Playing With Purpose: Candy Land

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I use games all the time during my individual speech therapy sessions. They are a fantastic tool for speech, language, and social skill development in young children. Candy Land is a particular favorite of mine. I don’t have a great memory, but I do remember the version of Candy Land we had at home when I was a kid. It looks a little different these days, but the lessons are still the same. You can use Candy Land in Playing With Purpose to help your child learn colors and simple counting skills as well as to help build turn-taking abilities. Did you know that helping kids learn how to take turns during a basic game begins to teach them the turn taking skills we use as adults in conversation?!

Not only are games essential for helping kids learn social-cognitive skills like turn taking and joint attention, but they can also be used as a reinforcer during more structured tasks like homework or for teaching other speech-language skills such as speech sound practice.

Learning language does not have to be done in a structured environment. There are lots of simple games you can play to indirectly work on speech and language skills. These can be played while driving in the car to Kindergarten (I-spy), when you are at the park (hide and seek), or in the supermarket (categories–find all the things that are red). In game play you have the opportunity to work on social skills, turn-taking, observing, listening, attention, and if you choose, speech and language too.

Top 5 Tips for Playing With Purpose With Candy Land

  1. Many games require counting skills and Candy Land is no different.  You count the spaces you move, count the pieces you have left or the pieces you may need.  When you play Candy Land you can target counting by having your child count many things: how many spaces until they reach the castle, how many spaces are they ahead of mommy, or how many spaces do they get to move during their turn. Other math skills to target include adding points at the end of the game, sorting and matching pictures and game pieces, and sequencing skills.
  2. Increasing social interaction is probably one of the most obvious skills we can help children learn when playing Candy Land or other games. I cannot think of a single board game you can play on your own, most for young children require 2-4 players. When your child is first learning to play games, it’s important to have an adult as one of the players. Adults can model good social skills for children and help facilitate the play. As your child gets older they can play Candy Land on their own with their friends. Once Candy Land begins and the kids start talking about the game, there are a variety of social cues they will learn.  These social cues include maintaining eye contact with others, understanding facial expressions, nonverbal gestures, and patience/waiting.
  3. Children learn a lot about language and vocabulary by hearing it. They can learn a variety of words specific to each game and are introduced to new words and their meanings when you, as a parent, model use. Candy Land is a great game for helping your child learn their colors, but it can also be great to teach descriptive concepts and social-emotion vocabulary. I like using Candy Land to help children understand possessive pronouns. You can teach them to use my/your during the turns of the game.
  4. Helping children learn to follow directions is another skill to address when playing Candy Land. In fact, each game we play with our children has its own set of rules and directions to follow. While playing different games, children are learning how, when, where and why you do certain things – which aid in critical thinking and problem-solving. They also will eventually learn the sequence of game play the more often they are exposed to it. In Candy Land, first, you pick up your card, next you count the number of squares to move and see your color, last you move your gingerbread man.
  5.  Lastly, as I mentioned above, Candy Land is a great game to use as a reinforcer. I work with many children who need help producing their speech sounds correctly. It makes them more intelligible. One way we accomplish this is with repetition which can get a little boring. Playing games like Candy Land can relieve the monotony. Start by picking an interval, let’s say 5. The child practices 5 words and then they take a turn. This idea can be incorporated into any structured task you want your child to complete or during any kind of skill practice.

Other favorite games for speech-language development:

  • The Sneaky Snacky Squirrel Game
  • Cootie Lucky Ducks
  • Honey Bee Tree
  • Hi-Ho Cherry-0
  • Uno
  • MOO Preschool Game Zingo!
  • Thinkfun Roll and Play Board Game
  • The Cat in the Hat
  • I Can Do That Game
  • What’s in Ned’s Head?
  • Richard Scarry’s Busy Town Game
  • Cranium
  • Hullabaloo

Emily Cohen, MA, CCC-SLP received her Master’s of Speech-Language Pathology in 2008 from Eastern Michigan University. She is a Hanen certified SLP specializing in woking with children with early childhood language delays. Emily owns a private practice in Austin, TX called Tandem Speech Therapy. You can read more about Playing With Purpose and topics related to speech and language development on her blog.

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