15 Must Have Board Games for Special Education

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Building social skills is essential in the special education classroom. I know that direct teaching of basic social skills is imperative, but when we get ready for generalization I’m a huge fan of pulling out the board games. Board games are perfect for practicing turn taking, cooperating with peers, and you may even be able to target some academic skills with games.

I have a set of Take Home Games I created and I use for homework and sometimes we even play the games in the classroom, but sometimes there's no substitute for an already made (no prep) game that you can take out of the box and start playing immediately! Here are a list of 15 must have board games for the special education classroom and why I love them:

1. Connect4
I love playing Connect4 in the classroom, but here’s what, I don’t play the game as designed. The idea of taking turns AND getting four pieces in a row is TOUGH for my students, so I usually use Connect4 just to practice “My turn” and “Your turn” in the classroom.

2. Yeti in my Spaghetti
Ok. I originally purchased this game because it was adorable. I honestly didn’t know how to play the game when I purchased it. I just bought it and thought we’d figure it out, but it turned out to be one of my FAVORITE purchases. This game is another great one for taking turns but the added focus on motor planning and choosing which piece of spaghetti to pull is a bonus in my eyes!

3. Guess Who
I remember playing guess who when I was a kid. It was definitely one of my favorites. I often use this game with students who are working to expand utterances. I will often provide a sentence starter and occasionally I’ll also provide a question bank for students to ask while playing the game. I love how you can focus on answering yes/no questions and the variety of questions you can ask with this game.
Bonus tip: Use pictures of familiar staff or peers instead of the images that come with the game to promote identifying familiar people.

4. Pop the Pig
This one is definitely a classroom favorite. Our SLP brought this game in a while ago and my students were immediately hooked. We ended up having to get a classroom game, too so she could use the game with other students. We love using the different color hamburgers to work on requesting by attribute. And my students think it is hilarious when the pig pops!

5. Don’t Break the Ice
Don’t break the ice is another old school game from my childhood. This is another great game to practice turn taking in the classroom and I wouldn’t be lying if I told you my OT loves that my students have to target blocks to knock them out.

6. Hi Ho Cherry-o
This throwback game is always a favorite. Hi hi cherry-o involves so many skills that I find myself pulling it out just about every Fun Friday! You’ve got the fine motor skills to spin the spinner and place the cherries, you’ve got the academic skills out counting out objects, and of course you’ve got those turn taking skills to practice in this game.

7. Kerplunk
I remember playing Kerplunk with my sister when I was younger. This is an AMAZING game for motor planning. I love how you have to think about which stick you're going to pull and what that will cause the marbles to do. Such a great executive functioning skill! Also, if you're looking for fine motor practice, have the students help you put the sticks into the tube to set up for play time! Threading those sticks is GREAT find motor practice.

8. Don’t Spill the Beans
Don't Spill the Beans is a great game to use in the classroom. It incorporates planning skills. You have to plan where you're going to put the beans when it is your turn. One adaptation I made to this games is for my students who are able to count. I added a die to the game and have students roll it to determine how many beans they need to put on the pot.

9. Shark Bite
Shark Bite is a fun find I had recently. This game features a sharks head with little fish lodged inside. Students get to practice counting skills by rolling a die and pulling that number of fish out of the shark's mouth. I love the 1:1 correspondence practice. They also use a fishing pole which is GREAT for their fine motor development.

10. Ants in the Pants
Ants in the Pants is a classic game I remember from my childhood. The point is simple, get all your colored ants into the oversized pants, but what students don't know if that they're working on skills that help them motor plan and pushing those little ants down to make them fly is a great way to develop some hand strength!

11. Crocodile Dentist
Crocodile Dentist is just a seriously FUN game. If you're not familiar, there's a huge crocodile with BIG teeth. You push down the teeth until the "magic tooth" makes the sharks mouth snap down. My students have had so many giggles while playing this game. It's usually one of my introductory games because it's so great for turn taking in the classroom.

12. Pop Up Pirate
If you can't tell, we love a game with a surprise in our classroom. Pop Up Pirate is another super fun game. Sometimes we play according to the rules on the package, but if we're working on attributes in the classroom, sometimes we use the game to practice requesting items by color.

13. Soggy Doggy
Soggy Doggy is a fun game that a parent recommended to me recently. It's one of the first "traditional" board games I've been using this year. In this game, you roll a die and move around a game board, but the fun is that you never know when the doggy is going to shake off and get you all wet!

14. Jenga
Jenga is a classic. The motor planning that goes into selecting and removing a piece of the puzzle is the best part of Jenga, but you can really adapt it to meet ANY of your needs. I've written letters and numbers on Jenga sets in the classroom and sometimes we play it like an adapted Memory game!

15. Jumping Jack
Jumping Jack was a random Amazon purchase a while back. We've been LOVING cause and effect games, so I've really been on the hunt. I loved that this game combined counting skills since students spin a spinner to determine how many carrots to remove from the garden all while they don't know when Jack is going to hop out! The directions suggest that the winner is the player who catches Jack which is great for gross motor skills and hand-eye coordination, but we just think Jack hopping out of the garden is prize enough for all of us!

What are your MUST HAVE games for the classroom? Drop me a comment and let me know. I'm always on the hunt for a new game for the classroom!

1 comment

  1. Pop up pirate and Jumping Jack are some of my students favorite games! Lol they can't get enough :)


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