Seven language games for the language development of foreign-speaking and Dutch children. The power of language games lies in language fun; it is fun, challenging, and a great change from the more ‘school’ way of offering the language. A game contains many components that are different from ‘regular’ lessons or instruction and that appeal to children.

Games motivate, challenge and provide context

A game provides context. It’s not just another exercise but a context to engage with information. Another essential element in games is challenging. In challenges, you can beat each other or, on the contrary, help each other. Of course, it depends on your child’s competitiveness and what appeals to him the most.

Top 7 language games for language development

Why these games are in the top 7:

  • short, can always be done in between
  • easy
  • motivating
  • appropriate to the world of your child
  • few resources needed

1. Language games with toddlers: the parrot game

The parrot game can be played with young children or children with little Dutch command. You point to an object, animal, etc., and name the picture. Then the child has to repeat this by pointing to and naming the object or picture.

What children learn in this game is forming sounds and speaking intelligibly.

2. For all ages and levels, language game: “I see, I see… “

Example: ‘I see, I see what you don’t see….and you can comb your hair with it.’ Or more simply: ‘I see, I see what you don’t see….and it’s red.’ The child points and names the word. Have the objects ready, or do the game in the room where the objects are. You can, of course, use pictures or word cards (picture and word).

Another variation is to name the word and have your child point to it. This exercises your child’s passive and active vocabulary.

Word cards can easily be found via Google: “word cards ‘bathroom.'” An example can be found here.

3. Language games for non-native speakers – Singing is a godsend

Singing with gestures with many videos.

You can extract the most important words from the songs in advance and practice with them, so they know what the words mean. You can offer the words using pictures, word cards, or toys.

For example, in the song “A friend in the house,”: a dog, a bird, a fish, a mouse, the people, a pet in the house, a hamster, a kitten, a rat, a rabbit, be happy, have a pet, have a friend, alone, never.

Word cards can easily be found via Google: “Word cards “pets”. An example can be found here.

Then sing together and try the gestures along. If your child finds it difficult, you can also stop after each sung sentence or stanza and repeat it together.

Variation: Repeating the song and asking the children to stand/sit/jump when they hear the word “…..

4. Language games for preschoolers: songs with letters

Sing a letter song, for example, to the tune of Say do you know the clam man. An example is: ‘Say do you know the letter g, the letter g, the letter g? Say, do you know the letter g, from green and yellow and joke?’

As you do this, have children make up new words. For example, ‘of good, grass and lucky.’ And, then, sing the song again.

5. Coloring a talking picture

You can print out talking pictures and use them as ‘coloring pictures’. Instead of pointing out “all the children playing” or “pictures that start with a b-sound,” instruct your child to color them in on the plate. Your child is thus practicing passive and active vocabulary and naming the world around him. You can find talking pictures for different ages and language levels in several places.

You can find all kinds of themes and levels on language cachet’s Pinterest account.

Talking pictures for preschoolers, you can find them through this link.

On the Pinterest account of NT2 – talking pictures and comic strips.

6. Language game word snake

In a word game, all words are spelled with alphabet letters. Each subsequent word begins with the last letter of the previous word. Children must, of course, master the knowledge of the letters and have a sufficient vocabulary.

Or online: Choose your child’s level and play this fun game together first.

7. Word sums

You start the word sums with existing words, foot + ball = soccer: you can write the words, say them, draw them, or show the objects. More difficult is to do word sums and make up a whole new word with the words together! Children can be very creative and come up with the most beautiful solutions.

Here are a few examples of “new” words:

sjaal + jas = sjas
broodje + hagelslag = bragelslag
snel + fietsen = snietsen
gefeliciteerd + taart = gefelicitaart

This is also fun to do with older children. You can try adding your first name to your last name or your name to your friend’s name. If you found a really good word, you could picture it in very lovely letters (graphite), and you immediately have a nice “username” to go with it. Remembering certain things can also be useful; Tdonderdag + zwemmen = zwomderdag en vrijdag + gym = vrymdag.

Educational online language games

There’s a lot to be found online. The favorite in Dutch for Children’s classes is Games Square.

Want even more input into the Dutch language for your kids or advice on immersing them more at home?

Then contact us with no obligation, and we’ll give you advice (at no cost or obligation). Email me or get in touch via our contact page.

Warm regards,
Wendy van Dalen (director and teacher)