Many parents remember struggling with analogies when studying for college entrance exams. Now they’ve seeped down to standardized tests at the elementary school level. Analogies don't have to be a headache. Especially if you introduce them  early and make them fun!

Analogies are a wonderful way to assess a child’s knowledge of word meanings and relationships. Start by comparing words. You can say, for example, "Up is to down (Aha! They’re opposites) as over is to ____" and ask your child to supply the missing word. The fancy way to write this, which you'll use later, looks like this: up : down :: over : under.

Okay, so now you've got your feet wet. If you're ready to move on, here’s a game that will help kids master analogies. And the good news for you is that you can make it in advance. Here's how:

Using index cards write down about five complete analogies, leaving generous spaces between the words. An example: football: field :: swimming: pool. Cut the analogies up into separate words and put them into a box. Shake the box. With eyes closed, the first player takes a card out and lays it on the table in front of him. The next player does the same.

The goal is to make a complete analogy that works. After three rounds, if he draws one he can’t use he may return it to the box for a new card, or her can negotiate a trade with the other players. That’s his turn. When a player has all four cards lined up to make an analogy and can say it aloud, he scores a point and gets another turn.

The following will give you ideas for analogies from the simple to the advanced:

  • Synonyms: elated : happy :: wealthy : rich
  • Relationships: salt : mine :: marble : quarry
  • Part-whole: battery : flashlight :: engine : car
  • Numerical: 2 : 10 :: 5 : 25
  • Cause and effect: fatigue : yawning :: itching : scratching
  • Person to situation: parent : home :: teacher : school
  • Geography: Chicago : Illinois :: Denver : Colorado
  • Measurement: pound : kilogram :: quart : liter
  • Time: March : spring :: December : winter

Analogies need to be reviewed periodically for short spurts of time. They can be done anywhere, anytime and are perfect for those empty “waiting” minutes at the grocery store or the dentist. Before long you’ll discover your kids thinking of a few analogies that may even stump you.