Do you remember the last time you played a game for the first time? You likely had to read the directions, look at all the game pieces, explain the game to your friends, and play a trial round or two. Imagine trying to learn a new game as a child with language deficits! Although simple in nature, some of the games on the market have a lot of pieces and they all have their own set of rules. This can quickly turn playing a new game into a tricky situation! Here are some tips for introducing and playing new games with kiddos who have language deficits:
1. Choose games that have few pieces
The fewer the pieces to manipulate, the fewer distractions! This will make it easier for your kiddo to focus on learning the rules of the game. Some examples of games with few game pieces include Chutes and Ladders and Candyland. Games such as Sneaky Snacky Squirrel and Hi-Ho Cherry-O! are great for some kids, but they also have a lot of small pieces that can make the game challenging when first learning to play.
2. Select games that don’t have many rules, and introduce them gradually
Fewer rules means fewer pieces of information that your child needs to understand and remember. Stick to the basics at the beginning. The first time you play a new game with your kiddo, focus on spinning the spinner/rolling the dice, figuring out the result of the spin or roll, and waiting his/her turn. As your kiddo gets the hang of the game, maybe you can introduce the rules such as skipping a turn, having to put pieces back, and returning to the start.
3. Modify games as necessary
If you see a problem when playing the game, fix it! A great example of this is using fewer cards to play a game of Memory than what come in the game. A game of Memory played with ALL of the cards would be confusing for anyone! If your kiddo has a hard time spinning the spinner only once, you hold the spinner. If your kiddo wants to pick 10 cards instead of 1, you hold the pile!
4. Use simple language
Keeping your language simple allows your kiddo to better understand the rules of the game and ultimately have greater success playing the game. For example, rather than saying ‘You need to wait your turn, and then you can roll the dice and maybe you’ll get purple or blue!’, try saying, ‘Wait your turn and then roll the dice’, or ‘First wait, then roll’. Less is more!
Hopefully these tips will create a fun experience for everyone playing the game!