Games to use at home, school, or anywhere you want to practice language skills!
Ready to encourage your language learner to speak more in the target language? These fun games will help provide a time to practice speaking – in any language! What’s more, these easy games can be squeezed into any quick window in your day. Play one in the car, during lunch, or out on a family hike.
Why word games? Playing word games like these lets your child enjoy the target language! Language learning shouldn’t be about verb conjugations or memorizing vocabulary. It should be about fun and meaningful interaction with other people! We want kids to have a positive view of the language.
Speaking games also encourage our children to become active bilinguals – who can speak their target language. On the other hand, passive bilinguals are people who can understand but struggle to speak the minority language. It’s important to be intentional about providing speaking practice.
These games give your child the opportunity to develop both receptive (listening) and productive (speaking) language skills! But did you know language games like these also help lay a foundation for learning to read? You’ll weave in rhyming practice and build your child’s vocabulary as you play!
Related post: 7 Strategies to Get Your Child to Speak The Minority Language
I’ve used these engaging word games with my Spanish and English language learners at school as well as my own three children at home. Some are more suited for younger children practicing rhymes or animal names, and some would be better for children with advanced language skills. Remember to pick a game that will match your child’s language abilities. Enjoy!
I Spy / Veo Veo
In this classic game, one player picks an object in the room and the other player guesses what it is. Someone starts by saying “Veo, veo…” (I see, I see…). The other player says “¿Qué ves?” (What do you see?). Then the first person might say “Veo, veo, algo verde” (I spy something green). The other player might ask “¿Es grande?” (Is it big?) or “¿Es redondo? (Is it round?). Try to use colors, shapes, and sizes!
In English, we say “I spy with my little eye…” There are many variations of the game. You might say “I spy with my litle eye… something green.” You could also say something that starts with the letter ‘t’, something round, etc.
Have you played this easy game? One person is the leader and the other players follow their instructions. When the leader says, “Simon says…” before a request, the players complete the action. For example, “Simon says touch your head.” “Simon says hop on one foot”, or “Simon says stand up.” But when the leader leaves off “Simon says,” players stay still and don’t complete the action! Don’t hop on that foot if Simon didn’t say to!
My kids and I love playing this language game in the car! First, we pick a category like animals or people. One player picks the secret answer in their head (e.g. a zebra for animals or a grandparent for people). The other players ask up to 20 yes or no questions to try to figure out the secret answer. So much vocabulary to practice here! For animals, we might ask “Is it a mammal?” or “Can it swim?” The object of the game is to be able to correctly guess the secret answer!
If you have Alexa or Google Home, ask it to play 20 Questions with you!
Make a Rhyme
For young learners, practicing rhyming words is an important phonemic awareness activity. This simply means that the child is learning that words are made up of different parts, and they can manipulate the sounds to make different words. We used to play this game when I pushed my kids in the stroller on a walk. You say three rhyming words and the child repeats them and adds one more. The parent or teacher says “Sun, one, fun…” And the child says “Sun, one, fun… RUN!” In Spanish, I might say “Sol, rol, col…” and the child adds “gol!” Feel free to use made up words as long as they rhyme.
When I was a child, we called this game Hangman. Now I call it Diego Disappears or Diego Desapareció. To play, one person picks a word, thinks about how it’s spelled, and draws a dash under where each letter will go. Next, they draw a stick person to represent Diego. The other player(s) try to guess the word one letter at a time. If the word contains the guessed letter, player one writes it on the correct line. If it doesn’t contain that letter, player one erases a part of Diego’s stick body. The guessing players try to correctly guess the word before Diego disappears!
This fun game can be played a few ways. My favorite is the easiest way – just pick a category and see how many words you can come up with to fit the category! For example, my kids and I might pick Reptiles for our category. Then we take turns (go in a circle if you’d like) naming reptiles in the target language. To make it more competitive, time yourselves for one minute and see how many you can get. Some category ideas for you (this is a great one for a variety of different vocabulary levels): shapes, animals, colors, dairy products, sports, or countries where your language is spoken.
Finish My Pattern
Here is another one for young students! My preschooler adores this game right now. Similar to Make a Rhyme, the leader starts with a pattern, and the child finishes it. This game lends itself well to practicing preschool concepts like numbers, shapes, and colors. The teacher could start with, “Red, red, blue… red, red…” (an AAB pattern) and the students will finish with “BLUE!” Or, in Spanish, we could say “Círculo, cuadrado, triángulo… círculo, cuadrado…” [circle, square, triangle] (an ABC pattern). The child finishes the pattern with “Triángulo!”
Two Truths and a Lie
Two Truths and a Lie is an exciting one for older students. Each player thinks of three statements about themselves. Two must be true statements, and the third a lie. Going around in a circle, each player tells their three statements. The other players must use the target language to guess which one is the lie. Here’s an example: “I’ve traveled to Mexico. I have two brothers. My favorite sport is volleyball.” This is a great language practice game that also helps students get to know each other!
I’m guessing you’ve played charades before! My own kids love playing animal charades at home. Why not use this game for language practice? To play, we like to designate a category. Pick something the kids already know or need to practice in terms of vocabulary. Some category ideas might be animals, sports, movies, books, or famous people. One player picks a word in that category to pantomime. When they act it out (no talking!), the other players try to guess the word. The first player who guesses it correctly gets a point. Set a number of points (like five) to win the game.
You can find many free printable charades cards online. Look for some with words in your target language (or pictures only). Try these free printable cards in English (from Happy Mom Hacks). Or these printable cards in Spanish (from Spanish Playground).
This is one of my favorites to get kids laughing and having fun! In this game, you work together as a team to create a story. Each person takes a turn adding on the next part to the story. One person starts by telling at least one sentence. It can be about anything they’d like! “Once there were two silly sisters who lived in a forest with their dragon.” The next player listens and then continues the story with another sentence. You can set your own rules about how much each person adds – one sentence, a minute of talking, or however it works best for you! If your kids are like mine, you’re going to end up with one crazy story!
Finally, Secret Word is a more challenging game for learners who already have good speaking skills. Here’s how I’ve played it before: the leader gives the first player a topic and a secret word. It’s most fun if they are unrelated. The player must speak in the target language for 30 seconds to one minute about the topic, somehow including the secret word. Then, the other players take turns guessing which was the secret word. Here’s an example: I might tell my son to talk about the beach (the topic), and his secret word is mittens (the secret word).
Try a new language game today!
I hope that these fun word game ideas will get you and your family or class speaking in the target language! Which one do your kids like best? I’d truly love to hear! Let me know if you try them out and how it goes. You can find me on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter.
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