There are numerous ways games (particularly board games) can be used during speech therapy to work on speech and language skills. I have worked in settings that are highly structured - like an ABA model, as well as less structured - such as child-centered/play-based. In both, games have proven to be one of my go-tos when it comes to materials for treatment because of their ability to be used for a variety of goals. Not only for therapy, these games are also great to have around the house and play with at home! (Parents) you may already even have a few…
Additionally, board games facilitate play skills; one of the most important aspects of early developing language. For example, when children play or observe play, they are using/absorbing some of the earliest signs of turn-taking; something important for generalizing into conversational interactions. Play also elicits additional forms of non-verbal language such as eye contact and imitation. Think about various components of non-verbal language used to simply pass a doll from one child to another - joint attending, orienting to play partner, initiating gesture(s), etc. Higher level play skills, like when one begins engaging in structured board games, require these skills, and even more language-based demands like sequencing, completing a task, following multi-step directions, and reasoning (to name a few).
It should also be noted that just because one game falls within one category, it does not mean that it cannot be targeted in another speech or language area! I certainly use a combination of these games for a variety of speech and language skills (e.g., I use Jenga to target SO many skill areas - social skills, WH questions, spatial concepts, etc.). Once you become more familiar with a game and it’s setup, you’ll also be able to make your own assessments as to the additional language concepts you can target.
We would highly recommend having a few of these on hand as quick therapy go-tos. Another plus to board games, ALL games target following directions and attending - skills that are important to generalize at any age. Our TOP games include:
Speech Therapy Games for Turn Taking (beginner level)
Pop the Pig - Ages 4+ (2-6 players); players take turns rolling a die and feeding the pig burgers. Don’t let him pop! Promotes color awareness and counting.
Pop-up Pirate - Ages 4+ (2-4 players); players take turns inserting different color swords into the barrel. Suspenseful for kids and doesn’t require batteries!
Speech Therapy Games for Articulation
Chutes and Ladders - Ages 3+ (2-4 players); a quick back-and-forth game that allows time for articulation drills in between turns. I LOVE working on this game for gliding to target the /l/ sound.
CandyLand - Ages 3+ (2-4 players); one of the most classic and easy to learn games. Depending on the sound, I will pair specific sounds with certain colors so the child has to say the sound they see on the selected card. Sometimes I will even paste sounds to the tiles on the game board!
*Combo buy - these two can be purchased together
Speech Therapy Games for Matching/Sequencing
Pancake Pile-Up - Ages 3+ (single to teams); stack the different flavored pancakes to match the cards. I often play this game to target sequencing/following directions one-on-one (love easily modified games!)
Zingo - Ages 4+ (2-6 players); just like BINGO! Match the chips to the corresponding word/picture on the Zingo card. Also targets sight words for early readers.
Speech Therapy Games for Inferencing
Guess Who - Ages 6+ (2 players); provide a list of various questions to select from (if prompts are needed) or practice generating questions independently
Hedbanz - Ages 7+ (2-4 players); use deductive reasoning to guess the animal, food, or object illustrated on each player's Hedbanz card; works on category skills too! Hedbanz Junior also available (5+)
Speech Therapy Games for Categorical Concepts (comparing & contrasting)
Pickles to Penguins - Ages 8+ (2 or more players); semantic mapping or “word linking” card game. Find similarities between the items found on each card and get rid of all of your cards to win. Can also be modified as a compare and contrast activity or for sorting items into categories.
5 Second Rule - Ages 10+ (3 or more players); you have 5 seconds to name 3 things that “go” with the topic. I usually use this game to work on naming skills/generating categorically-related lists; simplify and use your own timer (10/20/30 seconds).
Speech Therapy Games for Pragmatic Language (Social Skills)
Jenga - Ages 6+ (2 or more players); I have my own Jenga set with written “get to know you” questions on each piece that each player can alternate asking their partner(s) once it’s their turn. Can also write topic ideas (e.g., pets) to generate one of your own questions!
Sorry - Ages 6+ (2-4 players) a lot of unexpected outcomes can come from this game, so I like to use it when targeting flexible thinking and sportsmanlike behaviors and comments. A classic and quick to learn!
Speech Therapy Games for Many Skills
Rory’s Story Cubes - a totally versatile game that I recommend for home as much (if not more) than for therapy. Target sequencing, attending, developing narratives, expanding sentence structure, using transition words, and more!
Connect 4 - another classic on the list! Connect Four is simple to learn and is appropriate for pretty much all ages (I guess that’s why you see the jumbo versions in social settings now!). I’ve used this game to target skill areas like articulation, turn taking, visual scanning, patterns, and prepositions.
Note: Before purchasing any of the following games, please read all instructions carefully and determine if it is safe and appropriate for the child/population you are playing with.
Hope you have enjoyed some of our favorite games that we use (some pretty much daily) in therapy. We encourage that this resource be shared for home use as well - I had no idea how many ways that the games I had in my cupboard growing up could be incidentally used to target play skills, speech, and language development.
If you have any additional game-related questions or would like to share some of your favorites to our other readers - feel free to instagram DM us at @communicationcommunity and we will share your suggestion in our next story!