Kindergarten Activities

Fun and engaging games and activities for kindergarten ESL lessons!

Key: 'R' receptive, 'P' productive,  'I' individual, 'G' group, 'F' flashcards, 'L' literacy

4 Letter Picture Match - RIL

Choose between 6-10 alphabet flashcards and stick them in different places on the walls. Have ready a selection of flashcards showing known vocabulary. Divide the class into two teams and give the children in each team a number. Give children with the same number from each team a picture flashcard. The children race to stand by the alphabet flashcards the shows the first letter of the picture flashcard they have been given.

Alphabet Slap - RIL

Write some letters on the board (or use alphabet flashcards). Select a student to come up and slap the letter you call out (either with their hand or a flyswatter). You can get two or three students to do this at the same time. For older students, line them up in 2 teams and make it a race.

Alphabet Writing Dictation - PIL

Students are paired into a runner and a writer. The runner comes and looks at your letter (G) and runs back and says ‘capital G’ and their partner writes ‘G’. You can also do it with words or pictures. This should be done only after students are writing the letters correctly (starting in the right place and not lifting their pen halfway through a letter).

Ball Game - PIF

Have ready a soft ball. Stick 8-10 flashcards on the board. Children stand in a circle. Hold up the ball and say 'one, two, three...' and name one of the flashcards on the board. AS you throw the ball to a child in the circle, the child who catches the ball repeats the procedure and names another flashcard. The game continues in the same way until all the flashcards on the board have been named.

Bang - PI

Students make a circle with the teacher in the middle. The teacher asks a question (e.g. do polar bears live in the jungle), points to a student and says bang. The student who was chosen does not have to answer the question, but crouches down, and the students either side of the crouching student have to race to answer the question (false). The winner of the duel gets a point. You can give students points on tiled floors in front of the student with a dry-wipe marker pen.

Big Wind Blows - RGF

Sick some flashcards around the room. Teacher says one of the flashcards and blows like a big wind. The students then run to the correct flashcard.

Blow Frog - RPI

Print or draw some frogs. Fold the beginning section of the frog up. Students blow there frog to the finish line and then have to say the vocabulary. You could do it in teams whereby each student can only blow once and then go to the back of the line to wait for their turn.

Board Drawing Race - RI

Draw two numbered grids on the board. Two teams make two lines. The teacher says, blue tick in box 4 and the two students at the front of each row race to draw it, first team to draw it wins. The teacher can use: tick, cross, shapes (circle, triangle), stick man, sun, tree, flower, etc.

Board Pelmanism - RPIFL

Also need word cards: Stick 8-10 flashcards face-down on the board in random order, and number them. Do the same with word cards on the other side of the board. Invite a child to choose a flashcard (e.g. number two, please), and as you turn it around to show the picture, elicit what it is. Invite the same child to choose a word card in the same way. If the flashcard and word card match, remove them from the board. If not, turn them both around so that they are in the same position but facing inwards again. The game proceeds with different children choosing a flashcard and word card in the same way, trying to match them from memory until they are all removed.

Bring Me... - RPI

Divide the students into teams or groups. Draw a circle for each team on the floor. Place items being studied in the circles. Students stand on a line drawn on the floor. Call out 'Bring me the _____'. The first student in the line must run and bring you the object. To make it harder they can bring more than one object. Include points to make it competitive for older students. Make it a productive activity by having students repeat the words when they give you the items.

Classify the Words - RPIFL

Also need word cards: Draw two or three large circles on the board and write topic words at the top of each (e.g. rooms, shops, colours...). Children take turns to come to the front of the class, either individually or in pairs, read a word card that you give them and stick it in the correct circle.

Clever Parrot - RPGF

Stick a set of flashcards on the board. Point to one of the flashcards and say the name. If the name you say is correct, the students must repeat the word. If it's incorrect, they must stay silent. Make it more challenging by using the word in a sentence.

Colour Dictation - RI

Give students a picture and dictate what colour each item should be. Great to review colours and whatever vocabulary you are studying.

Dictation Mini-Boards - RPI

Draw some very simple pictures on the board, and students must practice drawing these pictures: stickman, sun, tree, flower, cloud, mountain, river, etc. Start the game with 3 pictures, and build on the amount of pictures each lesson. Pair the students up, with one runner and one drawer. The runner comes and looks at the picture on your whiteboard, and conveys the message to their partner who draws the correct picture. You could also do it with dots. They count six dots on your board and their partner must draw six dots on their board. You could make it more complicated by using colour, a red tree, a black sun, a blue flower etc. Or 3 red dots, 5 black dots. You could probably only start including colour after doing this activity many times.

Disappearing Flashcards (whole class) - PGF

Put 6 flashcards on the board. Students must say each flashcard as you point. After they finish, you remove one. They must continue to say the missing one. By the end of the game there are no flashcards left on the board, but the students are still saying all of them.

