In today's hurried society, educators and parents sometimes forget the importance of play. Playing with children helps strengthen adults' relationship with them. When children play with peers they practice important social and linguistic skills. Play can also be a form of expression. Pediatric specialist Dr. Kenneth Ginsburg notes in his 2007 publication "The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bonds" that children may express their "views, experiences, and even frustrations through play." Games that emphasize talking can help children increase their verbal communication skills.
Gossip games are talking games that demonstrate how stories change from person to person. One popular gossip game is Telephone. Telephone requires 10 to 30 students. Have children sit in a circle. Whisper one sentence to the student to your left. That student will then whisper the sentence to the student to his left and so on. By the time the message gets back to you, it will probably bear little resemblance to the original sentence. For a smaller group of children, play Rooms, a variation where children must walk to a different room in the building to take the message to the next student.
Give students a mystery to solve together. Brain teasers, also called lateral thinking puzzles, promote deductive reasoning and creative inquiry. Students take turns asking questions that can be answered with "yes" or "no" to gain clues about the mystery. Eventually student learn enough about the situation to solve the puzzle.
For younger students or nonnative English speakers, a simple variation called the Food Game works best. Have students ask "yes" or "no" questions to figure out which food you're thinking of. Questions like "Is it a fruit?" and "Is it red?" will eventually lead students to discover that the food you have in mind is an apple.
Guess the Word
Split the group into two. At the beginning of each round, teams choose a representative to describe a particular word and get their team to guess it within two minutes. Whichever team has the most points after a set number of rounds wins the game. Before the game, write down a number of words on index card. Beneath the word, write four words commonly associated with the top word. For "apple," the words beneath could be "fruit," "red," "seed" and "crunchy." Students must describe the top word without using the forbidden words underneath. This game expands children's use of adjectives and nouns.
Two Truths and a Lie
This game works well as an ice-breaker or first day of school activity because children get to share something about themselves. In Two Truths and a Lie, each child takes turns making three statements about herself. Everyone else in the group then votes on which statement they believe to be a lie. The child reveals which statement is a lie. She gets points for every child who did not pick the correct lie. For older children, add a bonus memory round and give points for remembering the two true statements each child made.