Language Ideas for Primary Age Pupils

There are lots of ideas on this page. They are in no particular order, so it is just a matter of finding a few activities that you like and giving them a try. Then come back a bit later, and find some more to try. There are also many more on the Early Years and Secondary pages that may be suitable for you and your child.

Talking is important. It is closely linked to reading, writing and learning. Did you know that research shows that spoken language abilities at 5 years of age predict their reading at 15? Get talking!


  1. Developing talking develops writing. Encourage your child to make up spoken stories. To help their ideas give your child a start such as, ‘I walked into a haunted house and …’, ‘I was walking down the street one day when I found a puppy, so I decided to …’ or ‘at school this morning our head teacher was acting really strange…’
  2. For children to develop listening skills they need to practice them. In busy family lives there is often little quite time. Try and reduce distracting noise. If no one is watching the TV, turn it off. There’s enough volume in most homes without music on as well. Do a little every day to develop listening skills. When you lose your mobile phone in the house, call it from the landline and ask the kids to find it.
  3. This listening game that works best outdoors. Stand still and ask everyone to close their eyes. Listen to the sounds that you hear. One player names a sound that they can hear. Everyone points to the sound and on the count of 3 everyone opens their eyes. Are you all pointing in the same direction?
  4. Reading books to your child is a great way to develop your child’s language. Books expose children to more complex language. For children who are learning to read hearing stories can make them more enjoyable. For able readers talk about what you have read together to further develop their understanding.
  5. Listen to your child explaining how they do a favourite activity. Explaining how to do something is good practice for the speaking that your child needs to do in school. Ask your child to talk about how they made a Lego model, how they play a computer game or a board or card game. Try and listen without asking too many questions at first.
  6. Do some cooking with your child. It involves co-operation, planning, reading and listening. All things you need to succeed in school. As well as being great skills for life.
  7. Stop the DVD. Before you play a DVD tell all the viewers that you will be stopping it at some point. Choose a really exciting time to stop it. Ask everyone to guess what they think will happen next. Why do they think that?
  8. ‘I spy’ is a familiar game, but it is great for learning language and phonics as well as filling in time on journeys. Give ‘I spy’ a twist by giving a clue as well as the traditional letter. Like this, ‘I spy with my little eye a food that starts with an ‘s’.’
  9. Ask your child to retell a favourite movie. If this is too long, start on something simpler like a favourite story book. Does it have a beginning, middle and end? Can you follow what they are talking about? You can prompt by drawing pictures of the main characters and using them to act out some senses.
  10. Explore your local library. As well as books they will have tapes and events to develop speaking and listening. Your nearest library is at or
  11. If you’ve got lots of friends or family over play ‘Chinese Whisper.’ Emphasise to children that you need to listen to get the best result.
  12. If I was King for a day. Challenge your child with ‘if you were King / Queen for a day what would you do?’ Give them some time to think of an answer and then ask them why they chose that one. Encourage your child to ask other people what they would do if they were King for a day. A variation for older children is Prime Minister instead of King.
  13. On the bus or in the car think of a topic and see how many things you can come up with as a team in a set time. A minute might be enough. You can choose any topic but here are some ideas for inspiration: ‘living things, things with wheels, things with circles or things made of metal.’
  14. What’s the same and what’s different? Choose a topic that your child is interested in and ask them to say what is the same and different about two things. For instance: Buzz Light-year and Woody or Sirius and Voldemort.
  15. Concentrating on one thing at a time helps your child to learn to listen better. Too much competing noise makes it harder for your child to listen to anything. If your child is on the computer do they also need the TV on? Encourage your child to plan what they watch on TV.
  16. Change the story. Take turns to tell well known stories with your child, but make small changes to the story and see where that takes you. Change the character, the setting or the ending. You might have ‘Big red riding hood’ or ‘the three little wolves.’
  17. Talk to your child’s teacher to find out what topics are being taught in class. Ask him / her about any practical activities that are useful to support your child’s learning. Supporting learning at home will really help your child to learn more about words they are learning in school. It can be as simple as reading a book on the same topic or going on a trip to some related place.
  18. Build a story. One person starts a made up story with one sentence, such ‘as once upon a time an enormous giant was sleeping when…..’ Other players then take turns to build on the story one sentence at a time. This is great to play in a group but is also fun when there are just two of you. Get creative and see what twists and turns you can add to your story.
