What do board games have to do with language learning?
One of my kids’ favorite activities is to play a board game as a family: from Monopoly to dominó, Rack-o to Sorry. Playing board games lets us have fun as a family- but also we use it to practice our second language (Spanish). There are some board games that we love that can be manipulated a bit to play in Spanish, such as Pictionary, Taboo, and Scattegories. But here is a list of our favorite board games to play that encourage lots of communication and reinforcement of concepts, without the need to change anything or buy a “Spanish version.” Of course these board games work for any language you are working on!
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1. Tell Me a Story (by eboo, ages 3-8): Similar to the Story Cubes concept, but for a younger audience, this adorable game consists of beautifully illustrated cards with different scenes that players use to weave a story. A simple game with endless creative possibilities, you can play this at home or on the go, and engage the whole family in story-telling. SUCH a great game to practice speaking in any language!
2. Richard Scarry’s Busy Town (ages 3-8): Cooperative board games (where players work together to reach a goal) are becoming more popular for families, especially when the children are of different ages. In this game, you will work together to prevent the pigs from eating all of the picnic food by finding objects (on cards). We’ve told our kids that the game is in Spanish, and although there aren’t written words, they believe us and solve the problems in Spanish! My kids love the 6’ long board, and the little magnifying glasses you can use for the i-Spy aspect. This game is great for decreasing sibling rivalry, as everyone is on the same team.
3. Hi-Ho Cherry-O (ages 3+): This classic game, like Candyland or Chutes and Ladders, is perfect for pre-readers, who are learning to take turns and count. While the language used will be quite simple (numbers, and simple phrases like “te toca a ti Viviana”= “it’s your turn Vivi”), starting to play games with your children while they are young will build critical thinking skills, help kids to follow directions, play fair, and be graceful losers; and playing in another language will help them have fun while practicing the language!
4. Guess Who? (ages 5+): This game is perfect to practice asking questions about physical features, as you slowly eliminate characters to guess who’s card your opponent has. I have played not only with my kids, but my Spanish 1 students, and definitely my ESL (English as a Second Language) students! It’s a great game for non-native speakers to play with their children once you have the basic vocabulary.
5. Spot It (ages 6+): This face-paced game requires players to identify objects that are the same on pairs of cards. Of the 50 plus items in the game, there were several that I didn’t know in Spanish (such as snowflake and padlock), so both the kids and I were increasing our vocabulary. It is a really easy and fun game for families, and though it says 7+, my 5 year olds loved it too. Spot It, Jr. (ages 4+) contains animals, for additional vocabulary practice.
6. Rory’s Story Cubes (ages 6+): Guided story-telling, that gets your creative juices and language skills flowing as you try to incorporate all of the pictures on the dice in your story. The game box is the size of a deck of cards, perfect for taking it to play with on a trip! It’s easy, and enjoyable for all ages- and the kids also love when they get to listen to the adults’ stories. Sometimes we let the kids get together in teams to help them “warm up.”
7. Bananagrams (ages 6+, or any child that is beginning to spell): This banana full of letter tiles lends itself to multiple different games. While the idea is to quickly spell as many words as you can that connect like a crossword puzzle, we let our little kids just make words while we play. We have the English version, and have the kids spell in Spanish, but I did find a Spanish version on amazon if you’d like the additional tiles of rr, ll, and ñ. After playing a couple of times, I noticed a dramatic increase in their confidence of spelling in Spanish!
What are your favorite board games to play in Spanish- or any language? Which ones have I missed?