This post originally appeared on the blog Love, Laughter, & Learning in Prep.
If you’ve read my blog before, you’ll know that I absolutely LOVE using games in the classroom! As well as being hands-on and engaging for little learners, they can also help kidlets to practise and consolidate many maths and literacy skills, as well as social behaviours like turn-taking and rule-following. While I’m all for using products that have been made specifically for use in the classroom (like those you can find on TpT), you don’t always have to print and laminate to have a resource that fits in with the curriculum. I own lots of store bought games that I use either straight from the box or with a few simple hacks. (Read to the end to find out how I get them on the cheap.) Here’s a few of my favourites – with some ideas of how to use them!
1. Snakes and Ladders!
Scrabble (or Junior Scrabble) is a perfect word work activity. Depending on the ability of your kidlets, you could play the game in the traditional way or modify it to make it a little easier. I like to have the letters laid out on a table – kidlets simply pick the letters they want to build a word on the board. Speaking of the board – you don’t even need to use it if it’s too tricky and we never bother to keep score. Of course, the Scrabble letter tiles can also be used for a tonne of other spelling and phonics activities – use them as you would magnetic letters, stamps, letter beads, etc.
I like to use Boggle initially as a letter recognition game. Give the container a shake and then name the letters you can see! Kidlets can write one per shake on a whiteboard etc. or cross them off a worksheet or board as they appear in the game. When you begin phonics teaching, have students say the letter sound rather than its name. Of course when your learners are ready, they can play the game as it’s intended – writing down words made from the letters that appear after each shake.
4. Guess Who?
Let me start by saying that if you have the original style Guess Who? with the flat boards, make sure you hang onto it! The newer version has connected boards that stand upright and it’s much trickier for little learners to manage. Guess Who? is perfect to play straight from the box – it’s a game that encourages kidlets to use critical thinking and specific vocabulary in order to narrow down the faces on their board – and on top of that, their questions must only have a yes/no answer. If you watch your kidlets play this throughout the year, you’ll see how their skills improve. If you have the time, make up a game board (either a sheet or individual cards depending on which version of the game you have) with the faces of your whole class. A perfect way for kidlets to get to know their peers! Hasbro even has additional character sheets that you can print from their website to mix things up a bit – and a little Googling will help you find themed sheets that other clever clogs have shared.
Everyone loves the popomatic bubble! Trouble is perfect to play when little learners are working on number recognition and counting skills. No hacks necessary. 🙂
6. Hungry, Hungry Hippos!
Another game just made for maths groups. After each round of marble chomping, kidlets count how many their hippo has eaten. Whose hippo ate the most? Whose ate the number closest to ten? Using two different coloured marbles extends this game further – six red marbles and two yellow marbles makes eight in total etc.
7. Connect Four!
Connect Four can be used to work on turn-taking and critical thinking skills straight from the box. By using a marker, some dot stickers, or painter’s tape, you can also modify it to use for lots of other purposes! I’ve mostly used it as a sight word game by writing words on the chips. Kidlets choose a chip from a bag (otherwise they’ll just pick the words that are easy for them each time!) and add it to the game if they can read it. Put all the red chips in one bag and the yellow in another. The winner is still the first person to line up four of their chips before the other player. You can see how easy it would be to modify this to suit any skill you’re working on – write letters for recognition or phonics practise, numerals or number words, CVC words (or whatever words suit your phonics focus), shapes etc.
Now you might be thinking – this all sounds great but seems like it could be expensive! It’s ideal to have the games differentiated and ready to go whenever you need them, but that means having two or three of each in some cases. I’ll be honest with you and say that I’ve paid full price for very few of my classroom games! The easiest way to get them for free is to pop a note on your classroom door or school newsletter asking for donations. There’s always families looking to declutter their toy cupboard who are more than happy to share the love and donate to little learners. You might get a few that are missing pieces – combine them to make a full set. The next best place to look is in second hand stores, or garage sales. If you’d prefer to buy new from the store, keep an eye out for knock-off versions that are less expensive.
I hope I’ve inspired you to raid your board game cupboard and find a few treasures to use in your classroom!
Lauren has been teaching for more than 10 years in sunny Queensland, Australia – the majority of them in Kindergarten. Her passion for sharing ideas through her blog and creating resources for TpT developed through a desire to see little learners engaged in developmentally appropriate, hands on tasks in the classroom. If you popped past to visit her at school, you would see her students working in small groups, playing games, moving, creating, talking, and laughing as they learn. When she’s not busy teaching, you can find Lauren either at the beach with her family, drinking coffee in the sun, reading by the pool, or planning her next travel experience! Connect with her through her blog, Love, Laughter and Learning in Prep!, Facebook, her TpT store, or Instagram.