I'm sure every parent in the world is always on the look out for new activities and games for theirs kids, especially if they're bilingual and they need to build some vocabulary (but not in a boring way).
Here you'll find 3 games you can print or hack at home and start playing right away.
1 - Ladybug Lunch (by Jonathan Warren and Rebekah Bissell’s)
This card game was a huge success when I used to run an Italian afternoon club with kids between 5 and 8 years old. Rules are quite easy to understand, but not too plain for older kids.
It's up to you and your ladybug helper to rid your beautiful flower of those pesky aphids.
In this rummy variant, created for families, players collect different sets of coloured ladybugs. For each set laid, your ladybug is moved to a leaf. All aphids that are on that leaf become ladybug lunch and can be removed from your flower. The first player to rid their flower from all the aphids is the winner!
In the game you draw and discard cards, build sets of Ladybug cards in the same colour to move your ladybug up your flower, play aphids on other players' flower mats and sometimes you can send a bird to chase aphids away from your own flower.
There are 2 ways to obtain your Ladybug Lunch card decks: PnP (Print and Play) and ArtsCow (you buy a printed version).
Each print option comes with artwork for the Ladybug playing pieces and Aphid tokens, which you can cut-out. However, for the Aphid tokens, they suggest using 30 green cubes for a full, 5-player game (but I used those cute little bells for aphids).
Wooden ladybug craft beads make ideal Ladybug playing pieces and are readily available on eBay (I used some soft clay and acrylics to make mine, it's a fun crafty activity that kids love).
Card decks PnP (you need to sign in to BoardGameGeek, but it's free)
You can even download a template for Blank action cards to add your own house rules!
How it can help with language: when I downloaded the files, I swapped the names of the Ladybugs with colours (but you can simply use stickers and add them to your cards). When kids play card sets, they need to shout out the colour name, they can read language-related instructions on the cards, learn vocabulary associated with the garden.
Preparatory activities you can do with kids:
- cut and glue cards to cardboard or an old deck of cards
- sleeve cards to protect them
- prepare ladybug playing pieces and aphids (you can paint small rocks, for example, if you're not familiar with clay)
- you can have them draw their own flower mat
Extra components: Ant Antics
There's an expansion available! It's springtime in the garden. The sun is shining, the birds are singing and flowers are blooming. All appears well, apart from those pesky aphids. However, all is not quite as it seems. Other dangers lurk just around the corner - or should that be underground? The warmer weather is bringing ants, from their colony and into your garden, bearing gifts... aphid eggs; eggs that they have been keeping safe during the cold spells of winter. Now the time is right for the eggs to be brought to the perfect location, ready for hatching. Unfortunately, that perfect place just happens to be your beautiful flower!
As usual, the first player who clears his Garden of parasites is the winner, but this time the parasites are harder to eradicate... and there’s always a surprise or two in store!
2 - The Weather Game
This is a super simple "Snakes and ladders" type of game, but you can add questions to ask in the question mark tile (my questions were all weather related). You only need the board, a dice and some meeples to play. If you get really creative, you could also re-draw the board adding more action tiles and deciding your own rules with kids (what could happen, for instance, on windy days? And if there were tornadoes? What about snowy days?).
How it can help with language: kids get to practice common words, when they land on a tile you can ask them "What's the weather like today", they can practice numbers with the dice and answer questions in the language you choose.
Preparatory/related activities you can do with kids:
- colour in the board and or make your own custom board
- make your own weather wheel
- with older kids you can learn how to knit or crochet a temperature/weather blanket
- make a sun catcher with recycled materials
3 - Story cards
This is the oldest game on earth probably, but you get to use pretty cards you can make yourself.
I cut out the pictures from beautifully illustrated magazines here in the UK (or you can just print and cut whatever you like).
There are different ways of playing with story cards.
You can play all together freely, just choosing one card at a time from a deck and trying to fit it into a story (remember to record your stories, they can be really funny!); you can take turns and add a timer (for example 2 minutes), you can choose to draw a fixed number of cards for each player at the beginning and you all have to use them and discard them by the end of the game. You can even implement a fun gameplay mechanic from "Dream on" boardgame and try to retell the story from the beginning without looking at the cards once the timer is over. You can choose a set (for example 15 cards, as in the picture) and then together you have to make them into a row to tell a story from the beginning to the end. You can separate characters from actions and places and pick from each deck (if you had 6 different categories, you could roll a dice to decide where you get to draw from).
How it can help with language: you can add words to the picture if the kids aren't too familiar with the language you're trying to practice and make a list out of them so you can remember the story; creating something with words is a fun way to learn a language, if you record your gameplays you can also listen to the stories again and again and re-tell them.
Preparatory/related activities you can do with kids:
- choose, cut and glue the cards to a cardboard or an old deck
- sleeve the cards to protect them
- make your own picture book out of a story
- re-draw the characters and or one scene
- build a card box and decorate it
- record a story video
Let me know if you try one or more of them and of course take a lot of pictures!