With most people spending the large portion of their time at home these days, it can be tough to think of enough activities and games to keep your little rascals engaged and entertained in building their bilingual skills. If your child is learning French and you’re worried about how their bilingual skills will fare with this extra time off school, don’t worry, because we’ve got a simple and easy solution to keep your kid’s French fresh during these strange times: our list of top five games and apps that will boost your child’s bilingual skills!
Get your kids associating the French language with FUN by playing their favourite games with them in French! It doesn’t have to be a language-specific game to help your child build their bilingual skills either. It could be any game that requires communication, whether it be Settlers of Catan, Heads Up, or even Snakes and Ladders, as long as your child is expressing themselves in French while they play!
While playing their favourite games your children will be conversing, exchanging ideas, and thinking about vocabulary in French, practice which will surely boost their bilingual skills. What better way for your child to practice their French than while playing the games they love! Keep scrolling to check out our Top 5 list!
First up is one of our favourites here at Camp Tournesol, the browser game Colonist. This technically isn’t Settlers of Catan, but for all intents and purposes, it’s pretty much an online Catan platform.
If you’re familiar with the rules and gameplay of Catan, you should be able to get going on Colonist pretty easily. The makers of the game also made it very easy to learn, as hovering over any figure on the game board will give you a detailed description of what it represents. If you’re still having trouble, there’s a very informative tutorial that contains both video and written instructions for the game that is very easy to find, or you could try practicing in a game with all bots!
You can continue playing with just bots, or you can join a multiplayer game that’s starting soon, similar to Xbox and PS online matchmaking lobbies. The best part about this, however, is the ability to play private games online with your friends! You can choose your own custom rules, then send the game link to your buddies to join in.
To practice your French, you can exchange messages in French on the game’s chat function, or better yet, hop on a Zoom call with the friends you’re playing with so you can make trades, talk strategy, chat and enjoy the game all while practicing your bilingual skills!
Next, we have a true board game classic that has stood the test of time: Snakes & Ladders. Not only is it easy for anyone to learn to play, but it’s loads of fun! Who doesn’t love seeing someone hit a snake on the final row? Or hitting a ladder up four rows right when you needed it?
The browser version, which can be found here, is actually just as fun as the board game version, though it does not have the capabilities to host public or private online games, like Colonist. With Snakes & Ladders you can either play against bots or with a couple of friends in one of two game modes: classic, where you move normal game pieces, or their new game mode, where the game pieces are funny-looking cartoon kids.
This is a game that one, two, three, or four kids could all play together taking turns on one computer. You can imagine how much jostling and chatting there would be in that situation!
That’s why instituting an all-French talking rule during the game can really help boost your children’s bilingual skills while they play. Your children won’t even realize it because of the game, but simply practicing their French in a fun, game-like setting is boosting their skills immensely!
Another one on the Mount Rushmore of games at our summer camps is the card game UNO!. Year after year this simple game continues to be one of the favourites at our summer camps because it’s colourful, it’s simple, and big twists happen during almost every hand thanks to the awesome action cards!
It’s tough to find a decent platform to play this game on the web, and the Uno apps offered on Apple and Google App stores are filled with in-game purchases that are almost impossible to avoid. However, there is one great format, Uno & Friends, on which you can play this game without as many distractions and ads. The only caveat is that it’s only compatible with Windows 10.0 or newer, Xbox One, or other Microsoft platforms.
With this version, you can play by yourself against the computer, you can find and hop in an online game with anyone, or create private rooms to play with your friends!
Hop on a Zoom call, deal out those cards, and make sure everything your children say except ‘Uno!’ is in French! Practice makes perfect, and playing a game that they know and love while speaking in their second language is a great way to get your kids building their bilingual skills without them even knowing it!
One of the most up-and-coming trivia apps out on the market, Heads Up! has become a regular for many a game night these days. It’s gotten so big that Ellen Degeneres even had an in-show contest revolving around the app.
Though you don’t have access to the plentiful list of categories on the free version, you do have access to enough to have a good time playing the game. Other specialty groups, such as Marvel or Star Wars, cost a few bucks each.
The concept, which is very similar to charades or pictionary, is simple enough. First, you split up into teams, then one person goes up with the app open on their phone, chooses a category and places their phone on their forehead facing out as shown in their logo.
From there, it’s up to the teammates of the person holding the phone to give hints so the person with the phone can guess what word it says on the phone. After guessing a word correctly, the person flips the phone’s face toward the floor to bring up the next word. You can do movies, celebrities, sports, animals, pop culture, impressions and more!
Playing Heads Up! with the family in French is a great way to get your children practicing their French vocabulary. They will be thinking hard about which French words to use to help their teammates guess the correct answer, which will surely assist in building their bilingual skills, all while having fun with the family!
One of the oldest games still going strong is Scrabble, and in 2020 we’re lucky enough to have an awesome, easy-to-use mobile app version, Words With Friends. They’ve now come out with a second, even better version, aptly called Words With Friends 2.
Words With Friends 2 plays just like Scrabble, where each player has their own private tiles and must find a way to put a word down on the board while maximizing how many points they get.
While you can simply play this game in English while chatting with your child in French on the chat, you can also play a full-on francophone game as well! If you click on your profile image, then hit settings, then scroll to language preferences, you can make your child’s app into a francophone version with prompts and actual games all in French!
The advantages for building you child’s second language are clear: forcing them to put together letters to create French words instead of English ones helps them think more in French, while any success in the game helps create a positive association between your child and the French language!
Have you already checked these apps out? Do you have some thoughts of your own about them you’d like to voice? Are we missing any great games or apps that could help boost your child’s bilingual skills? If so, let us know in the comments or through our social media channels!
Don’t forget to check out our wide range French Virtual Classes as well, one of which focuses specifically on games and apps such as these that children can participate in with their peers and our leaders through our Zoom platform! Click here for more info!