Disappearing Flashcards (individual) - PIF

Put 6 flashcards on the board. Drill the vocabulary. Have the students close their eyes and remove a flashcard. Elicit or nominate a student to tell you what's missing. Drill pronunciation as necessary.

Don't Repeat - PI

Choose a category (jobs, habitats, countries etc.) pass the ball around the circle, each student says a word in that category, the student who repeats a word or cannot think of a word is the loser. The loser doesn't leave the circle the game just continues to the next category.

Drilling - PGF

Try emotional drilling or holding the flashcard low and whisper the word – the higher you lift the card the louder they say the word. Hold it high above your head for them to shout the word.

Duck, Duck, Goose - RPI

Good to practice new vocabulary with lots of repetition. Sit everyone in a circle. One student walks around saying a given word and tapping each student on the shoulder. When they say a second, different word, the sitting student chases the other around the circle. If they catch them, they can sit down again. If not, they become the 'tapper'. Change the two words as needed.

Duck, Duck, Goose (advanced) - RPI

Students say words of a category. If they say a word that is not in that category the student has to chase them around the circle. Zoo animals: giraffe, lion, tiger, pig (run). It’s fun to trick the students and emphasise a word that is actually right, or to say an incorrect word with no emphasis and to keep going to see if anyone in the class picks it up.

Fishing for Vocabulary - RI

Draw a pond with fish while speaking to the students. What’s this, it’s a pond, what should we put into the pond? Fish? Choose a colour for the fish. How many fish? Oh that’s a fat fish. Oh that’s a baby fish. And what else? How about grass? Etc. etc. When the pond is finished, put some pieces of paper in the pond. The pieces of paper have pictures underneath them, and paper clips on them. Choose students to come forward, give them a small fishing rod, and they must try to dangle the magnet correctly in order to catch a piece of vocab.

Flash! - PGF

Show flashcards to the children very quickly so they can try to identify what it is.

Flashcard Bingo - RIFL

Use at least twelve flashcards. Stick the flashcards on the board. Children draw a grid with six squares and write the name of one flashcard in each square. Remove the flashcards from the board and shuffle them. Hold up the flashcards one by one and say the names. Children write a cross in the word if it is in their grid. The first child to write a cross on all six words in their grid calls out Bingo! And is the winner.

Flashcard Chain - PIF

Have a set of flashcards ready. Stand or sit in a circle with the children. Pass the first flashcard to the child on your left and ask a question e.g. 'do you like ice cream?' Yes, (I do), No, (I don't). The child then asks the question and passes the flashcard to the next child and so on round the circle. To make this more challenging, when the first flashcard is about three children away from you in the circle, introduce another flashcard with another question.

Flashcard Charades - PGF

Divide the class into groups of three or four. Give each group a flashcard, making sure the other groups don't see. Children think of a way to mime their flashcard. Give them a minute or two to prepare. Each group takes turns to mime to the rest of the class and guess each other's flashcards.

Flashcard Hangman - PGFL

Use alphabet flashcards if you have them. Think of a word the children know and draw dashes for each letter on the board. Children suggest letters to go in the word. If the letter is correct, stick the flashcard on the corresponding line. If the letter is not correct, stick the flashcard on the side of the board and start to draw a line to the hangman figure. Children win the game if they guess the word before you complete the picture of the stickman (no need to 'hang' the character for this age group).

Flashcard Story - RIF

You will need to invent a very simple story with relevant flashcards. Give out flashcards you are going to include in the story to the children in pairs. An example may be of a house and a character from your book: 'One day Mr. Macaroni loses his watch. He looks in the bedroom but he can't find it. He looks in the bathroom but he can't find it (name all the rooms). Then Mr. Macaroni goes to the garden to play football. Suddenly, he sees his watch under the tree. Mr. Macaroni is very happy.' Children listen and hold up corresponding flashcards when they hear the word in the story.

Flashcard Whispers - PIF

Children stand in two lines facing the board. Secretly show the last child standing in each line a flashcard. This child then whispers the name to the next child and so on up the line. The child at the front runs to the board and draws or writes the word. Repeat several times, changing the children who stand at the front and back of the line each time.

Hangman - PIL

Choose a word and draw dashes on the board for each letter. Students then guess letters to make the word. When they choose a correct letter, write it above the correct dash. When they are incorrect, draw a part of a stick figure being hanged. Once the picture is complete, they lose the game.

Hopscotch - PIF

Put a line of flashcards on the floor down the middle of the room. Divide the students into 2 teams and draw a start line for each. You will need to demonstrate. Students must hop from flashcard to flashcard while saying the items of vocabulary as they go. When they get to the end, they hop back to the start.

Hot Potato - PI

Pass a ball around the room and when the music stops, the student with the ball has to answer a question, make a question, or draw a prompt out of the bag.

