Can English games be played by Spanish children and their non-English speaking parents? The answer is “yes”! From playing “snap” with picture cards, to outdoor games such as British Bulldog, there is no reason to be language-shy when having fun!
Games for infants
“I spy” – I play a bilingual version of “I spy” where I say “Veo, veo the door” and the children have to shout “puerta”. This basic game helps with vocabulary recognition. With children who have a more advanced understanding of English, the game can be played the other way around – “I spy la puerta”, to which they have to find the English equivalent.
“hot and cold” – this simple game has children looking for an item that has been hidden in the room. When they get close to where the item has been hidden you let them know by saying “hot, hot, hot” and when they are far away then you repeat “cold, cold, cold”. Once they have got the hang of the game more vocabulary can be introduced like “closer”, “up”, “down”, “underneath” etc.
Games for primary-age children
“Chinese whispers” – this is a fun game to play with a group of primary-aged children. Get the group to sit in a circle. You whisper a simple sentence in the ear of the child nearest to you (“Today is Monday”) and then that child whispers what she heard to the person sitting next to her and so forth until the whispered sentence returns to you. The likelihood is that you will hear something rather different to the original phrase!
“Mr Crocodile” – have the children stand in line and ask them to take one step forward if they can answer Mr Crocodile’s question correctly. Then stand ten paces in front of the children and ask them to repeat “Mr Crocodile, Mr Crocodile, can I cross your river?” to which you reply saying “Only if you are wearing something red/blue/stripy/spotty/etc.”. The first one to reach you is the winner. Other versions of the game have all the children wearing “red” walk towards you and those not wearing red running as quickly as possible to avoid being caught by “the crocodile” (you). Any child you catch is out of the game. The last child to survive is the winner and becomes the next Mr Crocodile.
appropriately named considering the webpage that hosts this blog (!), the acronym KIM stands for “Keep in Memory”. The two most popular KIM games I play with children are the Scouts version or the Spot the difference version.
a) “Scouts KIM game”: Children playing this game must be able to read and write. I set out several items on a table and cover them with a cloth. I then usually show flash cards which include all the items on the table plus a few more similar things (it could be fruit, shapes, tools, toys, – whatever vocabulary the children are learning at the time). Once I am sure the children know all the words, I then uncover the cloth for 30 seconds so that the children can see what is on the table. Once the items have been covered again I ask them to write down what they saw. Ideally the children will write their list in English but if it comes out in Spanish that is OK as long as the rest of the group help them remember what the item remembered is called in English. The child who remembers the most items in English is the overall winner, but other winners include the child who remembered the most items (even if they write the list in Spanish) and the child who helps his classmates remember the names in English.
b) “Spot the difference KIM game”: Here I ask the children to spend a few minutes looking around the room we are in. I then ask them to leave the room for a couple of minutes. I rearrange the room (and sometimes change something about myself too – take my glasses off or put a cardigan on) and ask them to come back in the room. From youngest to oldest I ask them to spot one difference at a time.
Quite a few board games can easily be used to practice English at home. I have found dominoes, Snakes & Ladders and ludo excellent for practicing counting in English; whilst “Who’s Who” and “Operation” are always fun to play, especially when your children are learning the parts of the body at school. The KIM games and the “hot and cold” game can be adapted for one-to-one use too.
I recently signed up to the mailing list of homeenglishteacher.com and I really can’t recommend it highly enough. The author shares my opinion that it doesn’t matter if you speak to your child in English with an accent – who cares? As long as you and your child can speak good, proper and correct English, the accent really isn’t such a big deal. Go on, what are you waiting for?
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