I’ve made a list of my favorite awesome ESL games for younger children, from three to six years old. These are all easy to explain and demonstrate. They are not focused on competition too strongly. All games and activities are about having fun using English!
Awesome ESL Games for younger children
I do, you say
For young children, I always teach an action or gesture along with the new vocabulary. Just make an action up. Then you can use this in a simple but great activity. The teacher does an action or gesture and the students guess what it is. You can also let a student come in front of class and act out a word. Have the other students guess.
What’s in the bag game
Kids love this activity. Take a small cloth bag full of objects, such as plastic fruit, classroom objects, stuffed animals or alphabet letters. The student has to close his/her eyes and gets to put his/her hand in the bag to feel an object, try to guess what it is and take it out.
Get into groups number game
Have the children tiptoe around the room quietly. They cannot touch anyone. Then the teacher calls out a number, e.g. ‘I’m 3 years old!’ or ‘It’s 8 o’clock!’ and the children have to form groups of that number by hugging each other.
This is my favorite review game. Make two lines, each consisting of four or more students. Ask the numbers one a question or show them a flashcard. The one to answer correctly and the fastest can sit down. The other one goes to the back of the line. Too slow or incorrect, then both to the back of the line. First team to sit down is the winner!
Choose four children to come in front of class and hold up a flashcard, they show their card briefly and hide it on their back. Choose 4 or 5 student to play the game. You call out one of the words and the children have to remember where the word is and line up in front of the child holding that flashcard. They have great fun trying to remember and following their friends, jumping from one line to the next. You can make it more difficult by getting the children holding the flashcards to change places.
Get the flashcard
Simple game where you have two students compete and run to the flashcard you call out.
You can spice it up a bit by having a student ask you a question about a flashcard. For example you’re practicing ‘What do you like to eat?’ The student will ask the teacher ‘Do you like to eat bread/fish/carrots/cake/pizza?’ and the teacher replies with ‘yes, I do’ or ‘no, I don’t’. Yes means run to the flashcard that was asked about, no means don’t run, stay. It’s fun to trick them by almost saying yes, ‘ye….no!’ or by nodding your head, but changing your mind and saying no, or shaking your head, but saying yes.
Have a set of flashcards in the middle and two players on the outside, the same distance away. Give them both a ball. When the teacher calls out a flashcard, the players run to the card, touch it with the ball, shout out the name and run back to their starting position. You can make it more challenging by making them hop instead of run. Or run 3-5 times around a chair (get dizzy) and then run to the flashcard.
Hula hoop run
Place some hula hoops around the classroom floor and put a flashcard in each hula hoop. Three to five students stand in the middle. The teacher calls out a flashcard and the students have to run and place one foot in the hula hoop that contains the flashcard. The last student to put their foot in calls out the next flashcard for everyone to run to.
Have a stack of 5-10 flashcards which the students know well. Take one flashcard out and hide it somewhere; sit on it or give it to your assistant. The students have to guess which flashcard it is. Show them the other flashcards one by one while the students are saying the vocabulary. After they’ve seen all, some should know which one you took out. They always have a lot of fun trying to be the first one to get it right.
Run in a circle
Put the flashcards in a circle. For example for practicing like or dislike vegetables. One flashcard for each student. Let them run around the circle of flashcards. When you say stop, they have to be standing in front of a flashcard and make an action; thumbs up for like and crossing their arms into an X for don’t like. Then one by one make a sentence ‘I don’t like onions’.