The Tray Game is a memory game which children really enjoy, especially if you make the objects on the tray interesting. It was definitely one of my favourites as a child, and my kids loved it too. We have two variations below.
Find a selection of interesting small objects and arrange them on a tray, which you should keep covered with a tea-towel until you are ready to play the game. Vary the number of objects according to the ages of your children. Give each child a pencil and paper and ask them to write their name at the top.
Uncover the tray and place it where all children can see it. Give the children a certain amount of time to memorize the contents of the tray, then cover it up again.
Ask the children to write down all of the objects that they can remember.
Take the tray away and remove one or two objects. Replace it and ask the children to write down the objects which are missing.
Variation 3 (Christmas):
Use Christmas objects on your tray - for example, a bauble, a mince pie, a bow, a tiny parcel, a candy cane, etc)
One of the objects on the tray could double up as a prize for the winner.
Vary the objects according to the abilities of the children. Older children might be given some tiny objects such as a pin or a paper clip; younger children will remember better if they are given larger, brighter objects.
You can give the children hints on how to remember the objects, such as memorizing their position relative to other objects ("the pin is next to a needle and both are found in a sewing basket"), looking at their initial letters ("there are 4 objects on the tray beginning with the letter p and 2 with the letter m") and so on.
Be aware that some children have much more developed memory skills than others, so don't be surprised if you have a clear winner and also be prepared to award some extra prizes, such as a prize for the neatest list.