat” or “It doesn’t belong because you can’t wear it on your head”. Various answers are acceptable for this question. Offer your child the prompt “It doesn’t belong because….” and see if he can fill in the blank.
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