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Memory Deck: Exercise Your Brain Review by Karen Waide

EFSAP (Establishing Foundational Skills for Academic Proficiency)
Meadowbrook Educational Services, Inc.
11011 S Cedar RD
Spokane, WA 99224

We had the opportunity to review the Memory Deck: Exercise Your Brain card set which is available from EFSAP. EFSAP is a program that is all about preparing children for academic learning. The Memory Deck is one of several products the company provides to help with foundational learning skills including memory, listening skills, focus, and concentration.

Let’s take a look at the actual Memory Deck.

There are 41 cards included in the box, eleven of which are informational in nature. These cards are the same size as regular playing cards, but they have many unique features.

The playing deck is comprised of three different colors or suits, each of which has the numbers 0-9, making for a 30-card deck. The color is displayed through the border, one-quarter of an inch away from the edge of the card. Inside the border of all the cards (except zero) there are cute little cartoonish characters. I like to think of them as adorable alien creatures, though some may think they resemble little monsters or even insects. They have interesting names such as Oppy, Hue, and MOzart. One of the informational cards pictures each of the characters with their names. There are six of almost all the characters, one pair of each per suit. However, there are also three unique characters for each “9” card. Most of the characters are holding a shape, either two or three dimensional. Lino, however, is displaying a picture of either a wavy or a straight line.

Additionally, each of the cards (except zero) have symbols in each corner. The top left-hand corner is where the numbers are displayed. The top right-hand corner contains uppercase letters, A-Z, plus one wild. The bottom left has icons such as a flower, a house, and a butterfly. There are two of each icon, plus another wild symbol. And in the bottom right hand corner, you will find the lowercase letters, also a-z, plus one wild.

Finally, inside the border, at the bottom of where the character is, there is a colored section that includes words. The yellow cards have body part words. The blue cards have emotion and relationship words. And the green cards have adjectives. There are three pairs of opposites, plus a group of three descriptive words that go together (hot, cold, and warm).

A wide variety of games can be played using these cards, and they can also be used as assessment tools. Eight of the informational cards contain instructions for the different games. A couple of cards only describe how to play one game each, but most of the cards have instructions for either two or three games, or different variations of the same game. There are games in the following categories:

  • Attention, Focus, and Recognition Games
  • Place & Match Memory
  • Visual Memory
  • Listening and Memory
  • Sequence & Sort
  • Social Engagement and Logical Thinking
  • Social Negotiation and Creative Expression

Some of the games are those that are usually played with regular playing cards, though they are adapted for use with this unique deck. These include: “Go Fish,”“Snap,”“War,” and the Place & Match Memory games. However, most of these games have several variations because of the different symbols on the cards.

There are also some great games for younger children. The Visual Memory and Listening and Memory games require the player to recall the correct sequence of the cards they have had shown or read to them. These games are to be played one on one with an instructor and a learner. The different variations allow you to play using whichever of the different symbols or characters you desire.

There are several different versions of the Sequence and Sort games. One type is played with the instructor and 1-2 other players. After dividing the deck into suits and handing a suit to each player, the instructor will call out a specific symbol. If using the characters, shapes, or icons, the first player to put up the called-out symbol (or pair) wins. However, if playing with numbers or alphabet, the child is to put them in the correct order.

The other type of Sequence and Sort game is called “Fives.” This has become one of our favorite games. Instead of just having to put the numbers of a given suit in order, this is played more like an actual game. Three to five people can play, with the cards being dealt out between everyone. The player with the green “5” starts first, by placing it in the middle of the table. The player may continue placing cards that go in sequential order, either forward or backward. If the player has either of the other “5” cards, they may play them, starting a new row for each. Each player takes their turn, placing as many sequential cards as they can per turn. The winner is the one who uses all their cards first. The children love that we can all play this game together, as it if for 3-5 players.

The game “Books” makes you think logically. It has four rounds, and the object is to collect a different assortment of cards each round. It starts off simple enough with each player needing two “books” of three matching characters to win. In round four, however, you need to collect “themes.” An example would be things that fly (bird, butterfly, and airplane). However, you could change it to things in the sky instead, and that would allow the use of the star as well. Suppose you wanted to do a book of unnatural things. You could use car, boat, airplane, house, or even the blue tree. There’s an endless supply of possibilities limited only by how well the players think outside the box.

Speaking of thinking outside the box, there is a game called “Fishing Story,” which allows players to create stories using the symbols on a set of four cards. Players are dealt four cards and are to decide whether they are going to make their story from the cards they were given or negotiate with other players to get better cards. You definitely need to be able to think outside the box and use your imagination for this game.

As you can see, there are many ways to use the Memory Deck to “exercise your brain.” The package says that the cards are designed for five and up; however, it can be used with preschoolers as well. The “Beginner” games and some of the “Instructor and Learner” games are great ways for younger children to get involved with these games. The sequencing games are wonderful ways for preschoolers to learn the order of the alphabet and numbers while having fun. I found that some great first games are the visual memory games as the players can become familiar with the different symbols and characters on the cards. In fact, starting here worked well for us. It’s great fun to pull out these cards and be able to play a different game each time, if we so desire. However, the game we have played the most is the “Fives” sequencing game.

In some cases, the directions are vague enough to allow for your own interpretation. However, sometimes a few more specifics would come in handy.

All in all, the Memory Deck is quite an intriguing product, one that allows for multiple ways to work on memory, concentration, and other foundational skills. Great for young children, but with variations and games that make it suitable for older children and adults. You can purchase your own deck from the EFSAP website for $14.99.

- Product review by Karen Waide, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, September 2017