Using playing cards to help young children learn English

Playing cards from Teach Kids English

Playing cards from Teach Kids English

By Naomi Simmons

Games are a natural way for children to communicate in any language. When they get absorbed in a game, they lose inhibitions about speaking up and even the shyest child is usually happy to shout out the answer. For this reason, games are an ideal way to help your child to practise a foreign language too.

Playing a language game at home with your child is a lovely sharing time, showing that you want to be involved in their learning and have fun together as you do so. If your English skills need improvement too, it is motivating for your child to see that you are learning together.

English card games are ideal for home use. Other than the cards, no special equipment is needed and they can be played any time and at any place. The fact that many of the games have a competitive aspect is also very motivating as many children love to win ‘points’.

For the cards, any picture cards are fine so long as they feature pictures of words they are learning in English and preferably the written form of the words too. Cards designed for young learners are also available at Alternatively, you can also make your own cards by drawing or sticking pictures onto small cards.

Great card game ideas include: Snap, What’s missing?, Memory, Odd one out and Happy families.

The trick is to start with practising the single words while playing the games, for example, tiger, cat. When your child is doing this competently, you move on to practise simple grammar sentences, such as This is a tiger. I like cats. I have a dog, etc.

Correcting errors
We all learn by making mistakes. While playing English card games, a mistake can be saying the wrong word or pronouncing it incorrectly. So making a mistake with English while playing card games is a step on the road to learning to say it correctly. If your child makes a mistake, rather than telling them they are ‘wrong’, which can be demotivating, say Try again. Say the word correctly for them to repeat. When they do so, praise them for getting it right. You may have to do this a number of times for each word before they are able to give you the right answer without prompting.

When learning a new language, most people need to repeat it at least seven times before it is truly ‘learned’. Many people need even more repetitions of this. This is fine and normal. So long as the new words are learned in the end, it really doesn’t matter how many repetitions it takes to achieve this. Card games are an ideal way of repeating new language, as the picture cards come up time and time again; they give many opportunities for practice and repetition. One great thing about playing card games with very young children is the fact that they are often happy to play the same game over and over again, without tiring of it. So long as they are happy and motivated this is great for their learning, as the more repetitions of a word or sentence they say, the more thoroughly they will learn it.