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Katie Yeh
BY Katie Yeh

10 “Wintery” Games to Play Over Break to Build Speech, Language and Listening Skills

It’s that time of year that kids LOVE and parents have a love/hate relationship with! The 2+ weeks of winter break can be an amazing time for family bonding, but can also be tough in terms of keeping kids busy and finding things the whole family can do together.

If you have a child with special needs, this time can be even that more challenging. No school and no therapies mean mom and dad need to plan other activities to fill the time, and it’s nice to have activities that provide learning opportunities too. Here are some {fun} games that you can play to help pass the time that also are great for building speech, language and listening skills!

“Free” Games

1. Frosty Says

You know this age-old game, right? Someone is “Simon” and he tells everyone what to do by saying “Simon says….” However if he tells you what to do without saying “Simon says” prior to the directions but you do it anyway…you’re out! In this version though, you can play “Frosty” says (or another winter/holiday character that fits your family’s beliefs and traditions). This game is all about having to listen and follow directions. But for kids who might already struggle with this skill, there are a few recommendations I have to make this game fun and motivating for your child. Check out those recommendations out on playing with words 365.

2. Red Light/Green Light

Another classic!  This is a great game to work on following directions. Here are some tips for using this game to work on your child’s listening skills:

  • Once your child gets the hang of the concepts of green-means-go and red-means-stop, add in another color “light” to the mix! They did this in a class my nephew took…I think it was Purple Light means you jump like a bunny! How fun is that!? just some ideas off the top of my head: Yellow Light for crawling, Orange light for turning around, Blue light for clapping…you get the idea.
  • A tip to help him understand the directions at first: Make signs with the colors you will use in the game with pictures of the motor movements on them. So if you did purple-is-hop-like-a-bunny you can make a round purple “light” and put a picture of a bunny on it as a visual reminder. Then slowly take the signs away and have your child play JUST by listening.

3. Obstacle Course Fun

I recommend obstacle courses to everyone! Children usually LOVE them and they combine gross motor learning with language learning (providing a multi-sensory learning experience). Though I have a ton of info on my obstacle course post (be sure to check it out) here are a few recommendations on using them to target listening skills:

  • Start SIMPLE. Set up maybe only a 3-5 part course at first and then increase it as your child’s skills develop.
  • To target listening, you can two things. First, you can give him directions on exactly how to go through the obstacle course. This works best if at least a couple different steps can be manipulated differently. For example, one step could be a small table. But does he go under, over, or around the table? He will have to listen to find out! You could set up a station with blocks and tell him he needs to build a 5 block tower. Maybe a step with a hoola hoop that he could either jump in or actually try to hoola. Make sense?
  • Another way to incorporate listening is to have one step of the course be just that: following directions before he can go on. It can be like a “simon says” step where he has to follow whatever directions you give, and then he can keep going.

4. Penguin Describing Game (Free Download!)

Penguin Describing GameThis is actually a game I made myself. My Penguin Describing Card game includes 20 different pairs of penguins on 40 individual playing cards. These cards are awesome because they can be used in so many different ways to target so many different skills. They also can be used for children as young as two, and up through the upper elementary years (or even higher if you work with middle school or high school children with more severe learning delays). You can download them for for free and read more tips on how to use the cards with your children.


BINGO is another one of my most favorite games to play with my client’s in speech therapy. It is a fun game that can adapted in many ways and is great for general vocabulary building. You can design and print out BINGO cards on DLTK-cards with a winter theme! How awesome is that!

Tip: To expand speech & language skills you can have your child describe the BINGO pictures, talk about the BINGO pictures, or ask/answer questions about the pictures. Also, rather than just telling your child the item to find, describe it instead. For example, rather than saying “find the snowman” you can say “find the man that is wearing a black hat and is made from snow.”

Commercial Games

Dont Break The Ice6. Don’t Break the Ice

Don’t Break the Ice is one of my favorite games to use in my speech therapy sessions year round, but especially in the winter months. Though the game itself is not language heavy, it is a wonderful game to work on turn taking, following directions, and joint attention. This is a great game to introduce the whole concept of games to little ones of all abilities.

Memory7. Memory

Memory is great for building vocabulary skills. For the holidays, you may want to try the Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer Memory game. However, you can also print your OWN winter vocabulary cards at DLTK-cards on card stock! Perfect and FREE! Tip: To expand speech & language skills you can have your child describe the pictures, talk about the pictures, or ask/answer questions about the pictures.

The Cat In The Hat8. What’s in the Cat’s Hat?

If you haven’t played this fun game, winter is a great time to try Dr. Seuss What’s in the Cat’s Hat? Game. To give this game a winter twist, stick to keeping the items in the hat to winter themes items. Think hats, gloves, winter-themed toys/decorations, etc. 

Headbandz9. Hedbandz

For older children, this is one of my most favorite games! to make the HedBanz Game more “wintery”, try printing out the winter memory cards mentioned above from DLTK-cards and use them or you can make your own “wintery” cards by ringing images online, printing them on card stock, and cutting them out.

Pengalo10. Pengaloo

Is your child in speech therapy, and his/her SLP sent you some cards/words to practice over the holiday? Looking for a fun game to play to help reinforce that speech practice? Or maybe you are just looking for another game to help teach your child basic game-playing skills?  Try Pengoloo! It is a pretty simple but FUN wintery game that also reinforces color recognition, memory, and turn taking skills!

What is YOUR favorite wintery game?

Katie Yeh

Written on December 23, 2013 by:

Katie is a a mom to two little ones, E (4) and Ev (2), and one on the way. A Hanen Certified, licensed and credentialed pediatric speech-language pathologist in California, her interest in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) also led her to go back to school and earn her graduate certificate in the filed of study. She blogs over at Playing With Words 365, sharing information about speech and language development, intervention strategies, therapy ideas and tips, and shares a little about her family and their life too. You can follow along on Facebookor Pinterest for more speech and language ideas and tips.