My Best Games for Bilingual Kids

I have been talking a lot about the benefits of playing with your little ones.  It is a fantastic way to help increase the amount of exposure that you give them while also creating a need to use the language.

For some parents, playing with their kids comes really natural.  But what if it doesn’t? Or what if you are out of ideas on how to play with YOUR kids?

I will give you my top three favorite games to play with my children while working on their vocabulary in Spanish.  You can adapt all three of these games to work for your own family needs.

  • Puzzles

Puzzles are great because you can tailor them to any age. You can start with four piece puzzles and work your way up to puzzles that involve hundreds of pieces. You can set up a routine or a habit NOW to work on puzzles with your kids and carry that with you for many years to come.

So how can you leverage puzzles to help your children learn more vocabulary?

You can talk about the different puzzle pieces as you build it. There is vocabulary you can use when discussing the pieces’ shapes, colors, positioning. You can talk about what pieces fit and which ones did not. Often time puzzles will have a lid or a top that shows the picture of what the puzzle looks completed.  This allows you to also use comparison words as you compare the lid to the puzzle you are building and assess your progress.

Another way of introducing more language with puzzles is to think out loud.  Talk about your own thought process as you put the pieces together. Allow your child to hear how you are personally problem solving so that they learn the words of what they are also thinking about.

This is a fun activity that you can fit into any time of day.  Puzzles are also really simple to find and you are not limited by having to find puzzles in your target language.  It is just a gateway for vocabulary.

  • Memory

Memory is a skill worth enhancing.  It is a critical element of language learning and language development because we need to remember the words we are learning in order to use them.

My favorite way of enhancing memory skills is through…. wait for it…..playing a memory game!

We are big fans of memory in our house because not only does it help to sharpen those skills, it is also a great way of working on language.

We have been playing memory since my daughter was two and now that she is almost six, we have memory games with a large number of pieces which give us great flexibility.

With memory, you can throw in a lot of descriptive vocabulary because pieces are often so visual. We have a rule where once we flip each tile, we have to describe what the tile looks like to the other player before flipping it back over. This is something that took some modeling but now it’s a habit. We started doing it really simply, something along the lines of “This piece has a duck on it.”  Now it is more elaborate, I may say something like “My card has a green background and a princess with long blond hair on it.  She is also wearing a pink dress that sparkles.”

I also manage to incorporate some math concepts when we work on memory. We talk a lot about the grid.  Usually you place memory cards face down and in a grid so that it is easier to recall the tiles that you have flipped.

I use this as an opportunity to talk about how many tiles are in the row.  We may even count by 10’s since that is something my older one is working on in math. Try it out, you may find that memory allows you to bring in a lot of new vocabulary that you may not have otherwise been working on


  • Uno

This is the newest addition in terms of game to our house.  We love it.  It is always fun to share a childhood favorite with our kids.

This one has not caught on with my three year old.  He is around when we play it but loses interest quickly.  I would recommend this one for the later preschool years and beyond.

I love Uno because you can talk a lot about strategies. So far, we are still playing this game showing our cards to each other.  I am sure that will change probably soon.  But for now, my daughter and I talk about every move we are going to make and why we make it.

We also talk about what rules we want to enforce before the game starts. In one round, we may say you wilds but maybe not allow it in another.  It keeps it different but it is also a great way for kids to feel empowered about choices and tell us in the target language why they are making those choices.

So what do you think? Have you tried any of these? Which one do you think you will start with next?

These are all simple to play and simple to find.  Try one out this week and see how it goes.

You will have fun and help your kids with exposure and need.

Have fun!

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