I play a lot of verbal games with my girls, especially when we are travelling or waiting at appointments. Verbal games are great for developing speaking and listening skills, vocabulary, thinking and reasoning abilities and even social skills, such as turn taking. And the bonus is that we need nothing but our brains and our voices to play them!
Today I am sharing 12 fun verbal literacy games that we enjoy. Some of the easier ones are suitable for play with children from around 3 1/2 years of age, others are better suited for kindergarten through school aged children.
12 Verbal Literacy Games for Speaking, Listening & Thinking
1. How many? This simple game started when Immy was about three years of age and fascinated by animals but it can easily be adapted to other themes. I would start by asking a question about a specific attribute (see some examples below) and she would call out as many responses as she could think of;
- How many animals can you name that hatch from eggs as babies?
- How many animals can you name that have patterns on their bodies?
- How many animals can you name that eat leaves?
- How many insects can you name that have six legs?
- How many vehicles can you name with four wheels?
- How many things can you name that are cone shaped?
2. I’m thinking of…: A simplified version of 20 questions, and somewhat easier than I Spy when on the move in the car, we start this game with a single object in mind and the phrase, “I am thinking of something ….,” and then name a feature or attribute of the object or thing. So it might begin, “I am thinking of something that is blue.” The other players are welcome to make a guess or ask for another clue and we go back and forth between clues and guesses until they work out the correct answer.
3. Who Am I?: We started playing this game when Immy was four and play it in much the same way as we do game #2 but focus on a storybook or movie character instead of an object.
4. I Went to Market: The aim of this game is to remember as many of the items in the shopping basket as possible. The first player begins by saying, “I went to market and bought a ___,” adding an item they would buy. For example, “I went to market and bought a bag of potatoes.” The next player in line continues with, “I went to market and bought (insert the name of the first player’s item) and a ___ (adding a new item purchased).” For example, “I went to market and bought a bag of potatoes and a candy bar.”
Player three adds to the chain of shopping items, “I went to market and bought a bag of potatoes, a candy bar and a newspaper.” Players continue to take turns. Any player who makes a mistake is eliminated until only one winner is left.
5. What’s better: This fast paced game simply asks kids about their preferences between two things –
“What’s better – banana or apple?”
“What’s better – banana or cheese?”
“What’s better – cheese or chocolate?”
“What’s better – chocolate or ice cream?”
Of course, you don’t have to choose food – books, TV shows, superheroes, sports – anything is fair game. Debates about different choices that children make provide lots of insight into their individual personalities and preferences.
6. Odd One Out: Begin by naming three items – two that are connected in some way and one that is not (you can make this as easy or as hard as you wish, depending upon the age and interests of your children) and ask your children to choose the odd one out. For example with “train, bus, hair” it is easy to identify the odd one out. “Platypus, cobra, horse” is more challenging. “Chop, chicken, ship” focuses the game on identifying different sounds. “21, 63, 78” turns it into a math challenge.
7. Secret Message: This well known game is best played with a group of children from kindergarten age upwards. Everyone sits in a line or circle and the first person whispers a short message to the next person in line, with the message then being passed from person to person in whispers along the line or around the circle. The last person announces the message they have heard to the whole group and everyone has a good laugh at how the message had invariably changed as it has been passed along.
8. Silly songs: Younger children love to listen to silly nursery rhymes created by altering the rhyming words of familiar nursery rhymes. For example,
“Twinkle twinkle little bat,
How I wonder where you’re at”
“Baa baa black sheep , have you any eggs?
No sir, no sir, But I have some pegs.”
Spotting the funny rhyme is fun for little ones whilst older children (5 years+) will enjoy making the rhymes with you.
9. Tongue twisters: Make up your own funny tongue twisters by choosing a letter or sound and working together to make a sentence with as many words beginning with the chosen sound as possible.
10. Rhyming tennis: Players agree on a rhyming family – say ‘at’ as in hat – and take turns, back and forth, each saying a new word that fits the family.
11. Sound tennis: Players agree on an initial sound or blend, say ‘P,’ and then take turns back and forth, each saying a new word that begins with that sound, until the round comes to a finish when one player cannot think of a new word beginning with the nominated sound. We allow the other player, the ‘winner,’ to choose the new sound for the next round.
12. Alphabet chain: Choose a category and take turns naming an item that fits the category following the sequence oaf letters of the alphabet. So the first person chooses a word starting with a, the second person a word beginning with b, the third person with c, etc. The category can be anything at all – animals, countries, names, superpowers, etc.
I would love to add to our game collection. What verbal games do you enjoy with your children?