It is easy to use games that you currently have in your house to teach your child your target second language. The games that you play do not have to be written in that second language in order for them to be effective as a teaching tool. Many games readily available in your local toy store are filled with great vocabulary opportunities.
Memory games are a wonderful way to increase the concentration power of your child’s brain. Memory games can be used not only to help your child to improve her memory by concentrating and focusing, but can also be great for second language learning. We have had this high quality memory game by Melissa and Doug for years and the other day I broke it out with my Mandarin-speaking babysitter as a great way to have fun and explore vocabulary for zoo animals, fruits, colors, farm animals, shapes, numbers and vehicles in Chinese. The wooden game has 25 windows that are coved by wooden shutters that you turn over to find the hidden pictures underneath. A player get to turn over two hidden squares to try to find the pairing. If the player does not make a match, it is the next person’s turn. If the player does make a match, she gets to go again.
Children can easily play this Memory Game by Melissa and Doug by themselves or with a friend. I often find my daughter, Lousha, playing the game by herself. It is easier to use this pre-set, immoveable game by herself rather than use the traditional memory games of this type where the cards are more like a deck of playing cards and she needs to find a space on the floor and lay them out in rows herself. Often, when we play the games where the game is more like a deck of cards, the rows get messed up and then it defeats the point of the game as the placement of the card moves if you accidentally brush against them. Also, in our family, we have a very curious and engaged toddler running around who likes to cause mayhem! Cards neatly placed in rows on the floor would not last long in our house!
Check out this video of my daughter and our helper playing this memory game in Mandarin:
How do you play the game in a second language?
Simple! Just ask your second language speaking caregiver to play the game in that second language. The game does not get played unless it is done in your target language! Don’t have a babysitter who speaks your target language? Look up the words for the game yourself and create a little cheat-sheet! Then you can learn vocabulary for your second language at the same time as your child!
What I Love about this Memory Game:
- No Loose Pieces – everything is attached to the game itself and so there is no way to lose any of the pieces.
- Easy to Manipulate – it is easy for my children (even my baby) to turn over the windows to reveal the picture below.
- Mentally Demanding – the cards are double-sided and so your child will be challenged to try to find the matches if you switch around the cards each time you play.
- High Quality – we have had this game for years and it still looks brand-new! It is made out of wood and elastic and so the game is built to last. The cards are made out of a hard tough-to-rip paper.
- Easy to Play without Adult Help – unlike the playing card versions of memory that are so prevalent, this game is much easier for a child to just jump in and play by herself.
- Competitive Option: If your child likes to keep score, there is a little score board at the bottom of the game to keep track of how many pairs each person has found.
What I Don’t Like about this Game:
- Travel game? I don’t think so. It is too heavy to carry along with you on flights (along with all of the other stuff you have to lug along with you on trips with kids)
- I wish that they had included more cards or had different categories on the other side of the card. I would have loved to have vegetables or professions or clothing items included as categories.
How You Can Improve the Game for More Second Language Learning:
- Trace the board game on card stock paper and create your own game to add vocabulary. Get stickers with various themes for vocabulary enhancement and you can use the same game, but for literally thousands of different vocabulary words! Here are some ideas:
- If you want your child to start recognizing words, cover up one of the pairs with the written word on a little piece of paper that you tape over the picture. Then your child will look for the written word in your target second language and match it with the picture.
Please let me know if you have any questions or comments! I’d love to hear from you! Please post at the bottom of this blog entry or email me! Let’s stay in touch. If you liked the ideas in this post, please sign up for our newsletter so that you can hear from us!