What is a “memory tray?” It’s a very visual, hands-on version of the classic “What’s Missing?” pictures. It’s simple to set up, easy to play, and adaptable for any theme or learning goal – a triple winner! Keep these simple memory tray games in your back pocket for a simple to set up, easy to play, meaningful learning activity!
These memory tray games are so easy to put together and the students love to play the game. It also is a great way to foster important logical thinking and reasoning skills. Watching students engaging and using their thinking caps is a thrill every good teacher enjoys!
How to Set Up Memory Tray Games
One of the tricks to simplify lesson planning is finding activities that can be used repeatedly with different themes. This saves on class time – the students already know how to play! It also saves on prep time – the teacher already has an idea of how it will work! And it can be used over and over again without feeling boring. Ideally, the activity fosters important logical thinking and reasoning skills.
Types of Memory Tray Games
One of the most amazing things about memory tray games is that they are adaptable for almost any topic or targeted skill! Find a few times that fit together, put them on a tray, and it’s ready to go.
Seasonal Memory Tray Ideas
Raid the classroom decorations (temporarily!), and you have a memory tray game ready to go!
- Summer: sunglasses, toy ice cream, seashell, beach ball, sand shovel
- Fall: apple, pumpkin, leaf, dried corn, acorn
- Winter: mitten, scarf, snowflake, snowman,
- Spring: egg, flower, bird, bunny, duck, umbrella
Literacy Memory Trays
Working on rhymes, beginning sounds or parts from a story, here are some ideas for literacy-based memory trays:
- Characters from a story – print out pictures of all the animals in Eric Carle’s “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” for example, or the main characters from the fairy tale “The Little Red Hen.”
- Rhyming words (pictured above) – bee, tree, key, three, tea, pea
- Beginning sounds – ball, bat, bagel, bottle, baby, button
Similar Items Trays
Sometimes there’s a particular skill, such as identifying colors or numbers that need a little work. Simple ideas include:
- Colors – grab a pack of markers or a handful of crayons for a quick and easy color review!
- Numbers – different numbers printed out, or even different ways to show the same number, such as on a die, on a domino, tally marks, numerals, etc.
- Letters – Fridge magnets can make an easy alphabet review game!
How to Play
This game is simple to set up and just as simple to play. Here’s how:
- Show the students the objects on the tray. For children just starting, stick to 3-4 objects. As they get older and gain confidence with the game, more items can be added to provide a greater challenge.
- Identify each object with the students.
- Students close their eyes, and the teacher takes a small blanket or handkerchief and covers the tray.
- The teacher picks up one item in the handkerchief and removes it from the tray.
- Students open their eyes and identify which item is missing from the collection.
This activity is also very flexible as it can be played for any length of time! Here is a video of the game in action:
Have fun playing, learning, and making memories with your class today!
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