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How to Make Your Classroom Games Last Longer

Saving time in the future is all about the steps you take to protect your resources now! Use these tips to make your classroom games last longer no matter how many elementary students play them!

How many card games and task cards do you have in your classroom right now?

Are we talking tens? Hundreds? Maybe even thousands?

Card-based games are a staple of upper elementary instruction, and they definitely see a lot of wear and tear as the years go on.

make your classroom games last longer

I remember the days of preparing for my lessons, pulling out my decks of cards, and holding my breath hoping they would still be in good enough condition for another year of play.

Unfortunately, they often times weren’t. 

Over time, I had to give myself a firm talking to about the printing and upkeep of my task cards and game card decks. Especially my U-KNOW decks that were getting significant use day-to-day.

make your classroom games last longer

I tried asking my students to be gentle with the cards. I reminded them daily about not tearing or ripping the cards, and if a child dared to fold one in half, they got to see my beast mode in full force.

But then I started to realize that my students weren’t being unnaturally hard on the cards nor were they purposely trying to crinkle them or tear the edges. They were just playing the game, and the wrecked cards were proof that they were invested and actively engaged. I should be happy that they were actively playing the game and using the cards.

So, in addition to training my students to take care of my cards, I knew I had to shift my focus to a different solution. Rather than focus on how they were used, I needed to focus on how they were made. I had to do everything I could to make my cards stand up against the use and abuse of my elementary students.

And I got really good at it. In fact, I learned a lot of tricks to help keep my cards in good shape for several years at a time, saving me a lot of time and patience along the way. 

Here are my tips and tricks to make your classroom games last longer (especially the card-based games!!)

#1| Print on cardstock

Now, I’m not just talking about your average run-of-the-mill bottom shelf in the teacher’s closet cardstock. I’m talking about the good stuff that is made to last.

I personally use 110lb cardstock for printing my U-KNOW cards because, just like building a house, if you want to make your classroom games last longer, they have to have a good foundation for our purposes and be made out of good high-quality paper!

#2| Print in color

Just as people ‘eat with their eyes first,’ students make quick decisions about whether or not something will be a fun based on the first look at the assignment. That is why clipart and pretty colors are a staple in content creation. Get the most bang for your buck…or buy in for your buck by taking the time to print your cards in color.

Additional Observation: I also firmly believe that students tend to take better care of resources that are printed in color. I don’t know if this is actually true, but it seems like they appreciate the extra effort!

My school doesn’t let me print in color!

If this is you, make sure that you have a backup plan. 

I wrote a whole post all about printing in color on a budget here, but also consider other ways to print your cards. You can take them to a local print shop, or you can print them at home. If you find yourself printing at home frequently, consider HP’s Instant Ink program. The Instant Ink subscription program gets your ink delivered to your house when you need it.

If money is tight, include gift cards or credits to print shops like FedEx or Office Max on your class wishlists specifically for the purpose of printing classroom materials in color on good cardstock. Sometimes local print shops will also donate printing in exchange for a mention or a thank you in the school newsletter. If you get some color printing donated or paid for, make it count by choosing the resources you are printing wisely and focusing on the resources that will get a lot of use!

#3| Laminate the cards

Once you’ve gone through the trouble of getting all your game cards printed in color on extra-thick paper, make sure that you take the time to laminate them. If you have access to a school laminator, great! But I have found that my personal laminator uses even thicker, more sturdy material, so I use that for the cards I know will get a lot of shuffling and use. If you really want to make your classroom games last longer, laminating your cards is a must!

#4| Storage is key

Once your cards are printed, laminated, and looking fine, it is time to make sure they are kept organized and tidy. You can obviously just throw a rubber band around the deck and toss it in a box for safekeeping, but I believe that to really help my cards withstand the test of time and many, many, many hands, I have to treat my cards like the valuable resources they are. That is why I like to use small storage containers like these and these to keep my cards organized and protected. I’ve also found that these photo storage boxes work really well too!

Teachers need to protect their time, and that is why doing tasks (like printing playing cards or task cards) only once is incredibly important. Making these types of games and resources last will save you a bunch of time in the future, and your students will be more engaged because the games will be as fun to look at as they are to play!

Do you have any other awesome tips for taking care of your game cards, we’d love to hear about your ideas in the comments!

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