  19. Choose a category, it might be something like clothes, food or TV programmes. Then choose a letter. See how many words you can think of from that category that start with the target letter. E.g.: clothes starting with ‘s’: scarf, socks, sweatshirt. Can you work your way through the whole alphabet?
  20. This is another game for journeys: one player calls out an object that they can see and the next person has to think of 5 things that it can do / be done with it. For instance: ‘tree’ climb, chop, grow, fall down and absorb carbon dioxide.
  21. ‘Big brain’ is a variation on ‘I spy’ but rather than seeing something you need to think of an object and the letter it starts with. Great for playing when you are waiting somewhere. ‘I am thinking with my big brain of something that is cold and starts with an ‘I’’. ‘Is it ice?’ ‘No.’ Can you guess what it is?
  22. Do some acting. Take in turns to act out some simple scenarios like getting a pretend present, making dinner and cutting a finger, running late for work / school or finding that your bike is missing. Really emphasise body language, facial expressions as well as what to say. Lots of phones have video recording, so it is fun to play them back as well.
  23. Get out and about. Exploring London will give you and your child lots to talk about as well as lots of time to play the speaking and listening games on the journey. Take photos of your trip so that your child can talk to others when you get back. Websites such as and have loads of ideas.
  24. Get your child involved in planning parties or holidays. This involves lots of talking, thinking and planning. Who will be coming? What will you need to do? What food will you need? What can you do before? Who needs to do what? And maybe even how can we cut costs?
  25. Write down on pieces of paper a range of words. They might be related to what your child is learning in school or any words that they are familiar with. Place all the words in a ‘hat’. Each person takes a turn at taking out words from the hat. The challenge is to describe the word without using it at all.
  26. Read more advanced books to your child that they can read as this will expose them to more advanced language as well encourage their reading. Audio stories are also useful. Extend this by having conversations about the story as well.
  27. What would you do? Think up small problems that your child might encounter such as getting lost, losing money, finding a mobile phone etc. Ask your child what would they do? Why? Ask other people what would they do and why? Which one is the best? Why? All of this is good practice with reasoning skills which are really important for lessons such as science as well as making sense of the world.
  28. Word associations. One player starts by saying a word. The next player says a word that is related to the first word. It can be related in any way. If another player cannot see how the words are related they can challenge and the connection needs to be explained. Keep going until a word is repeated or a connection cannot be explained. Here’s an example: football-match-box-gloves-coat-winter-summer-beach.
  29. This one is simple. In the corner shop let your child do the talking. They might need a little coaching at first, but with practice they can develop confidence with talking and money.
  30. 20 questions. One person thinks of an object. Others try and guess what it is by asking questions. The original player can only answer yes, no or maybe. Give a clue if they are on the wrong track. Can they guess it in 20 questions?
  31. Encourage your child to give someone directions on how to get somewhere. They have to know words like ‘left, right and straight ahead’ first. Start with your child telling Granny how they get to school, but as they get better at it ask them to direct someone to less familiar places.
  32. When thinking of presents for your child think about how they stimulate talking. Board games or card games or creative play often involve lots of speaking and listening skills. Games such as ‘Guess Who?’, ‘Twister’ and ‘Headbanz’ are all popular. But better than anything you can buy is the precious commodity of time with interested adults, like you.
  33. This game sometimes called ‘I went shopping’ and is good for developing memory, so is good for adults too. One person starts by saying ‘I went shopping and I bought a …’ (names a food item). The next player says ‘I went shopping and I bought …’ and repeats the first player’s item before adding their own. The third player continues saying the first two items before adding their own. And so on. See how many you can remember.
  34. Word of the day. Select a word for the day and maybe put it on the fridge. Everyone tries to use it as much as possible. The sentences that the word is in must make sense and fit what you are talking about. They can’t be random nonsense. See who can use the word the most times.
  35. Party games such musical statues or musical chairs are great for developing listening skills.
  36. ‘Simon Says’ is an old game but it is still a good way for careful listening to instructions.
  37. How shall we get there? When going somewhere familiar do not just take your child there, but instead encourage them to give you directions such as ‘left, right and straight ahead.’
  38. Cross off the calendar. On a calendar write what you do everyday including school and special activities. Each evening talk about what you did that day and what you are going to do tomorrow.
  39. What I need. When your child needs to take equipment or kit to school or clubs make a list of all the things that they need. To make it more attractive you can add pictures as well. Lists of equipment will help to make your child more independent.
  40. Buying gifts. When you need to buy someone a gift ask your child for their opinion of what to get. When they give a suggestion ask ‘Why do you think that?’