Flashcards can be so much more than passive, one-way teaching aids - they're a great resource that you can use to play countless fun games with young kids in any language!
I love teaching my kids English using flashcard games because while they're having a lot of fun I see how much they are learning without even realising it! What's more, as a language teacher without my own fixed classroom I need to keep things as portable as possible. Flashcards are perfect, as they are easy to carry around and offer the opportunity for countless fun, simple games that require virtually no preparation or extra materials.
Here are five fun flashcard games we love to play in class - all suitable for 3 - 7 year olds!
1. Kim's Game
This is a classic memory game that is usually played with objects but is perfectly suited to playing with flashcards. It can be adapted for different ages and levels by changing the number of cards you use, and can be played with one child or as a group.
How to play:
Show the flashcards to the children one by one and teach the words. Place the cards on the floor or table and repeat the words slowly together. Gather up the cards and remove one, making sure the children don't see which! Then place the cards on the table again and ask which one is missing. You can repeat the game and ask the children in turn to remove one - just make sure the others don't peek! Giving each child this little moment of responsibility means that they all feel included. What's more, the fact that the child has the responsibility of choosing a card to hide from the others encourages their sense of identity and importance within the group and helps build up their self-esteem!
Larger group version: Play the game in the same way as above. With a lot of children it won't be practical to ask each child in turn to remove a card, but you can choose a few different children to be game helpers and remove a card to hide from the others. Just make sure that the next time you play the game you choose different children to be the game helpers so that the others don't feel left out!
For 3 - 4 year olds: use six flashcards.
For 5 - 7 year olds: use 8 - 10 flashcards.
2. Pairs (Concentration)
This is another classic flashcard game which has a lot of variations you can use depending on the age and level of your children.
How to play:
Make two sets of flashcards. Use pairs of picture only cards or picture-word cards for 3 - 4 year olds. For 5 - 7 year olds you could use either pairs of picture or picture-word cards, or a picture card and a word-only card.
Place one set of flashcards face down on the left and the other set of flashcards face down on the right. Ask a child to turn over a card from each set and say the words. If the cards match the child can keep that pair (or just leave them facing up if you'd rather remove any competition from the game). If they don't match, turn the cards face down again and the next player has a turn.
Large class variation: stick the flashcards to the board - one set on the left and one set on the right. Invite one or two children to come up and turn over a card from each set. Repeat the words together as a class. If they match, the cards stay facing up. If they don´t match, turn them face down again. Repeat until all the pairs have been found.
For 3 - 4 year olds: use six pairs of flashcards.
For 5 - 7 year olds: use 8 - 10 pairs of flashcards.
3. Musical Flashcards
This is another fun game that children absolutely love, and gets them moving around and burning off some energy while they learn! I've provided two variations depending on the size of your group and the skills you want to practise with your students.
This game is great for revising and consolidating vocabulary you have pre-taught beforehand.
Use a fun, upbeat song for this game. Our Tea Time Monkeys songs "Bananas" and "Tea Time Numbers" are ideal, as they are so lively and catchy for young children. You can buy them on iTunes or Google Play or play them for free on Spotify or YouTube! Remember that by buying our material you'll help us create more and better resources!
Extra materials: some lively music and a way of playing it
How to play:
Variation 1 - for speaking practice and groups of 10 or less: Scatter lots of flashcards face down on a large table (or several small tables pushed together). Use as many flashcards as you like, but you need at least one per student. Make sure all the chairs are out of the way! Play some fun music and children dance around the table, moving in the same direction. When you stop the music they pick up the card nearest to them and hold it up in the air. Ask them each in turn to say the word they have. They then place the cards back on the table face down and continue to dance around until you stop the music again.
Variation 2 - for listening practice and groups of 11 or more: Play the game as in variation 1, except that when you stop the music and the children pick up the card nearest to them, call out one or two of the flashcard words. The students who have those cards hold them up. Ask them to repeat the word, or use the word in a sentence (eg. It's a _____" or "I like _____") to consolidate speaking skills. If none of the children hold up a card check that none of them have it, and say another word. Afterwards they place the cards back on the table face down and continue to dance around until you stop the music again.
4. Telephone (aka Chinese whispers)
This is a good game for listening and memory, and is a great way to review vocabulary! If you have more than 10 children divide them into smaller groups and use a duplicate set of flashcards for each group.
How to play:
Stick some flashcards on the wall, or line them up on the floor or a table. Have the children stand in a line. Choose a word and whisper it to the first student. That student then whispers it to the next student and so on. The child at the end of the line must run and bring you the correct flashcard. Repeat, making sure to rotate the children in the line so that they all have a chance to find a card.
If you want to make the game more difficult, or practise specific structures, you could say a short sentence containing the word, e.g. "It's an apple" or "I like apples" instead of just saying "apple". However, I would advise you to do this only when the children have a good grasp of the key vocabulary. It's better to keep it simple at first, particularly with younger children, to ensure that they don't mispronounce the words too much. That way the game is a great way to get lots of repetition and language practice!
For 3 - 4 year olds: use 6 - 12 flashcards.
For 5 - 7 year olds: use 8 - 20 flashcards.
5. Simon Says Show Me
This is a simple twist on the classic Simon Says game. Children are so enthusiastic about running to touch the flashcard that they often get caught out when you don't say "Simon Says"! It's also great for developing listening skills and following instructions!
How to play:
Make sure the children understand the rules beforehand. I recommend having a practice round to check they understand. Stick some flashcards on the walls where children are able to touch them. Say "Simon says, find (e.g. the cow)". Children must run to the cow flashcard. When you give the instruction without saying "Simon says", children must stay where they are. If they do go running off you could give them a forfeit (e.g. doing 10 star jumps, or touching the wall for a round, depending on their age). For large groups, make sure you have duplicate flashcards so you don't have all the students trying to converge on one card. For extra speaking practice you can also give different children a turn at being teacher and giving the instructions!