Let’s Play! Board Games for Preschoolers

Just as children age and develop their speech and language skills, the board games they play will also continue to progress and increase in complexity. Board games that are appropriate for preschoolers therefore provide additional speech and language targets that were not available in early board games.

In early board games, the most common concepts that are emphasized are basic colors and numbers. However, in age-appropriate games for toddlers, main concepts will be more advanced – focusing on advanced colors, counting, shapes, and vocabulary. Likewise, game sequences will be more complex, requiring additional steps, and increased attention and frustration tolerance. For example, there may be a memory component within the game sequence or several options on which a player could act upon. Read on for my favorite board games for preschoolers and communication targets within each game.

Best board games for preschoolers and potential communication targets within each game:

  1.  Zingo – Zingo is one of the most popular games among my preschool and elementary clients. Zingo provides a multitude of opportunities to target a variety of speech and language skills. As zingowith any game, children can practice peer interactions – turn taking and asking questions (e.g., “Do you need a cat?”). Due to the variety of picture chips, children can work to increase their vocabulary and semantic networks, labeling pictures or answering WH- (what, where, when, who) questions regarding each picture (e.g., “What says woof?” or “Where do you live?”). Children can also work on following two step directions (e.g., “First put on the tree, then put on bird”)
  2.  Candy Land – Candy Land is a great next step when increasing the complexity of a game’s play sequence from early board games. Rather than just moving one space forward, a child has to findcandyland the next available corresponding color. The complexity increases if a child draws a double card or a specific land card. Candy Land also requires color identification skills, turn taking abilities and frustration tolerance as a player can move backwards and forwards.
  3. S’Match – S’Match offers a spin on your traditional memory game. A player spins the game board, identifying one of three categories: shape, number or color. The player then has to find 2 cards thatsmatch share the chosen characteristic. This game challenges a child’s ability to identify and distinguish between the three attributes (shape, number, color), finding cards that are the same or different. Players will exercise their memory skills as they try to find matches.
  4.  Sandwich Stacking Game – The Sandwich Stacking Game has the ability to be played in a variety of ways, allowing for flexibility in how it is used. Vocabulary can be targeted through board games for preschoolersidentifying the various food items or a child’s sequencing skills (i.e., having the child follow the picture card instructions to build a sandwich). This game is also perfect to target a child’s direction following game (e.g., “First get the piece of bread”, “Before you get the tomato, put on the lettuce). Providing directions verbally will also exercise a child’s auditory memory in a fun way.

NSPT offers speech and language services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

games to promote social language

Games That Encourage The Social Use Of Language

As the English poet John Donne once wrote, “No man is an island,” and there is perhaps no place that this is truer than in the midst of an uninhibited child. When it comes to infants, toddlers, and children, social skills may be overlooked in greater anticipation of word production, following directions, and academic success. However, engaging with peers provides children a myriad of opportunities to build receptive, expressive, and pragmatic (social) language.

The use of social language, or pragmatic language, includes the following 3 domains:

  • Using language for different purposesgames to promote social language
  • Modifying language
  • Following rules for conversation

Some purposes of language include telling, requesting, and greeting (I have a ball/I want a ball/hello). Modifying language includes being able to change the message depending on who the communication partner is and where the conversation is taking place. For example, children greet their grandparents differently than they greet their friends. Rules of conversation include maintaining eye contact, taking turns in conversation, repairing communication breakdowns, using gestures and facial expressions, and maintaining a topic.

Here are some games that encourage social language and interaction with peers:

Games for younger children:

  • Pat-a-cake
  • Singing songs that include gestures (Wheels on the Bus, Itsy Bitsy Spider, Row Row Row your Boat, etc.)
  • Peek-a-boo
  • Duck Duck Goose

Games for school-aged children:

  • Go Fish
  • Zingo
  • Candyland
  • Chutes and Ladders
  • Tag

Encourage turn taking, requesting, asking questions, repairing communication break downs, and eye contact during play of these games.

Time spent with peers gives children the opportunity to utilize language in a social way. Other children can be great models of language and social skills. Your child will receive real-world practice with skills such as sharing, being flexible, compromising, taking turns, recognizing others’ opinions and feelings, and expressing their own thoughts and ideas.

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NSPT offers speech and language services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

Social Language Use (Pragmatics). Retrieved from