You play games with your child simply for the fun and enjoyment of it right? Well, that doesn’t have to be their sole purpose. Many of the games you already play with your child can be slightly adapted to develop language, speech and communication skills as well!
Whatever game you do play, it will always involve turn taking. This is an important social skill that children are expected to develop around school age. This skill is crucial for your child to form friendships and cooperate with others. Make sure to talk to your child about the importance of taking turns when playing a game, and praise them when they display it.
Below are some ideas for games you can set up for your child.
Twister is an interactive way to develop your child’s vocabulary, including colours, right/left, body parts (e.g. hand, foot) and prepositions (e.g. below, above). It is also a fun way to have your child practise following instructions, which is important for preschool and school.
Choosing words and challenging your child to say them backwards is a fun way to develop their pre-literacy skills. This requires them to have a representation of the word in their mind, and then manipulate and re-order the sounds in the word.
Guess Who is another fantastic game for developing vocabulary, including adjectives associated with; colour (e.g. brown), body parts (e.g. head), objects (e.g. glasses), shape (e.g. long) and size (e.g. small). Guess Who also gives your child the opportunity to practise asking questions, which is an important grammatical form for children to develop in order to clarify their understanding e.g. “What are we having for lunch?”. It is also important for social situations, as part of being able to maintain a conversation e.g. “What did you do at the zoo?”. Your child’s problem solving skills will also be developed, as they have to narrow their questions to identify your selected character.
You can find many examples of tongue twisters online. Some examples include; ‘She sells sea shells by the sea shore” and “Peter picked a pair of pickled peppers” As the name implies, tongue twisters are a fun and comical way to strengthen your child’s tongue muscles for speech.
Puzzles are great for developing what is called “executive function” (higher level cognitive skills such as visuo-spatial skills and organisation). When making a puzzle together, encourage your child to use prepositions e.g. “Does that piece go below that one?” and counting e.g. “That was our fourth piece”.
Playing eye spy will develop your child’s pre-literacy skills, in particular letter knowledge, by challenging them to identify the first letter of a word they are thinking of.
Memory card game
A memory card game is an effective way to develop your child’s short term memory skills, through having to remember where certain cards were placed. If a child is trying to decide on the second card to pick up, have them use prepositions to describe where they think the matching card is e.g. “I think it is 2 cards below this card”. When you pick up a card, use it as an opportunity to encourage your child to describe the picture, and use their descriptive vocabulary.
Pick an easy word to rhyme and say words that rhyme with it, back and forth to each other e.g. cat-mat-bat-hat etc. The challenge is to see who can make the most rhyming words. Rhyme is an important pre-cursor for reading and writing.
Begin the game by saying “On the weekend I bought a… e.g. hat”. Your child then has to add an object- “On the weekend I bought a hat and a… e.g. ball”. You then go back and forth, adding more and more objects. The aim of the game is to try and remember all of the objects. Your child will not only be encouraged to use lots of object based vocabulary, but will also develop their short term memory skills.
Articulate for kids
By having your child describe a concept or object through words alone, you are encouraging them to develop their vocabulary. It is also getting them to practise producing sentences of increasing length, which will be expected of them in primary school.
The Pokemon Go craze is well and truly about! Not to worry, there are ways in which this game can be made more educational. Stand away from your child and when they see a pokemon, have them describe its location to you. This will develop their use of prepositions e.g. “in front of the tree”. Don’t let them catch the pokemon until you have identified where the pokemon is, based on their description. Also have them describe the appearance of the pokemon to you, as part of developing their descriptive vocabulary e.g. “It is orange, is small and has a smooth head”.
Start by naming a word beginning with ‘a’. Continue back and forth with your child, naming words beginning with each of the letters in alphabet. This will develop your child’s pre-literacy skills, in particular their letter knowledge. You can make the game more challenging by narrowing the task to a category e.g. animals.
While games such these are fun and beneficial for your child, if you have any concerns regarding your child, please refer them to a qualified Speech Pathologist such as A/Prof Jenny Harasty for a communication assessment.
Amelia Laurendet (Student Speech Pathologist)