Playing Games to Practice English

Who doesn’t love playing games?! Do you wish to learn English and play at the same time, Max-E Mates? Read the tips below and get ready to invite your friends and family members to play together.

Playing games adds excitement and fun to learning English and supports children’s holistic learning and development. Playing games may even change the attitudes of some children who find learning English difficult as it gives them a chance to win. In playing games, unlike in many other activities in English, success is not only measured by how well you can speak English.

Types of games
Games can be loosely grouped into:

  • starting games – quick games used to select one person for a leader or chaser
  • physical games that involve movement and space
  • card games
  • board games

Starting games

These are quick to organize and get a result. They may need no equipment and can be played almost anywhere. Rhyme games help with saying sounds and gaining fluency.

Rhyme starting games
Counting between two people or around the circle. One count to each word. The last person counted wins:
Red, white and blue.
All out but YOU!

Counting out around the circle using one count to each word. The last child counted is out and it begins again from the next person. The remaining person wins:
Acker backer soda cracker
Acker backer boo!
Acker backer soda cracker
Out goes you!

Alphabet starting games
Counting between two people or around the circle. One count to each word. The last person counted wins:
A E I O U You!
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U You are it.

Physical games

Simon says
Make sure your child knows the names of parts of the face and later the parts of the body.
You are Simon and give instructions. Your child has to listen and do exactly what ‘Simon says’.
1. If you say ‘Simon says touch your nose’, your child touches their nose.
2. If you say ‘Simon says don’t touch your mouth’, your child freezes where they are and does not touch their mouth.
3. If your child makes a mistake and touches their mouth, they lose one of their three points.
4. When they have lost all three points, they are out and the game finishes.

Where’s the bear?
Introduce a soft toy like a teddy bear or similar. Make sure your child knows ‘on’, ‘in’, ‘behind’ and the names of some furniture.
1. While your child shuts their eyes and you both count to five or ten, you hide the bear under a chair.
2. After counting, say ‘Open your eyes. Where’s the bear?’
3. You can then talk to your child as they look for the bear using words such as ‘on’, ‘under’ and ‘behind’ and name furniture in the room.
4. When the bear is found, you can swap roles.

Outdoor games

Farmer, farmer, can I cross the water?
1. Players ask this question while standing on a pretend river bank, wanting to cross the river to the other side.
2. The farmer replies ‘Yes, if you have got something yellow.’
3. Anyone with something yellow replies ‘Yes, I have got something yellow’ and walks across the river.
4. Anyone who has not got something of the right colour, races across trying not to be caught.
5. Anyone caught has to drop out and wait until the farmer has caught everyone.
6. The game restarts and each time the farmer selects another colour.
7. When everyone has been caught the farmer then selects the next farmer and the game restarts.

What’s the time Mr Wolf?
1. Mr Wolf stands in his house in a marked corner.
2. The players, who are sheep, approach Mr Wolf and ask him ‘What’s the time Mr Wolf?’
3. Mr Wolf replies ‘One o’clock.’
4. The sheep get a little closer to Mr Wolf’s house and ask again ‘What’s the time Mr Wolf?’
5. Mr Wolf replies ‘Two o’clock.’
6. The game continues until the sheep are quite close and then Mr Wolf replies ‘dinner time,’ and chases the sheep.
7. Any sheep caught stay in Mr Wolf’s house for one turn.

Card games

You can make cards for these games or you can download picture cards from the LearnEnglish Kids website.
I went on safari
Make 12 cards featuring animals you might see on safari – or any other animals.
1. Each person, in turn, has to say ‘I went on Safari and I saw [they turn over a card and say what is on the card] an elephant.’
2. They put the card, picture down, on another pile.
3. The next player says ‘I went on Safari and I saw an elephant and [turns a card and adds the name of the animal] a parrot.’
4. Each player, in turn, adds the name of an animal.
5. If they forget any of the animals in the list, they are out of the game.
6. If the list grows to more than 12 animals, the game begins again and anyone, who is already out, can re-join.

Memory game
Make 12 pairs of identical picture cards of the same items and place them face-down on a flat surface.
1. The first player turns over a card and says ‘a bus’, then turns a second card.
2. If it is the same they say and ‘a bus, two buses’ and keeps the two cards.
3. If the card is different they replace both cards from where they took them.
4. The aim is to find two cards (a pair) with the same picture.
5. When no more cards are left, count the pairs.
6. Add more items to these cards, once your child knows the names and plurals of the first 12 cards.
7. Later change the theme of the cards; for example, to clothing (a pair of socks, a red T-shirt, etc.).

Board games

Board games such as snakes and ladders or ludo are easy to make and provide lots of opportunities for sharing English together. You can make them to match your child’s ability and needs.

Are you ready to try each game, Max-E Mates? Challenge your friends and see how it is easy to improve your English with zero percent of feeling bored!

Adapted from: “Practical Tips” by Opal Dunn, Learn English British Council

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