The instructions game

the instruction gameThe Fun Way to Learn to Write Instructions – This activity is a blast when done verbally with your child. Explain to your child that the goal is to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and that they are going to tell you how to make it! Here’s the catch though: it’s not enough to say “get the bread, put some peanut butter and some jelly on it, and eat it”. No, the idea is to learn how to come up with effective instructions. Don’t think this is beyond preschoolers – my four-year-old had a great time with this!

For this activity, you’ll need:

  • A knife or spoon
  • A jar of peanut butter
  • A jar of jelly or jam
  • A loaf of bread (or two, depending on how much fun you have)

You may also use any of the experimental ingredients you might be inspired by from this article about peanut butter & jelly fun.

How to play:

  1. Talk about how to make the sandwich. Steps might include “get a slice of bread from the bread bag”, “use the knife/spoon to put a small amount of jelly on one slice of bread” or “put the two halves of bread together, with the peanut butter and jelly sides facing each other”. Your child will almost assuredly not be this specific the first time around, but here’s where the fun comes in.
  2. Perform the child’s instructions to the letter. Don’t make any assumptions about intent! If the first instruction is “get some bread”, act like you can’t get any because the bag is closed. Explain to your child that he never told you to open the bag! When you reach a teaching moment, explain the situation, then point him in the right direction. How precise you teach the lesson will depend on how well your child reacts, but take it easy, have fun, and don’t go overboard with the details.

I remember when we did this in school, very, very few children remembered to instruct the teacher to pick up the spoon when it came time to put the peanut butter on the bread. Our teach would scoop out some peanut better with her fingers instead, to the delight of everyone. We got the point though: when told to go back and revise our instructions, we included far more details than we did the first time. We learned a lot and had a great time, too. That was in Fifth Grade. Since then, I’ve run this activity with kids as young as three, and it’s been great fun every time!

About the Author
Daniel M. Clark is the co-founder and co-host of Geek Dads Weekly, a podcast by and for geeks raising kids in a digital age. He lives in Houston with his wife, daughter and son.

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