Thursday, May 5, 2011

"Bilingual" Games and Activites- Fun &/or Educational In Any Language...

It has happened to me before. Not too long after we moved here to Italy, I had my first challenge on how to have a bilingual Thanksgiving. Hm. Not exactly an easy thing, but we managed. I tried to do what I was used to, which was very frustrating because I married into a family that is not used to, for example, playing games and doing puzzles together as a family.

Over these years, I have had to really think long and hard about activities I could do with a mix of kids who speak Italian, English or both. For birthday parties, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and any other family gatherings along the way, I have resorted to crafts that are easy to explain or games that could be easily manipulated to fit both languages. Obviously it helps if there is one, or more, who know both languages to be able to explain rules, misunderstandings. But, a lot of games do not require a degree in Italian to be able to enjoy.

When I first moved here, I knew some Italian, but I was still trying to get the hang of a lot. So, for that first Thanksgiving, I can only remember one game that worked pretty well, Charades.

Once explained, most of these games do not require talking, or brain power to keep up with conversation, unless you want to. ;-)

1) Charades- I made a list of words by using the Italian-English dictionary that I thought were pretty universal. I wrote them on pieces of paper in both languages so the idea that had to be portrayed was clear in either language. I put them in a container, but not before making myself a copy of that very same list so I could keep track of possible issues. It was fun. I remember it being a little challenging at first, but once they got the hang of it, we played a few rounds and there was lots of laughter. It was a good way to learn some vocabulary and phrases in Italian, too.

2) I think that Pictionary, without the board, could work the same as well, but with a definite bilingual mediator between players, to explain and listen well for the right answer.

3) Sequence

4) Connect Four

5) Operation

6) Building Blocks, construction kits, Legos

7) Pick Up Sticks

8) Uno... GREAT for learning colors and numbers in Italian, or other language

9) Guess Who... Great for learning parts of the face, colors, names of accessories like glasses or hats, in any language


11)Dominoes, Great for counting and learning numbers, in any language

12)Battleship, Great for practicing learning and numbers, in any language

13)Bingo, aka known as Tombola. Here a couple of links to explain the differences between American/English Bingo versus Italian... Here and Here

14)Ker Plunk

15)Freeze Dancing is ALWAYS a hit with the kids. They ask for it for every gathering. It is great exercise, and so much laughter comes out of it. It is played like musical chairs but with dancing kids instead. Let the music play, and the person in charge of the music has to stop it to see if anyone will be caught moving when the music stops. If so, He or she is out. If not, keep going. They LOVE this game, in any language. Hah!

16)Music parades are fun because all the kids have to do is make noise with instruments, yelling, or sounds. This could be adjusted as a Follow the Leader sort of game. If you have musical instruments, you could use them. Or you could have a craft time to make some, but I actually just tell the kids to be creative, to pick something out of our toys and make it an instrument. They always find something. :-)

17)Another favorite activity is CHALK ART time on the driveway. That is a given. This seems like a given, but it is not a common thing here.

18)Bubble Contests- who can blow the biggest bubble, whose lasts longest unpopped, who can pop the most bubbles, etc...

19)Volleyball- I cannot say this about all sports, but even Italians are familiar with "pallavolo". In a town about seven minutes away from us they even have a boys' youth volleyball team and a girls' youth volleyball team.

20)Soccer- obviously this goes without saying in Italy, or should I just say, in Europe? :-)

21)Treasure Hunts have also been used frequently for their popularity. I just changed up depending on the theme of the party.

22)Coloring and drawing... Just offer paper, pens, pencils, markers, colored pencils, and the kids will take it from there.



Don't forget to check the "comments" to see what other readers' ideas have been. Fun stuff!! :-)

Can you think of others? Let me know, and I will add them to my list. Thanks... :-)


  1. Steal the bacon is fun. You just need some flat space for running back and forth to the respective lines, preferable grass to minimize injuries. You can play with mixed ages and skills since you only have to work to match up the opposing partners that have the same number. Rosa Lepore can explain the game to you too - I believe it used to be one of her favorites from family picnics of years past.

  2. "I spy!". In Spanish, we call it "veo, veo" :)

  3. Great ideas!!! Thank you!!! If you think of more, let me know. :-)

  4. Way to go cuz!!! Moving right along, the kids will know more than ONE language and that is a positive development for them. Bless all!!!

    cuz Edwin : )

  5. It's me again :). I've written a post that might interest you with a link to an Italian website.
    Best regards from Barcelona,


  6. Edwin, thank you!!! Hugs to the family...

    Marta, thank you so much. Will go over to see in a moment. :-)