Games are an excellent way to target MANY language skills. The bonus is kids often don’t realize they are even practicing anything. That’s the secret of many therapists! Here are some ways that you can target speech and language skills while playing any game.
Articulation/Speech Sounds: Pick 1 or 2 sounds your child is working on to target while playing (for this example /k/). When the child is talking, listen to how they are making these sounds. If they make a mistake, have them correct the sounds. You could prompt them by saying the following: Oh I heard Tan I have a tard, let’s try can and card again with your good /k/ sound. Another prompt could be: Is it tan or can?
- Sequencing: talk about whose turn it is now, whose turn is next, who already went, etc.
- Location words: talk about where the person moved, are they going forward, backward, up the ladder, down the slide, you landed on this space, you jumped over me, etc.
- Vocabulary: Different games will use a different set of vocabulary. Talk about colors, numbers, game characters, places in the game (Ex. Candyland- you are moving to Grandma Nut’s house), and so much more! Again, each game has a different opportunity to target vocabulary so play often and switch up the games!
- Asking and answering questions: How many did you get, Where did you land? Who is that, How many more to win, Who is in front of you, Who is behind you, Who is in the lead right now, Who is last right now, etc.
- Verb Tenses: Games give a good opportunity to practice making complete sentences. You could target past, present, and future tenses in your sentences. For example, I moved 5 spaces, I am moving 5 spaces, I will move 5 spaces. I jumped over you, I am jumping over you, I will jump over you.
- Possessives: When asking the question Who’s turn is it you could get a variety of responses such as:
- Mine, yours, his, hers, ours (if playing on a team)
- Have the child turn it into a sentence: It is my turn, it is your turn, it is his turn, etc.
- It is Johnny’s turn, It is Sarah’s turn, etc.
- Taking turns: Some kids have a hard time realizing that they have to take turns. Games are a natural way to practice this skill.
- Good sportsmanship: Model being a good sport and practicing congratulating others when they win and comforting others when they lose. (Congratulations, good game, better luck next time, it doesn’t matter who wins because we all had fun, etc.)
- Using social language- You can practice asking for things the child needs to take their turn. Instead of handing them the dice, pretend you don’t realize they need it. Force them to ask for what they need. Can I have the dice please, I need another card, Can you help me, etc.
- Commenting: Each game will have different things to comment on. Many of my students like games where unexpected things happen. In Pop the Pig you don’t know when the pig will “pop” so they often talk about that while playing and say things like: Ahh you’re going to win, It’s going to pop, oh man I don’t get any burgers, etc.
- Emotions: Some games elicit suspense like my Pop the Pig example. Some kids get scared when they don’t know what will happen, some get excited to see the action. You can talk about whatever emotions your child is feeling. If they have a hard time losing, this could be a natural way to talk it through and label the feeling for them and talk about how they can deal with that emotion. For example, It looks like you’re sad (or angry, upset, frustrated) that you lost. It’s ok to feel a little sad but sometimes we win and sometimes we don’t. What can we do to help you feel better? Let’s try taking a deep breath to feel better. You can model strategies for feeling calm.
Fluency: If your child stutters and has learned some strategies to produce more fluent speech, you could try to practice these strategies while playing the game. An easy one to practice is using slower speech. When it is the child’s turn, have them use a pacing board by pointing to each circle and say a simple sentence. It could be: it is my turn. Just practice using slower, more relaxed speech to decrease stuttering. You can print pacing boards by searching the web or make one at home by drawing 5 or 6 shapes or using stickers on a piece of paper.
Great Board Games for Therapy:
- Chutes and Ladders
- Guess Who
- Guess Where
- Pop the Pig
- Greedy Granny
- Don’t Break the Ice
- Apples to Apples Jr.
- Ned’s Head
- Go Fish
- Spot It
- Shark Bite
- Pop Up Pirate
- Sneaky Snacky Squirrel