Playing games can be a wonderful way to reinforce language learning – introducing new (or reinforcing recently learned) vocabulary, following instructions for new games, and practising the language of social conventions, like turn taking. Here are five simple games to play with toddlers and preschoolers to get their brains thinking and their ears and mouths working!
1. Treasure Bag
There are a few different ways to play with a treasure bag. Firstly, collect a range of common household objects (comb, spoon, block, cup, etc). Place one item in a cloth bag and ask your child to put their hand in to feel the item and describe what it feels like (texture, shape, etc). Let them take a guess at what it might be before taking the object out and checking if they are right.
Another way to play with a treasure bag which is great for preschoolers is to place a range of small items representing common physical attributes like round, soft, hard, square, triangular, rough, etc) into the bag all together. Have your child pop their hand in to try and find something rough or something round. Have them pull out one item and talk about the features of the object and what it is, “Look you found a golf ball and it IS round. How does it feel?”
2. Memory Tray
Place 4 familiar household items onto a tray. Tell your child to have a close look at the items and ask him/her to name them and tell you what they are used for. Cover the items with a tea towel. Ask your child to close their eyes and then remove one item from under the cloth. Ask them to open their eyes, remove the cloth and tell you What’s Missing! Repeat for the other items.
To make this game trickier for older children, increase the number of items on the tray. As a variation, school aged children could be challenged to write or draw as many of the items as they remember once the tray is covered.
3. Simon Says
Great for practising listening and following instructions, to play Simon Says tell your child that any of the following instructions that you give which begin with “Simon says…” they are to do. If you don’t say “Simon says” then they are not to complete the instruction. Give an instructions such as “Simon says put your hands on your shoulders.” Continue mixing up “Simon says…” commands with those without the preface of “Simon says.” If your child completes an action when you don’t say Simon says then it is time to change spots and give them a turn at giving instructions!
4. Making a Match
Make a collection of objects of the same type (for example, buttons) with pairs of the same buttons within the collection (two red square buttons, two green round buttons, two large gold buttons, etc). Place all of the objects within a jar, basket or similar container and encourage your child to sort the items, ask questions as he/she works about why two items match. Other simple matching collections can be easily made from;
- Fabric swatches
- Scrapbooking paper or wrapping paper squares
- Lengths of coloured wool, twine, string and ribbon
- Small household items such as coins, keys, paper clips, matchsticks, etc – anything small that you have two of!
5. Odd One Out
This game is fun for preschoolers. Collect groups of four objects, three of which are the same and one which is different. For example, three animal figurines and one person figurine or three square blocks one one round block. Ask your child to identify which object doesn’t match the group and why it doesn’t match. Start with very obvious differences (like three red megablocks and one green) and make the differences more subtle (three sedans and one ute toy cars) as your child gets the idea.
Do you have any games that you like to play with your child which encourage their use of language?