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Integrate Great Games Into Your Sessions

May is a crazy month- there’s so much going on. Perhaps time to take a break with some relaxing retail therapy! It’s never too early to do some shopping in preparation for the new-but-for-now-seemingly-far-off school year. Just imagine how relaxed and pleased with yourself you’ll be when you start the year with new materials.

I’m talking about tabletop games. As clinicians, we have come so far since Candyland! Not that Candyland isn’t a great game, but after a few decades, even Queen Frostine doesn’t do much for me. While we used to use games as “breaks” from the “real” work in our sessions, now the games ARE the work. So much to work on beyond turn-taking. Staying regulated, being flexible, managing uncomfortable feelings, engaging in conversation, noticing nonverbal behavior - and so much more.

  1. Taco vs Burrito: This game is my newest find and immediate hit. I played it twice with middle school students and ordered the expansion pack that night! Fill your taco or burrito with all sorts of disgusting foods, and take opportunities to mess with the creations of others. But lookout for the Health Inspector! Get one, and you have to start over. Love, Love, Love, this game!

  2. Dragonwood & Dragonrealm: Both of these games have high appeal to students who like dragons, dragon slayers, and all that comes with such fantastical worlds. Be patient and collect more cards to raise the likelihood of success. Or take a risk and roll just a few dice. I suggest starting with Dragonwood, but you will want both!

  3. Ice Cool & Ice Cool 2: This is a flicking game – specifically a penguin flicking game. I had so many unfounded worries that my students wouldn’t be good flickers, or protest when their flick totally missed (ok, one student got upset just last week.) Great game to build resilience, perseverance, and the regulation that goes with that! Everyone takes a turn at being the principal and busting those in hallways – who doesn’t want to do that?!?!

  4. Outfoxed: This game is similar to Clue, but more elementary and middle school oriented. In searching for the thief, many students benefit from visual supports listing the clues as they discover them, so be prepared to make those. Build those language and conversation skills as you solve the question of “Which fox stole that pie?”

  5. Monopoly Deal: Okay, this is not a new game, but it’s terrific. Who doesn’t want to play Monopoly in 10-15 minutes? Same ideas of collecting monopolies, with added unfriendly cards such as: “It’s my birthday! 5 million dollars please.” Or the chance to steal a complete monopoly from a competitor. If your students are working on friendly words, regulation, and handling the stress of competitive games, remember, you can remove the cards that cause trouble and add them in when players are ready. BTW, all the money is in millions. You owe me 4 million but only have a 5 million? Great, I’ll take it - sorry, no change given…

  6. Azul: If you’re wondering what the game in the opening photo is, it’s Azul! I love the gorgeous tiles that are used in this game to make mosaics, earn points, and sabotage your fellow creators. You can play a simpler version, or complicate the rules so there’s plenty of strategy involved. Not a super quick game, but it incorporates lots of the social cognitive skills many of us target in our sessions.

These are all terrific board games. I hope you check them out. Remember, as we integrate games into our social and resilience building toolbox, don’t forget to include visual supports! They provide our students with the structure and information that lets them show their best. Here’s an example of students playing Yamslam.

Link to Feeling Trackers

Link to Zones Across the Day

Take good care and remember, summer is well on its way!


“Can you please explain what a 4 starters is? I’m enjoying using your Paths, but I’m not sure I know how to work on the 4 starters with my students. Also, will you be making more Practice Activities – my students love them! Thanks, Jennifer, SLP in Australia ”

Absolutely. The 4 starters is meant to be a statement that provides that all important conversational bait – information that invites questions and comments. I often encourage students who are just starting out with 4 starters to use photos to get ideas – I either ask parents to take them and send in, or use photos older students have taken on their phones. With those, a 4 starters can be as simple as a picture description. I don’t always insist that they always include the: who, did what, where, when. Sometimes it’s implied, and other times it just isn’t as applicable or interesting, so be flexible with what students say. Just remember – the point of a 4 starters is to begin an interesting conversation.

As far as more Practice Activities, yes, there are several that I am working on. I’ve been reading and thinking a lot about interruptions, so that is definitely one that’s on my list! Do you have suggestions for more Practice Activities? Drop me an email and share your ideas! Stay tuned to hear more…

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