Liggend doos met spellen

Foreign speakers children in your group? Get them talking with these 10 games


Suppose your school takes in a group of Ukrainian refugee children and you teach them 1 day a week. The children are quiet, shy, talk little. You start looking for ways to get them talking. A teacher asked me for game tips for younger children and children of upper school age.

I put together a box for him with 10 games that provoke language. They are 10 games that trigger talking, for example by naming colours, shapes, prepositions or discussing pictures. By playing, the ‘heaviness’ of having to speak (properly) goes off, which actually gives room to start talking. As that teacher said later: How well that worked! Sentences came out that I couldn’t manage last week.

Kaarten Get Packing wegversie

1. Get Packing

Age: from 6 years
For: 2 – 4 players (can also be played solo)
Time: from 15 minutes

While you are puzzling, this game offers lots of clues for language. The task for each player is always the same: pack some items and make sure you can close your suitcase. What do you pack? The green slipper, the red beach ball, the yellow hat.

So you name the items and immediately add an adjective. Furthermore, the tasks are ordered by holiday destination and you can point out different countries on the map.

I was allowed to try out this game at a primary school and saw how fanatically the children played it. Even solo, they enjoyed it!

See the detailed review here. 

2. Oertaal (primordial language)

Age: from 7 years
For: 2 players or 2 teams
Time: from 15 minutes

Only briefly in my possession, but already had a lot of fun with it. You can play Primal Language on three levels (easy, step harder and expert). The idea is that one player gives the other player building instructions. To do this, you first put down cards with drawings: on the stone / next to the stone etc. Then put cards underneath with phrases from the primal language: brrr / vroek!

You make the second-language variant for this by replacing the cards with primal language with words from the target language: on / next to / green / red.

The prerequisite for playing this game is that children can read and pronounce simple Dutch words. Because the game has three levels, you can easily build it up and adapt it to the level of the pupils.

Oertaal voorkant doos

3. Drop it

Age: from 8 years
For: 2 – 4 players (or teams)
Time: from 15 minutes

A game from my collection that I am very excited about! Indeed, the game principle is very simple, but scoring points requires thinking.

Again, a puzzle game where you can name all kinds of things: colour, shape, up, down, fall, roll, etc. Each player gets their own colour of playing pieces. In turn, someone gets to throw a playing piece down the shaft and gets points for it.

If the next player then throws a shape into the shaft, everything can move again. Furthermore, you may never put same colour on same colour and same shape on same shape. Plenty to talk about!

If you want to know more about this game, read the review here.

4. Ghost Blitz

Age: from 6 years
For: 2 – 8 players (or a group)
Time: from 5 minutes

Is the grey mouse on the table? Or the red chair! Fluent Ghosts is the well-known thinking and grabbing game where you have to grab the right game piece from the table in no time.

There is a simple variant of the game where you have to take the object that is on the card. In the more difficult variant, on the contrary, you have to take the object that is not on the card in the colour that is not on the card. What, yes, a lot harder!

For Learning with Games magazine, publisher 999 Games provided a life-size Ghost Blitz, so you can also use it as moving learning: run to the object that is not on the map.

Vlotte Geesten kaarten en spelstukken
TOP-tot-TEEN overzicht van een aantal kaarten

5. TOP-tot-TOE moving game

Age: from 8 years
For: 2 – 4 players (or teams)
Time: from 15 minutes

Nice moves: arms up, nose to touch. The TOP-to-TOE movement game contains different game modes. For example, the movement sequence where you start with two movements and then add one more each time. Can you perform the whole sequence? In a fixed rhythm?

Not only do you then engage in (psycho)motor movement, you also name all kinds of parts of the body. Plus the verbs associated with moving: jumping, swinging, clapping.

In Learning with Games magazine Leren, the publisher tells you all about the game and you can download two free maps to try out.

6. Brainstorm

Age: from 12 years
For: 2-10 players (or teams)
Time: from 10 minutes

Brainstorm contains 120 cards with pictures. Per round, you put 9 cards face-up on the table. Who can be the first to combine two cards into a new word?

If you want to make the game a bit easier, you can also focus on just naming the cards: what do you see? And perhaps select some cards in advance, so you have cards around a particular theme.

Brainstorm gives you a source of illustrations that can be used in many ways for language learners. In this overview you will find more great game tips for (regular) language lessons.

Brainstorm voorkant doos

7. Li-la-laut

Age: from 5 years
For: 2 – 6 players (or teams)
Time: from 10 minutes

Speaking loudly, whispering, something in between loud and soft, in this game you are constantly using your voice. With the loudness of your voice, you indicate how far away the object is from the fox.

And of course, again you can use the cards with illustrations to start a conversation. About tasty ice creams, for example, or a blue umbrella. You can read the detailed review here.

8. The seasons

Age: from 3 years
For: 1 – 4 players
Time: 20/30 minutes

What a beautifully designed game this is! The pictures seem to come straight out of a storybook. Not only can you practice using the words for seasons, you can also start conversations about warm clothes, playing outside in autumn, etc.

You will find three game modes in the rules, including a solo mode. Read the in-depth review here.

Drie kaarten van Muisgeflipt. Een muis en een oranje tas en groene handschoenen

9. Muisgeflipt

Age: from 4 years
For: 2 – 6 players
Time: from 15 minutes

In this card game, you pair mice with garments. Each player gets a number of cards with garments. Then you turn over a mouse from the pile in the middle of the table. If that mouse is wearing a piece of clothing that you have in your hand, you put the card on the mouse as quickly as possible. Whoever does this first, has caught the mouse and earns a point.

You can make the game a little more difficult by bringing cheeses into play. You then turn over a cheese tile next to the pile of mice on the table. If that cheese is also on the card with the mouse that you turn over, then that mouse is protected and you may not catch it. Read more on the publisher’s site or watch this short video.

10. Picture Party

Age: from 14 years (but younger is possible)
For: 3-10 players
Time: about 30 minutes

Teenagers, prepubescents and even children from grade 7 onwards love to share with each other how they do or do not stand out. In Picture Party, you get a quantity of photos that can be used separately for conversations anyway.

Each round, you turn over a picture and all players secretly bet on who they think that picture best suits: who is fashion-conscious? Who is the biggest slob? Who likes good food? Then everyone turns over the cards and both the person who was voted for the most gets a point and everyone who voted for that person.

In my experience, every flipped picture gives food for thought. This game makes everyone chatter! Read the review here.

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