Using PICTIONARY to Grow

Pictionary is a fun game for all ages that can be used during family time, after a long day when you need a laugh or to support a range of other areas in your child’s development. Below are just a few of the ways that you can use Pictionary to target your child’s gross motor, fine motor, cognitive, social and emotional regulation skills.

Gross motor skills

You don’t have to be limited to only following the rules when playing a board game. You can always integrate different challenges into the game to help work on gross motor skills.

  • Encourage your child to sit cross legged, kneel on their hands and knees or lie on their stomach while playing to increase their core strength.
  • Get your child to act out the word(s) instead of drawing it (similar to charades) e.g. if the word was elephant, walk around the room like an elephant instead of drawing
  • If you are set on playing Pictionary but your child still requires movement breaks/has a short attention span, get them to complete a simple obstacle course between each turn (or between each 3 turns if this is too frequent). The obstacle course can include simple movements such as jumping/hopping, animal walks, climbing over/under, skipping and balancing.

Fine motor skills

  • Ensure your child uses a pincer grasp (using the thumb and index finger with other fingers tucked away) when holding the pencil
  • Ensure your child uses their helper hand (the hand not holding the pencil) to hold onto the paper to help stabilise it as they draw.
  • Encourage your child to use their dominant hand when drawing
  • Encourage your child to use their “nippers” (thumb and index finger) when moving the game piece around the board

Cognitive skills

  • Pictionary is a wonderful game for developing planning skills as children need to plan out what they want to draw before they start drawing
  • Ask your child to put the word in a sentence e.g. if the word is elephant – “I saw a big grey elephant at the zoo today”.
  • Count out the number you rolled on the dice and then count out the spaces as you move on the board
  • To increase the complexity of the game, have one player read what the object is and get them to tell the other player what to draw, as the player is drawing they are trying to guess what it is that they are actually drawing e.g. if you draw the word ‘house’ instruct the player to draw a square with a triangle on top. Inside the square draw a smaller square in the top left and in the small square draw a cross.

Social skills

  • Prompt your child to consider who is playing in the game, is there anyone else in the area who may want to play e.g. if you are at home, do siblings want to join in?
  • Prompt your child to find a fair way to decide who goes first. Playing ‘rock, paper, scissors’ or rolling a die to see who gets the highest number can be a useful way to prevent arguing.
  • Practice turn taking skills and if your child requires the support, give verbal prompts such as ‘who is next?’, ‘your turn, my turn’.
  • You can also focus on developing your child’s winning and losing skills. Often when children become fixated on winning, they can have difficulty regulating their emotions if they lose. It is often helpful to role model good winning and losing behaviour. Also emphasize at the start of the game that it is more important to have fun and play fairly than to win. Similarly, before starting the game, brainstorm friendly things to say to one when someone wins (e.g. “You played really well”) or when someone loses (e.g. “Good game. Do you want to play again?”

Emotional regulation skills

  • If your child gets frustrated, angry or upset when they lose or because it is challenging to practice the skills listed above, encourage them to identify what emotion they are feeling. Then help them identify and use strategies (such as taking deep breaths or using a movement break) to calm down before refocusing back on the task. Also emphasize the importance of practicing so we can get better.
  • Similarly, when you have completed the round and guessed what the other person was drawing, you could ask how the person would be feeling if they had to do that e.g. if the word was swimming you could ask “how would you feel if you were swimming”. If the child struggles to identify feelings add in a prompt such as do you like swimming? If yes suggest this may mean they would feel happy if they were to go swimming and if no suggest they may be scared or angry if they have to go swimming.
  • Instead of playing with the cards that come in the game, you could alter this and write down feelings. Then when a player selects the card they can draw the feeling, things that make them feel that way or act the feeling out.

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