A rich vocabulary is one of the hallmarks of a child that is fluent in a language. Having a developed vocabulary can boost self-confidence and creativity of expression. Not to mention it definitely helps with school work.
In this article, I discuss 5 English vocabulary games that you should start playing with your child.
Boggle is a word formation game where a player has to form as many words as possible in a given jumble of letters. You can choose to buy the Boggle game itself or you can find multitudes of online versions that you can use. If you are not familiar with this game, I will describe it briefly.
Each boggle game comes with several cubes with letters on them and a tiled surface where these cubes will be randomly displayed in a 4 by 4 surface. So, in a particular round, you may see something like this.
The objective now is to form as many words (with at least three letters) as possible using this grid of letters within a certain time limit. When forming a word, you have to follow an unbroken line from the first letter to the last without treading back. Here are some good examples from the grid above.
Here are some illegitimate words.
This game not only allows your child to exercise her grasp of vocabulary, it also develops your child’s observational skills.
2. Crossword Puzzles
Crossword puzzles can be found everywhere from newspapers to online sources. Some can be a bit too difficult for your child. This means that you need to be careful about which ones you choose. You may also have to help your child extensively.
I suggest keeping a thesaurus, dictionary or search engine available when doing such puzzles. This is so that you can look up any words that your child is unfamiliar with. With time and practice, this will develop your child’s vocabulary and general knowledge.
Just as importantly, this will make your child an independent learner who is able to seek out the information that she needs in order to help herself. This is a skill that goes beyond being good at vocabulary or even the English language.
3. 20 Questions
20 Questions is a guessing game where one person has to think of an object and the other has to ask a series of questions in order to figure out what the object is. The maximum number of questions that you can ask before you have to figure out what the object is is 20. You can make this game more challenging by limiting the number of questions to 10 or lower.
This game is excellent for thinking about the various properties of an object such as its physical properties (shape, color, weight, taste, location etc.), its function (who uses it, what is it used for etc.).
Scrabble is the word building game par excellence. If the adult version is too intimidating, you can buy the kids’ version.
You can also choose to play without the board as a simple word forming exercise. In this variant, forgo the points and the board. Just distribute about 10 tiles to each kid and try to form as many words as possible with the tiles they have. This variant should be played with young children for whom the points may be too complicated to consider.
Charades is a guessing game like 20 Questions but this time the word has to be acted out. Form two teams with at least 2 members per team. One child then has to act out a particular clue and the other members of the child’s team then have to guess what the word is. See how many you can get per round.
If you have trouble coming up with words for this game, you can use this word list created by me.
Share with me in the comments what other games you use to build your child's vocabulary!
There are many games out there that you can use to entertain groups of young children. Many of them are also useful for improving kids’ speaking ability in terms of clarity, precision and richness. In this list, I discuss five speaking games/ activities that you can do with a group of children. These are great for entertaining at a party or if you just happen to be babysitting a bunch of kids.
The game Taboo, even in its unmodified version, is a great game for children to practice their speaking ability. The objective of this game is to have one person describing an object/ event that is indicated on a card and his or her team mates will then have to guess what the object/ event is. Each team has 60 seconds to get as many words correct and each correct guess is worth 1 point. The team with the higher points when the cards run out wins.
Note: I would strongly recommend that you go through the list of cards and pre-select the cards to be used based on appropriateness and difficulty level.
See also an adaptation of this game.
2. Picture Describer
We often take for granted how difficult it is to speak clearly and communicate our ideas. This game will emphasize this point. You will first need to come up with some sheets of papers with some variety of geometric shapes on them. The images can be in black and white. Two examples are shown below.
In the example on the right, two circles and two rectangles are arranged roughly in the configuration of a face. On the left, the general shape is human-like. You can adjust the difficulty of the images you come with depending on the age of the kids you will be playing this game with.
The next step is to choose one person as the drawer while the others in the group act as describers. The describers will be given the picture while the drawer will not be able to see it. The drawer will have a blank piece of paper, a pencil and an eraser.
The describers will then have to use just their words to describe the image to the drawer who will then have to replicate the picture as close as possible on his/ her piece of paper. This may sound like a simple task, but trust me, it is much harder than it appears. In my experience as a corporate trainer, I can tell you that even adults did not fair too well in the beginning in this game. This game forces you to use very precise language, something that we are usually not accustomed to.
You can feel free to include non-geometric shapes in the image if you are working with older kids. This will really ramp up the challenge.
Be sure to rotate among the kids so that everyone will have a chance to be the drawer. This, of course, means you need to prepare sufficient pictures before-hand.
3. Telephone Game
This is a pass-the-message type game where you organize the kids in a line. The objective is to pass a message from one end of the line to the other end.
First, come up with a humorous sentence and whisper it to a child at one end of the line. The child then has to whisper the message to the next kid in line. Make sure the other kids cannot hear this. This goes on until the message reaches the kid at the other end of the line. This kid then says the message out loud which will invariably have become garbled.
Sit back and enjoy while the kids try to figure out why the message became different from what it is supposed to be.
4. Werewolf - The Game
This is a really fun party game but requires 6 or more children to be really fun. Ideally, the kids should be at least 11 onwards. In this game, the children sit around in a circle and role play a village where there are werewolves hidden among the villagers. These werewolves are slowly picking off villagers one at a time and the objective of the game is different depending on whether you are a wolf or a villager. The objective of the villagers is to find all the werewolves before all the villagers are killed. The objective for the werewolves is to kill all the villagers before all the werewolves are found.
The speaking aspect of this game comes in when the children have to discuss who they suspect is the werewolf and try to weed them out. The fun really begins when the werewolves (who are disguised as villagers) get in on the action and try to get some innocent villager killed.
There are many online resources that can give you the detailed rule list for this game and variations thereof. I found this variant here which is suitable for younger participants. You do not have to buy anything to play this game but you will have to make your own role cards which are very simple. Simply write as many ‘villager’ or ‘werewolf’ cards as you will need for the group you are working with. In many variants, you will also see a ‘seer’ role. You can temporarily exclude this role when you are playing this game for the first time.
5. Three-headed monster describer
If you have seen the game show called ‘Chain Reaction’ and are familiar with the bonus round, then you know how to play this game. I have linked a Youtube video here in case you are not.
In this game, one person has to guess what a hidden word is based on descriptions given by the others, but there is a catch! The other two or three members in the group have to take turns forming a sentence describing the object one word at a time. The following example should illustrate.
Suppose the object to be guessed is ‘Ball’. Kid 1, 2 and 3 are the many heads of the monster that has to describe this object to kid 4 who obviously does not know what the object. A sample description would look like this.
Kid 1: What
Kid 3: do
Kid 1: you
Kid 2: play
Kid 3: soccer
Kid 1: with?
Kid 4 has to now make a guess and if she guesses ball, then the team gets one point.
Preparation for this game is quite easy. All you will need is a set of objects written down in individual cards. In fact, if you have the game Taboo (described above) you can even use the cards from that game.
This list is not exhaustive and I hope this gives you some ideas of what you can do at a party to entertain groups of young children.
Hope you enjoyed this list and let me know in the comments other games that also help with the English speaking skills.
Lists of recommended books, games and toys to help with your child's English language fluency.