“Children learn as they play. Most importantly, in play children learn how to learn.”
-O. Fred Donaldson
Games are great for many basic aspects of communication like turn taking, joint attention, following directions, gaining attention, eye contact, and simply interacting with others instead of playing next to them. Plus, they are memory makers and are great for conversations for years to come.
(not 'gold fish')
If you have any matching cards, 'Go Fish' is a great 'Go To' for speech and language fun!
There are many different types of cards to choose from - upper and lower case letters, shapes, colors, tv and movie characters... and my favorite - action scenes. With any of these, you can add your own twist by describing what you are looking for (It's the color of bananas. vs Yellow; It's the first letter of your name. vs N.) With the action cards, kids can practice picture description and you can work on telling who is in the picture and what they are doing. Later children can "grow their sentences" by adding where or when the action is happening. Also, you can specify that you have to tell about the picture like it happened 'last week' or 'yesterday' to target those tricky past tense verbs.
Number cards are my least favorite, but even with those, you can practice any sound by changing the 'Go Fish' response to something like: Grab it from the Rabbit, Reach iin the Rabbit Hole, Look in the Book, Look on the Line, Look in the Lion's den, See if the Snake has it, Take it from the Top... You can draw a rabbit, line, or whatever to put the cards on, stick them in a book, or put them under a stuffed animal - use your imagination and let your kids use theirs! Changing the game up a bit helps children learn to be flexible and it's fun to see who remembers the twist and who does not - it's not often who you would think.
I am not really even sure if I know exactly how this is supposed to be played, but I think that about every family has their own rules. If you are playing this, or any other game, with someone you haven't played with before, make sure you agree on the rules before you start playing. Quickly eviewing rules before a game will prevent meltdowns during the game no matter how often you have played together in the past.
In speech therapy at Midway, we play it like this: Take turns thinking of something to describe. I don't limit it to something in the room, but you may want to do that or choose a category like animals or things you can eat. For kids who have a hard time coming up wiith an idea or sticking with it, I let them choose from some picture cards. Objects are the easiest, while actions and ideas are trickier.
Describe your choice by saying, "I'm thinking of something that..." (oh yeah... hear all of those great 'th' sounds?) and then tell about your choice without telling what it is. This can be a little challenging for some, but it's good practice for describing and defining, which are great skills to have when you can't remember the name of something or when you get into the upper grades and have to define and describe vocabulary words.
The little ones may not get it at first, but they get exposure and learn by listening to your models. For older children, I try to get them to give the main category first and then add a couple of details. It's often a challenge for them to give meaningful details. I cannot count the times that someone has started their description of an animal by saying something like, "It eats food. It has a tail..." It's all part of the journey. Just re-direct by saying something like, "OK... but what makes it different than all of the other animals? What is special about the one you chose?"
Who am I?
Another describing game where you take turns describing yourself as if you were... an animal, a character from a movie or book, etc... The beauty of this is that you can select the group or let the kids take turns choosing. Personally, I always exclude video game characters because I don't know any of them except Mario and Luigi and it's frustrating for the kids (ok... and me) plus who comes up with those names anyway? They are super hard to pronounce!
Descriptions can include habitat, food preferences, activities... I live in the jungle or the zoo, I like to eat bananas, I swing from trees...
It's a super fun game and you don't need any materials! Also, in six or seven years, you can tease your nine year old about how he chose 'a monkey' every game for a year and never understood why everyone guessed his animal before he started describing it!
Scavenger hunts are a great way to work on listening or reading comprehension (depending on the age of the child), following directions, and looking for hidden things - a trifecta of amazing skills parents want their kids to improve on!
Make up some clues that lead the child from one area to another to find another clue and eventually to a treasure. The treasure doesn't have to be huge... it could be a snack, another game, or a Face Time chat with Grandma or Grandpa.
You don't even have to knock yourself out trying to invent clever rhyming clues anymore - you can google 'scavenger hunt ideas' and you can easily find someone who needs less sleep than you that has already done it and is willing to share.
I haven't quite figured out how to organize this as I add more content, but I will keep working on it, so keep checking back!