Playing to Learn
Retired teacher creates games for kids to develop skills while having fun
Lucille Lucy’s educational game business started with sugar packets. She would use the packets on restaurant tables to keep her children entertained, but it was also helping them learn math. She would ask them to count the packets or to put the colors in a sequence. Blue, pink, pink, blue, etc.—the basic math skill of identifying and creating patterns.
The stay-at-home mom had been working in early elementary education in New Jersey before she took time off to raise her kids. She had created a number of games that were simple and portable. There was another math game with numerals pasted onto posterboard, cut to the size of playing cards, that her son, Michael, especially liked playing. “The deck would have numbers in order, but I’d leave some out,” Lucy says. The challenge would be to figure out which numbers were missing.
When her children were old enough to go to school, Lucy returned to teaching. Some things, however, had changed in the six years she’d been gone.
“It was 1978, and I realized that learning disabilities were starting to be recognized more.” She discovered that the games seemed to help those who, as Lucy says, “learned a different way.” Her creative inventions took on even more importance in her teaching and her tutoring, and so did her interest in working with students with developmental disabilities. She pursued a master’s degree and earned consultant certifications to work with special-needs children.
When she retired in 2005, she continued tutoring, and the games remained invaluable. There were card games to teach addition, subtraction and multiplication, and others that helped with word recognition for reading. She reconfigured dice, painting over the numbers to create sequences that helped teach children how to count money. “They were learning simply by having fun playing a game,” Lucy says.
That same year, she began considering seriously how to construct her homemade games and make them a bit more sophisticated—and more available. She began her company, Play ’n Learn Games.
Now 73, retired and living in Wynmoor Village in Coconut Creek, Lucy still tutors—mostly to the children of family and friends—and she continues to create games, 50 to date.
Two of the most popular, currently sold online, are playing-card games. ABC Dig for Gold is for letter recognition, which improves reading skills, while Challenge uses counting cards to teach math. She also has four board games in early production. All of the games are created for ages 3 and up, and she would like to get them into schools. “They follow an academic sequence, so they could fit into any curriculum,” she says, adding that they work for homeschooling.
One golden rule in her games has nothing to do with academics. It’s Play ’n Learn’s motto: “Play, Praise, Learn, Have Fun.”
“ ‘Praise’ is the important word there,” she says. “On our game directions, we say, ‘Praise the players.’ This is the perfect opportunity for parents to build their children’s self esteem and confidence—tell them, ‘Way to go! Great job!’ ”
For information about Lucy’s games, visit playnlearngames.com.
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