The Ultimate Family Name Game

Family Game; Family Game Night; Learning Names and Faces

Let me begin by saying just how much I adore my family. We have been blessed with incredibly loving parents, siblings, grandparents, cousins, and other extended family. However, that being said, we're approximately a 5 hour drive (6 hours now with kids) from any of our extended family.

When my boys were little, I wanted to find a way for them to become familiar with all of these amazing people, even though we didn't have the privilege of getting to see them every day. This was especially important during the holiday season - when kiddos can have a tendency to get overly exhausted with all of the excitement AND there are numerous larger group gatherings to attend. I knew that if I didn't do something to be pro-active, it was going to be a stretch for my often shy boys.

And I just wanted my kiddos to love all of these people that were such a huge blessing in our lives!

So, we made a game out of learning names and faces! Most of you are probably familiar with the game, Memory, but I'll do a quick explanation just in case. Here's how it works. Players lay all of the cards face down on a table (or floor). Each card has a match (10 matches = 20 total cards). Players take turns flipping over 2 cards each turn. The goal is to turn over 2 cards that match. If they match, that player gets to keep them. If they do not match, you turn the cards back over - in the same place - and try to remember where they were so that if you find one of the other matches, you can remember where it was and make a match.

Our game is played the same way. The trick is making the cards. Here's what I did.

First I made a list of the family members I wanted to include. We included grandmas, grandpas, aunts, uncles, cousins, great-grandparents, etc - but the list is really up to you. If you're using it to familiarize your littles with people that will be at a specific gathering - add those. Really, you can make the list as long or as short as you want.

Next, we needed to find photos. After all, if I wanted them to become familiar with them, they needed to be able to see their faces. With the wealth of digital photos that we now have available, this part probably took the longest. But I scrolled through several digital albums looking for a good photo of each person on my list. Now, remember, with the ability to crop photos, it doesn't have to be an individual photo - but do be sure it has good lighting (preferably natural light) and that you can clearly see their entire face.

As I found each photo, I copied it into a separate file on my computer - that way they'd all be in the same place!

Then, I uploaded all of the photos to a digital photo service. I used Costco Photo (simply because it seemed to be the fastest and cheapest available), but you can use any online photo service you prefer - as long as it gives you the ability to print wallet sized photos.

Open each of the photos in the online photo service you're using. If needed, crop them so that you see mostly the person's face and upper body - think school photos. This makes the face large enough to recognize. Do any other touch ups that you want to the pictures.

Then, order a set of wallets for each picture. You will probably receive 4 wallet prints of each picture - and this actually turns out to be a blessing because if you've ever played a game with little ones, pieces are easily lost. With the extra wallets, you have a ready to go duplicate, if needed. This part can add up (maybe $20-$30), depending on the number of sets you order, but believe me, it is so worth it! My kids LOVE this game - even years later!

Once you've picked up your wallets, it's time to put the finishing touches on your game. While this next step is optional, I think it definitely makes the game look finished. Please note that all of the images below link to the products that I actually used to create our game. They are affiliate links to make it convenient for you, but it just means that if you choose to purchase these items through my link, Amazon will send me a small percentage as a thank you for helping you find them. Don't worry though - it's not at any additional cost to you - just want to let you know and to make things as easy as possible for you! Anyway, back on track. Pick up or order a set of labels. I recommend address size - you can use a larger size, but you'll need to trim them to fit on the cards. I like these from Avery:

Then, you get to be a little creative! You get to design the back side of your playing cards! If you use Avery Labels you can download their free design template so that you'll know you've got the right dimensions.  You can be as simple or creative as you'd like. Use a simple font on your computer or download a fancy font online - there are some super cute fonts available for personal use HERE.

So, print your labels and put them on the back of each of your cards. You can put it on just 2 of the wallets or all 4 - it's really up to you.

You're almost there! Now, if you have any hopes of these cards lasting much longer than a week or two, I highly recommend laminating these cards. I laminated ours, and we are on year 3+ with them, and they are still holding up incredibly well!

I know what you're thinking - really? A laminator? I thought the same thing. Coming from teaching at a school with one of those monstrous heavy-duty laminators, I thought there would be no way I could get one in my price range. But I was wrong! I found this one  - and I absolutely love it! I really don't know how I would be able to do some of the things we do without it!

It heats up quickly, laminates standard sized paper well, and most importantly, it's super afforable!

You will also need to purchase thermal laminating pouches. You can get the standard 8.9 x 11.4 inch size, which will laminate standard printer paper or you can get the wallet sized laminating pouches. I preferred the wallet-sized pouches for this game because they were a little thicker - and I didn't have to do a sorts of arranging and cutting. However, if you're wanting the most bang for your buck, go with the standard size.
Once you've laminated (and cut the cards apart if you're using the large pouches), you are ready to play!

Begin by going over the basic rules with your littles. Now, for the very little ones, don't even try to play with any sort of strict rules - just let them have fun with the cards. And use this time to talk about the various people on the cards. As they get older, they will begin to be able to play. But for the older ones (think 3 and up), you can really start to implement some rules and have a little friendly competition.

One of the things I love about this game is how versatile it is! If they're just beginning, start with fewer cards - say 8 cards (4 pairs), and as they become more comfortable with the game and their memory skills begin to improve, you can play with more cards.

You can also play in "rounds." I made over 20 pairs of cards - and trying to play with 40 cards would be far too overwhelming for little ones, but we play a few different rounds switching up the pairs each time. Just make sure you actually ensure you have pairs and not just a set of 12 cards! Yep - did that one before!

As you find the pairs, take the opportunity to share something (or have the child share something) about that person. It doesn't need to be elaborate at all - but something that will help strengthen that relationship. For example, if he found the Papa pair, I might say something like, "You found Papa (show him the card and point to his face), Remember when you went to the park with Papa. You had so much fun when he pushed you on the swing!" Again, simple is good!

You can also use this as an opportunity to "front load" your kids for events that may be approaching. For example, you could say something like, "Wow! You found Grandma (show him the card and point to her face)! We are going to go to Grandma's house in just 5 days to celebrate Christmas! It will be so exciting to see her!" Again, it's an opportunity to build that familiarity.

Our family just loves this game - and I truly hope yours will as well! When my boys were young, it definitely helped them become familiar with names and faces - even when we lived miles apart. It improved their memory skills - seriously, I am often amazed at the details they can remember. And it was just a great way to have fun as a family - I mean what child doesn't love a game starring themselves and the people they love?!?!

We've actually even made this as a gift to give to cousins and other young family members!

If you try out this game, I'd love to hear about it! Tell me in the comments below if you tried it and what your kiddos thought! I'd also love to see your designs for the label!

Hope your kiddos enjoy this game as much as mine do - and that it helps familiarize them with names and faces for the upcoming holiday season :)

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