Vocabulary Learning Games

Learning vocabulary is a crucial for all areas of academic development and social interactions. For some children, it happens easily and for MANY children, learning vocabulary can be a struggle. Learning vocabulary the right way is even harder!

However, I believe children's plate are already too full with homework, intensive sports, and more! I don't want to add more to their over-scheduled lives. Instead, I adapted common, FUN board games to target vocabulary development too!

Friday night family time can be language-rich and fun at the same time! The board games listed below are both fun to play and are full of language learning opportunities. What could be easier than that?!

The games vary greatly on age and skill level. Some can be played with children as young as 3 years old. Some require reading skills.

But BEFORE I get to the games, I want to review proper vocabulary learning. That is why you are here after all....to get a professional's 2 cents :)

Vocabulary Learning Overview

For children over 5 years of age, a complete vocabulary definition must include:

  1.  Category 
  2.  Function
  3.  Association
  4.  Description

AND how does it relate to other words?

  1.  Antonyms - opposites
  2.  Synonyms - alike words
  3. Similarities and Differences - How is it the same?  How is it different?

For more details check out: vocabulary learning.

Vocabulary Learning Games

Hedbanz: If I could only have one game in my speech therapy closet, this would be it! Hands down. Kids and professionals LOVE this game for many reasons. One, it is a motivating social skills game. Two, it is an easy way to work on forming questions. Three, it covers all aspects of vocabulary ranging from category, function, use, description, and location. 

How to play: For older children, I follow the rules. Each person has to ask questions in order to guess what card is on their head. I usually provide a cheat sheet to remind my students to ask about categories (is it an animal?), function (does it fly?), location (do you see it in a zoo?), description (is it furry?). For my younger children, I give clues. It is a food, you eat it for breakfast, it is yellow, etc...I then have my students give ME clues. 

Apples to Apples is another go-to game for my language delayed students. This game makes working on similarities, differences, and relating new vocabulary words together FUN. Genius! 

How to play:One person is the "judge." The "judge" turns over a green card. The other players have to find a "red" card in their hand that goes with the green card. The "judge" decides which "red" card best matches. At first, we play the game literally. After vocabularies start to improve, we play a silly version. The silly version demonstrates mastery.

Apples to Apples Junior is for younger children. The vocabulary is more appropriate. I have both versions and use both depending on my student's vocabulary levels.

Rory's Story Cubes: I don't actually have this game yet, but I am intrigued. It is hard to find a good story grammar game that has visuals! From what I gather, Rory's Story Cubes has dice that a child rolls or each child takes a turn rolling. The image dictates the next part of an oral story. This game can work on working memory, listening skills, story grammar, narrative structure, and vocabulary. I think I will pick one up for myself and let you know how it goes!

Taboo: As an adult, I LOVE Taboo. This game is a good investment since adults and children can play. With my children who might have word-finding or expressive language delays, I let them use the clues on the card. It gives them a good starting block and helps them retrieve other vocabulary words needed to describe the vocabulary item. You must be able to read to play this game. I recommend it for 1st grade or older.

Zingo: This game is targeted for younger children. I have used it as young as 3 years old to work on naming and vocabulary. Children love it, mostly for the magical tile dispenser. For older children, I recommended Zingo Sight words.

Bilingual Zingo: For all of my bilingual families out there. I will need the Spanish/English version very soon!

Is your child too young for these games? Don't worry!

Check out vocabulary learning games for toddlers.

Bridget is an ASHA certified, practicing speech language pathologist. She is passionate about providing parents with information on child speech and language development as well as provide functional, easy activities to do at home! Parents have the power to make a real difference. Follow Bridget at Facebook and Pinterest for more fun!

Author of  child language development eBook series

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