Language Play: 5 Speech and Language Games for Travel

Five Speech and Language Games for Travel

In addition to these suggested language games, a sing along is great family fun too! Check out the post 8 Featured Music CDs for Your Summer Family Road Trip here on Hilltown Families for some suggestions.

Since it’s summer and lots of families are on the move, I wanted to suggest a few language games to parents that support the development of language and reading skills. Why language games? I think of children playing games like I think of baby animals playing. It all looks like lots of fun, but built into language play are skills for survival and success in school and life. As a speech-language pathologist, I see kids who didn’t get the language play they needed, and it puts them at a distinct disadvantage. To support language play this summer, instead of everyone doing their own thing while traveling, why not foster social skills that bring families closer together on vacations with language games? To follow are five such games you can play while driving to the beach (or the grocery store) or while waiting in the airport terminal with your kids to support speech and language:

  1. Twenty Questions — In this old favorite, the person thinks of an object and announces if it is animal, vegetable or mineral. The players get to ask twenty yes/no questions to figure out the object. A variation would be to give a clue for the first sound to make it easier. Good for categorizing, vocabulary, descriptive language, verbal problem solving, word finding.
  2. Moving Observations  The first person to read a sign for a new town gets a pretzel, etc. A variation: you can make a numbered list together the night before a trip of things you might observe (a railroad sign, a horse, etc.) and one child picks a number for everyone to find. First to observe the object gets a pretzel, etc. Good for reading, vocabulary, attention, awareness of environment, problem solving. Later have children review what they saw for verbal expression, and to reinforce memory.
  3. License Plate Game Name all the license plate states you see. They can be written down for later discussion or for looking at a map to identify where the states are. For non-readers, children can identify a letter or a number on the license plates. Good for vocabulary, reading skills, awareness of environment, perspective taking (“Those people came all the way from Florida!”).
  4. Interviews Bring a small tape recorder for interviews. One child gets to be the reporter and asks what, who, where, when, how, and why questions of another person. Take turns. They can also work as teams to decide what questions to ask. Good for perspective taking, “wh” questions, listening skills, and being curious about others.
  5. Story Chains Each person adds the next sentence to make a story. Silliness is a good thing. Good for receptive and expressive language, descriptive language, scaffolding narratives, verbal humor.

Remember if a child is bored, give them a responsibility or goal. Have a child be in charge of choosing the next game, handing out the pretzels, deciding if the answer was right, explaining the rules of the game to the others. Foster cooperation (teams, helpers) rather than competitiveness. If one child can’t do the task alone, have a competitive child help them or split everyone into teams at the beginning of the game.

I hope this gives you many more ideas for games. I bet the kids will have ideas. Whatever the game, keep it light (Hey, it’s the beginning of a great vacation!), so remember to have fun! And don’t forget music and lyrics! A sing along is great family fun! Check out the post 8 Featured Music CDs for Your Summer Family Road Trip here on Hilltown Families for some suggestions.

Do you have a favorite game that supports language and communication on the road to share with us?


Kathy Puckett

Kathy is a private practice speech-language pathologist living in Shelburne, MA and the author of our monthly speech and language column, Time to Talk. Living in Western Massachusetts since 1970, she raised two children here and has two grandsons, ages 15 and 8 years old. She has worked as an SLP with people of all ages for the last 14 years. She runs social thinking skill groups and often works with teens. As a professional artist, she has a unique and creative approach to her practice. She loves technology, neurology, gardening, orchids, and photography. She uses an iPad for therapies. She grows 500 orchids and moderates her own forum for orchid growers (Crazy Orchid Lady). Kathy is dedicated to the families of her private practice, and offers practical, creative ideas to parents. She blogs about communication at

[Photo credit: (ccl) nikoretro]

2 Comments on “Language Play: 5 Speech and Language Games for Travel

  1. I will also take this opportunity to say that Kathy is my 4-year-old son’s speech therapist and she is amazing. My son has made great progress with her. What I love about Kathy is that she takes a holistic approach to her therapy, not just drilling articulation but also integrating pre-reading/literacy and social development skills — these things are often linked with speech delay, and Kathy truly sees the whole picture. She is very playful and fun, yet serious about her work, respectful of the child and sensitive to his/her individual needs. I can’t say enough great things about Kathy!

  2. Great article, Kathy! I especially like the interviews idea, I’d never thought of that one! What fun!

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