By: Megan Van Laar, M.A., CCC-SLP
I rarely played games growing up (having no siblings, it was a little difficult) so it took me a long time to appreciate board games. However, my husband grew up in a family of 5, so game night was a regular occurrence at his house. Now that he and his siblings are all grown up and have significant others, our group is even larger when we gather for the holidays. And even though everybody groans when my mother-in-law suggests a game, the challenge, friendly competition, and guaranteed laughter leads to a fun-filled evening.
Family game night is a wonderful tradition to start with your young children if you haven’t already. Not only is it a great opportunity to create memories and spend time together (not staring at a screen), but it also can promote essential language and social skills that children need to be successful in school and beyond.
Here are 8 family-friendly games that are tons of fun and help with language development:
Catchphrase (age 8+) **Vocabulary, Word Retrieval, Categorization, Synonyms**
This is fun, fast-paced game where players describe a secret word (without saying it!) so that other players guess it. The small, electronic device is passed between players as they try to beat the timer. A DIY version of this game can also be whipped up by visiting thegamegal.com who has put together a word generator for games just like Catchphrase. You can have players get words straight from this website, or you can gather words in advance, write them on separate pieces of paper, and put them in a bowl. Players can take turns drawing a word from the pile.
Guess Who? (age 5-15) **Formulating Questions, Turn Taking, Similarities and Differences **
There all kinds of versions of this game, from the classic people, to Finding Dory characters, to Disney princesses. Each player chooses a secret character from their own board and takes turns asking each other yes/no questions about characteristics in order to narrow down the choices and guess the other person’s secret character first.
Headbanz (age 8-12) **Formulating Questions, Vocabulary, Categorization, Memory, Describing Details**
Surprise! This game has some new updates as well (superheroes, Pokemon, Shopkins, Disney, etc.). Who knew? Kids love playing this game because everybody gets to look silly with a headband on their heads. Each player draws a card with a food/person/animal/item and, without looking at it, places it in their headband so all other players can see it. Players must ask questions about the picture on their card, remember the answers, and use this knowledge to guess what they are.
Tapple (age 8+) **Vocabulary, Beginning Sound Knowledge, Categorization, Word Retrieval**
Letters of the alphabet are printed on buttons on this game. A card is drawn to determine a category (pizza toppings, animals, etc.). Players must quickly think of something to fit the category that begins with one of the letters. Shout it out, push down the corresponding letter, and tap the middle button to restart the 10-second timer. As the letter choices diminish, the task becomes harder. If you can’t beat the timer, you are out. The last player remaining wins the round!
Rory’s Story Cubes (age 8+) **Sentence Structure, Sequencing, Vocabulary, Articulation, Plurals, Auditory Comprehension, Language Memory**
As you can see above, this game targets a ton of great speech and language skills (and probably more that I didn’t list). The story cubes get your creative juices flowing! Players take turns rolling the dice, which are covered in different pictures. Based on the pictures that land facing up, the player must tell a story. The player telling the story increases their expressive language skills, while the other players work on their ability to understand what they hear and remember details. Be ready- the stories are bound to get silly!
In the original version of this game, a dice is rolled to reveal a letter of the alphabet. All players have a list of of categories (food, famous person, movie title, etc.) and must try to write down something that starts with the letter to fit each category. The goal is to be as creative as possible- if someone else wrote down the same word as you, both of you must cross it out! The player with the highest number of original answers wins the round. In the card game version, there are two piles of cards. The top card of each pile is flipped over, one with a letter and the other with a category. The first person to slap the ‘I Know’ card and call out something that starts with the letter and fits the category gets to keep the card. Whoever has the most cards at the end of the game, wins!
Blurt (age 7+) **Vocabulary, Word Retrieval, Turn Taking**
Players take turns rolling the dice to reveal a number. The dealer reads a clue (a definition of a word) from the clue card that corresponds to the number. The first player to correctly guess the correct word gets to move the number on the dice. The clue cards have two sides, one of which has more basic words and other has more challenging words.
Quiddler (age 8+) **Vocabulary, Spelling Skills, Phonological Processing**
I saved this one for last because it is a favorite in our family. This game consists of a deck of cards that have letters on them. For the first round, each player is dealt 3 cards, for the second, 4 cards, all the way up to 10 cards. Players must create words from the cards in their hand. Extra points if you can create the longest word or the most words! There is also a junior version, which is recommended for ages 6 and up.
There you have it! 8 super fun games for your family to enjoy during this holiday season or anytime that also have the bonus of being educational. But you don’t have to tell the kids 😉
BONUS!! Here are two other blog posts that I discovered that have additional games for speech, language, reading, and social skills. This post on Engaged Family Gaming gives an excellent and comprehensive list of games and how your unique learner (visual, auditory, kinesthetic) can interact with them. This post on Playing With Words 365 is a great list compiled by another pediatric speech language pathologist for younger kiddos aged 3-6.
One of our awesome Learning Specialists just posted a great blog post on games that are helpful for all learning skills. You will see that some of our suggestions overlap. That just goes to show that learning can be fun! Read her post here.
Megan is a Speech-Language Pathologist at Enrichment Therapy and Learning Center. ETLC has locations in the Iowa City, IA area and Des Moines, IA area. We provide individual speech language therapy and tutoring as well as offer a unique group, the Language Enrichment Academic Program (LEAP). At Enrichment Therapy and Learning Center our passion is to help kids achieve effective communication skills and gain academic success. Contact us for more information on how we can help your child succeed.
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