Make Learning Fun: One Simple Idea

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This school year I bought a few bags of lifesavers and poured them into a bowl.

I announced, “Hey kids.  If you want a lifesaver, all you have to do is solve learning-funa Math 24 card or use one of our Marie’s SAT words in conversation.  Daniel (my 7-year-old) can tell me the time on this analog clock instead of solving a math card.  I’ll set it for him each morning.”

Is there a limit to how many we can get?


What level do we have to solve on the Math 24 card?

Whatever you think is the best one for you.

How will you know that we did it?

Just bring me the card and show me your brilliant solution or tell me how you used one of our words.

And that was it.  Simple.  Brilliant.  Positive learning energy created all over the house.


I have never had such success with building vocabulary as I have had by using lifesavers.

This simple reward has encouraged such a plethora of Marie’s SAT words being use in my house and the enthusiasm has yet to abate.  In the heirarchy of educational ideas, this one is at the top.  My children are estatic about this new edict in our home.

I just earned four lifesavers for those words in bold.   Woot!

A Few Answers For You

Do all of your kids go for this?

In all honesty, my nine year old son is driving the enthusasim in our house.  He loves to learn and he also loves mints.  He solves 1-2 math cards a day and uses anSAT word 2-4 times throughout the day.  His seven year old brother usually chimes in with his own sentence and will bring me the clock to set a time if I forgot.  My twelve year old daughter prefers the vocabulary to the math cards, so she sticks with that 1-2 times a day.  It is rare for my almost fourteen year old to attempt any of it.

Do you require that they earn at least one each day?

Nope.  As mentioned above, my almost fourteen year old isn’t really “feeling it” with these opportunities to earn mints.  I am confident that she is still learning a ton of vocabulary as it is being spoken by her siblings and I throughout the day.

What if they use the word wrong?

They get a mint for trying.  Everything about this concept is meant to be fun, so there is a reward for attempting to use a word.  My favorite attempt so far was from my seven year old who told me, “When you go fishing, you need abate for the hook.”  We all got a great laugh and he got a mint.  Before I gave it to him, I told him that, “Now that the laughing has abated, you may have your lifesaver.

The point is fun.  Reward all attempts to use new vocabulary!

What are the resources you are using for math and vocabulary?

1.   Marie’s SAT words

We’ve been a fan of these cards for awhile. In fact, we were using them in our morning basket last year, adding a few new words each week. That was great, but this has been so much more effective.

I still have the option to review and teach new words during our morning basket time, but I love that this has encouraged us to use these words in everyday conversation.

2.  24 Game.

This is a fantastic way to help my kids practice their math facts over and over and over as they attempt to find a solution. My son is enjoying these so much that I think we’ll have to purchase the double-digit version in January!

But of course, a simple reward of a lifesaver can be applied to so many learning resources and goals.  The sky is the limit.  These are just the two that I have chosen as our focus.

If you are feeling despondant about your school year and think this might help, then don’t be fickle.  Make up your mind right now to go get some mints and make learning fun!

I just earned two more mints, so I am off to enjoy them…

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  1. I just ordered 24. This is the first I have ever heard of this game, but I think my kids will love it. I am a big fan of reinforcing through games. Isn’t it funny how powerful of a motivator candy is? When I taught kindergarten my kiddos were having a hard time memorizing their sight words. I offered ONE skittle for each word learned and suddenly my entire class had the list mastered.

    1. Brilliant. I put candy corn and the candy corn pumpkins in the bowl today and it even worked on the 13 year old!! I hope you all enjoy the game!

  2. This is awesome, Mary. I too want to steal your idea. Now to find that carrot to dangle with my boy. 🙂 He is not a candy kid. Can you believe that?! I will have to stock up on animal crackers or something. LOL

    1. Brilliant! Whatever works. I discovered that changing it up some has really helped. Go with his favorite special treats and see how it works. So far this year, it is still going strong in our house!

  3. Just found this post 🙂 I love this idea! I had just purchased Marie’s Words and was trying to figure out how to use them, so this is great!! I also, thanks to you, just put 24 in my Amazon cart, lol. Just trying to figure out things to do with my 4 1/2 yr old beginning reader to earn the Lifesavers… sight words maybe?

    1. I think sight words is a great idea. You might find that he can even learn some of the vocabulary to keep up with the “big” kids. I am very lenient with my youngest child and if he even tries to use the words, I’ll take it 🙂

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