Introduction: Wooden Tile Matching (Memory) Game

In this instructable, I'll discuss making a set of tiles for a simple children's game. I give a brief overview of the game, how to use the game tiles for children of different ages, and an overview of how I made them.

Step 1: The Name of the Game: Memory. Concentration. Match Two.

This game has a lot of names, but it is very simple. A number of tiles have figures on them in pairs, and they are then mixed and flipped over so that you can't tell which one is which. The goal is to turn over the tiles two at a time, and see if they match. If they do, you can remove them from the game and keep on playing. If they don't you flip them back over and try again. You have to remember what each figure was and try to find their respective match. The goal is to try to find all of the pairs as fast as possible. The game is easy when there are only a few pieces, but gets harder when there are many, because it is difficult to keep track of all the figures. The game is also harder if some of the figures look similar, as they might lead to a mistaken match in your mind.

You can play with other people, keeping score and taking turns, but the game is most often played as a solitary game.

Step 2: How to Use These Tiles for Children

These tiles can grow with a child, and you can use them in different fashions as your children become more mature and are able to understand how to play the game.

For very, very young children:
My daughter is 8 months old, and though she is a smart cookie, she isn't going to be playing games with rules anytime soon. For her, these wooden tiles offer several avenues of play:

  • She enjoys grasping and manipulating them. They are small and light so she can easily hold them, but they also have different textures on different areas.
  • She likes picking them up and dropping them.
  • She gives them an experimental chomp as her tiny teeth have started coming in
  • She can learn the names of animals and study the figures.

For very young children:
My best friend's daughter is older than my daughter by several months, and her greater maturity means that she can play with the tiles in new ways.

  • She can play "find the animal"- the tiles are arranged face up and she is challenged to find the bear, or find the fox, or the deer.
  • She can turn the tiles over, to reveal the animal on the other side.
  • You can place three tiles in front of her, with two with the same figure and one different. Challenge her to identify the different one.
  • She can stack the tiles like blocks, and then knock the stack over.

Once a child is older than 3:

  • They can play the game as it was intended, with a lot of help. You can let them turn over tiles and leave them flipped over until they find a match.
  • You can play by arranging the pairs, face up, and let the child look at them for a short period, then flip them upside down so they have some advance knowledge.
  • Play "three card monte"- take 1 pair and 1 different figure and lay them in front of her, then flip them over and move them around, and ask her to find the different figure, by remembering where it started and how you moved it.

Children old than 5 can play the game as intended:

  • You can introduce more tiles to make the game harder
  • You can play with multiple players, keeping score of who finds the most pairs.
  • You can time them, and challenge them to finish finding all the pairs more quickly.
  • You can play "Which one is gone?"- let the child see the tiles face up, and then have them close their eyes while you remove some of the tiles. The child has to identify which tiles were removed.
  • You can stand them on end and knock them down like dominos.

Step 3: Found or Scrap Materials

For this project, I used a set of sample tiles from a furniture company sent to my office. Each one is a subtly (or not so subtly) different shade and grain pattern, meant to show you what your fancy new desk might look like. It was very convenient for this project that they were all the same size and very similar.

I've also had good luck with samples of wooden flooring from hardware stores. You can fins palm-sized pieces of wood with interesting surfaces there, and they are often free.

And of course, so a project like this where the finished works are small, it is easy to use scraps or castoffs to use up oddly sized or shaped material that wouldn't be otherwise used.

An important thing to keep in mind when using these found or scrap material is to make sure that they are baby or child safe! Avoid toxic treated wood, and with nails or staples sticking out.

Step 4: Choose Your Figures

You'll want to choose your figures for your tiles so that they will meet some criteria:

  • You want figures that are appropriate for the childs age range- similar looking figures will make the game harder, more disparate figures will make the game harder.
  • You want figures with bold lines that will engrave well.
  • You want figures with the amount of detail that fits your creation time allotted- more detail will take much more time to make.
  • You may want to stick to a theme or a category.
  • You may want to stick to a cohesive style or technique for the artwork look.

I chose a "woodland creature" theme, and image-googled for "forest animal outline" to find images to use. I find that adding "vector", "outline" or "silhouette" to a google image search brings up designs that are more appropriate for engraving.

I wanted something simple because I wanted to get the project done in a relatively short period of time. After all, you need to make a number of these to have a good game!

Step 5: CNC Action

I used a small CNC router, but someone skillful could easily use a handheld router to replicate these tiles.

I use Easel from to create the gcode to send to the machine, and it has been very helpful. I have no background in this type of work, and so I find their simple interface to be the right level of convenience vs power for me.

Each tile takes about 5 minutes to engrave, but it takes some additional time to prepare the material. I set up a "jig" with clamps so I could place the tiles in the same spot. It is very helpful when you want to immediately rerun the same pattern for the second item in a pair. Unfortunately, the furniture samples I used were only mostly the same size so I had to adjust the jig a lot.

Step 6: Baby-safe Finishing

Though I liked the look of the square tiles with their crisp corners, that's not the best idea for an 8 month old baby. After all, not only is it possible for her to poke herself in the eye with one, it is pretty likely.

I tried to shave off all of the corners at once so that they would all be uniform, but that only worked in theory. Since the tiles were slightly different sizes, they ended up getting slightly different corners. Oh well- it'll be a few years before she is old enough to notice that and use it to find the pairs faster!

Step 7: Playtime

Looks like it was just too much work making these for her to play with them. Time for a nap instead.

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