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Why "Game Night" is so Important for Building Your Child's Language Skills




If being in quarantine has taught us one thing, it's that family-time is crucial to your child's development. Now more than ever, I have parents contacting me wanting to know what they can do with their children at home during quarantine- as many typical family-fun activities remain closed (movies, parks, etc).


The first thing I always suggest to my patients is to host a family game night at home. And I'm not talking games that involve an iPad or Xbox- I'm talking about old school board games (and I remind my families of this too!). So many kiddos these days are glued to their screens and are losing out on so many great skills old fashioned board games can teach them.


The typical response that I get is, "But we don't even own board games, what do you suggest?" and my suggestion to parents is always to think about the age of their child and what skills are age appropriate for them at that age.


Here is a list of my favorite board games I usually give to parents and also use in therapy to address a variety of skills:


** Almost all board games teach children the skills of turn taking and patience. If this is something your child struggles with, I would start working on these skills first and then build up their tolerance to completing a full game. It's okay if they can only tolerate 2 minutes of a game- set a timer, play the game, and when the timer goes off allow them to be finished. This skill will gradually increase over time, if you make game night a habit in your home.


** Another great skill all board games address is conversation! When your child is glued to an iPad screen, they are not practicing any conversational or social skills. Playing board games with peers and/or family members provides the opportunity for children to talk about the game, what is happening, sharing feelings, requesting a turn, the list goes on.


Early Elementary:


Candyland: An absolute must have in any home or therapy room. Candyland addresses so many great basic skills like color identification and naming, counting, and matching. You can take Candyland up a notch by talking about the different parts of Candyland on your way to Candy Castle- how is it different then where your gingerbread man just came from? What treats does that town have? Etc.


Sneaky Snacky Squirrel: Another great game for color identification/naming, matching, and counting. This game also teaches the skills of losing your turn and having to put pieces back (which some kiddos cannot tolerate). It also comes with a squirrel that you use to pick up the acorn pieces- great for fine motor skills!


Pop the Pig: A therapy favorite! Again focuses more on colors and counting. This game is also great for increasing sentence length ("eat"-"pig eat"- "pig eat burger") and talking about different verbs during the game such as eat, feed, press, grow, etc. This is also a great game for waiting and patience, as his belly becomes bigger- kids love anxiously waiting for his belly to POP!


KerPlunk: I LOVED this game as a child and have had it in my therapy room for a long time. This game is perfect for turn taking and using words like "pull", "fall", "in", "out". Kids love pulling the sticks out to see if the marbles are going to fall. It's also great to work on concepts like "more" or "less".



Upper Elementary:


Jenga: This is such a great game is you ever want to work on multiple trials of something. I always suggest to parents, who are working with their child on speech sounds, to use Jenga at home. Every time your child pulls a piece out, they say a word with their target sound. If your child isn't working on sounds, Jenga is a really great game for turn taking and problem solving. I've found that kiddos who are too young still don't have the ability to realize if they pull a certain block out the tower will fall. Jenga can also be used as just a simple building block game with younger children and having them request different pieces, etc.


Trouble: A kid favorite to play with peers or siblings! Trouble is extremely fast paced and kids love hitting the middle bubble to roll the dice (sometimes a little too hard!). Trouble is great for turn taking and really doesn't require a lot of problem solving to play. The first player to get all of their colors at their home base wins and kids love to race around the board and get their pieces home first.


Uno: Another favorite in therapy and also with the families I work with! This a great game for a group of people and works on those higher level skills of having to match either the color or number of the previous card put down. There is also strategy to Uno in that you want to be the one who puts down all of your cards first. It's a great game for kids to learn to problem solve and what they could have done differently. ** My family had Uno Attack growing up and we loved when the machine would spit cards out at us! I highly recommend that version to make your Uno game more exciting. **



Looking back at my childhood, "game night" was always something I enjoyed and more importantly remember, even now (and still do when with family!). It is so crucial to incorporate hands-on learning to your child's daily schedule- as it works the brain in so many ways technology can't. Board games promote and build so many great skills your child will benefit from as they continue to grow such as: basic concepts, problem solving, turn-taking, increasing sentence length, conversational skills, and so much more!


Spending time with family (technology not included) is so important and allows your child to converse with you and other family members, laugh together, and most importantly make memories-there really isn't anything better than quality family-time.


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