Looking for a way to keep your children occupied during long waits in amusement park lines, at the doctor’s office, or at restaurants? One aspect of human thinking that makes us so good at everything from reading to solving new math problems is prediction – and prediction games are a great way to build the left hemisphere.
What comes next? Ages 7-11 Make up a series of numbers or letters that repeat themselves in a sequence – like: A B A C A D A _? You knew the next letter was going to be an E because you could predict the answer from the series pattern. Try to come up with as many letter or number patterns like that yourself when you and your child (and their friends) are driving in the car or sitting waiting for food at restaurant. Puzzle books are full of series like these that get progressively more difficult and some ideas are below but it is more fun if you and your child try to develop them yourselves. And don’t feel you have to limit them to letters and numbers, words and familiar phrases can be just as much fun.
Letter series: A B C X Y Z D E ___ ; A Z B Y C ____
Number series: 1 3 5 7 ____; 2 5 8 11 ___ Opposites: Top – bottom, over—under, high -- _____
Word associations: Red – apple; green – bean; yellow ______
Made up rhymes: I like dogs and dogs like __; that is something you can _____
What comes next? Ages 3-6 With younger children favorite nursery rhymes and songs can be make great prediction games. You child might enjoy taking turns thinking of favorite poems also, one she get’s the hang of it.
Twinkle, twinkle, little star. How I wonder what you ____
Little Miss Muffett sat on a ________
Peas porridge hot, peas porridge cold, peas porridge in the pot_______
Hickory, DIckory, Dock, the mouse ran up the clock______
What comes next? Teens and Pre-teens The nice thing about prediction games is that there is no limit to how complex you can make them, so they can make good mealtime or car trip activities for older children as well. Series will be more difficult if the pattern does not emerge until five or six items, or if multiplication or division is involved. Some examples are below, but as always, encouraging your teen to come up with their own keeps the interest high.
Longer series – 1,9, 5, 2, 10, ___
Series involving mathematical computations – 10, 2, 5, 12, 2, _____
Series of prime numbers – 1,3, 5, 7, 11, ____
WHY? One thing the left hemisphere gets very good at is predicting new information based on the past. At a conference last weekend Dr. Paula Tallal, a neuroscientist who is an expert in how the left side of the brain builds its capacity to process information quickly and easily, discussed research that indicates that one way the left hemisphere builds its capacity for many symbol systems like grammar and math is through prediction. In early years grammar helps prediction by its structure and consistency. Once we know grammar well we can often predict the end of a sentence just by knowing the beginning as in , “The boy was late to school so instead of walking slowly he decided to run very _____”. Crossword puzzles are examples of prediction games adults like to play with words. Even the speed with which we read a book depends on how well we can predict what might happen next. One of the reasons you read the last few chapters of a good book so much faster than the first is because of your ability to predict what to expect next.
Building prediction skills builds problem solving skills and left hemisphere processing speed