Jumbled Words & Flashcards - RIFL

Also need word cards: Stick flashcards and word cards on the board in a jumbled order. Invite children to the board in turn and get them to draw lines to join the flashcards and words.

Jump the Line / Circle - RGF

Draw a line down the middle of the room and have students stand along the line. Show them that one side is 'yes' and the other is 'no'. You stand at the end of the line and hold up a flashcard asking "is it a ______". The students jump to either side depending on whether you call out the correct name or not. For a variation, use a circle instead.

Lip Reading Parrot - RPGF

Stick a set of flashcards on the board. Choose one flashcard and say the name without voicing it, students repeat (or stand or raise their thumbs) if correct and stay silent (or sit or thumbs down) if it's incorrect. Good for revision.

Make the Alphabet - GFL

Give out alphabet flashcards in random order to different children. If there are fewer than twenty six in the class, give some two flashcards showing consecutive letters. Children take turns coming to the front of class and stick their flashcards in alphabetical order on the board. Alternatively, the children can stand up, hold their flashcard and arrange themselves in alphabetical order in a line.

Marco Polo - RPIGF

Put 4-6 flashcards on the walls around the room and a chair in the middle. One student or the teacher sits in the chair with a blindfold on. The other students must walk around the room and choose a flashcard to stand next to before the student finishes counting. When the student finishes counting to 5 they call out 'Marco Polo, stop!', all of the other students must stop. The student in the middle then calls out one of the flashcards and all of the students at that card must sit down. Use these students to take over the centre role sitting in the chair. The students who are out can help count.

Match the Flashcards and Words - RIFL

Also need word cards: Stick flashcards to the board. Give out word cards to individual children. Children take turns to stick their words by the correct flashcard. Alternatively, you can stick the word cards on the board and give flashcards out to children.

Memory Lists - PI

Half the class stands on one side and the other half stands on the other side with both teams facing each other. You can pass to anyone on the other team. First the teacher chooses a category. The first team says a word (dog) and passes it to the other team, a member of the other team who has the ball says (dog, cat), then the first team says (dog, cat, monkey) etc. until a team forgets the sequence of words.

Mime the Flashcard - PGF

Hold up flashcards in turn and say the word or phrase. Children mime a response e.g. using action verb flashcards, children do the action. This can easily be adapted to be productive or to drill pronunciation.

Miming - RGF

Go through each flashcard and assign a movement / mime. Say a flashcard and they have to produce the mime.

Mini Olympics - PI

How far can you jump? How long can you stand on one leg for? How many pushups can you do? Make it a real event whereby you time the students and put their time/distance on the board. You could involve intellect for unathletic students (how many items can you remember in 5 seconds, how quickly can you say the alphabet, how high can you count?).

Monster Munch - RIF

Lay a few flashcards at one end of the room. Bring one or two students to the other side of the room and stand behind them. Say "I want to eat a ____ (and a ____)". The students then run to the flashcards and find the ones you named while you slowly chase them like a monster. the idea is that they bring you the flashcards before you catch up with the children. Try not to be too monstrous - the very little ones can get scared!

Musical Chairs - PI

Make a circle of chairs using 1 fewer than the number of students. Play music and the students walk around the chairs, when you stop the music they race to sit. Whoever is left standing answers a question (e.g. what's on the flashcard).

Mystery Box - RPIG

Make a hole in a box. Put random toys and puppets and other things into the box. Students must put their hand in and take something out. Students then sit with their item, and the teacher asks them each questions about their item. What is that? What colour is it? Etc.

Noughts & Crosses - PIF

Draw a large grid as you would for noughts and crosses. Put a flashcard in each square. Divide the students into 2 teams. Each team takes it in turn to choose a flashcard to be replaced by their symbol and they must try to get 3 in a row. Experiment with different symbols.

Odd One Out - RIF

Cut out 4 images for each flashcard. Have 3 the same and one different. Have them face up so the students can see then turn them over. Mix them up and ask a student to identify the individual card.

Pass & Say - PGF

Sit students in a circle. Hold up a flashcard and say the word. Pass it to the right and have the next student repeat the word. Continue in this manner, helping with pronunciation as necessary. Extend the activity by having them pass the flashcard around the circle as quick as possible - time them and have them try to beat their best time.

Pelmanism - PIF

Copy your flashcards onto two different coloured cards. Have both sets on the floor face down. Select a student to turn over one from each colour and say what it is. Ask them are the same? If they match the students keeps them.

Picture Pick Up - RIF

Cut out 10 – 15 images for each flashcard. Put the big flashcards face up on the floor. Scatter all the images all over the floor face up. Play music and have the students running / dancing around. Stop the music and shout a flashcard. The students should find the little picture and put it on the matching big picture.

Point / Go to the Flashcard - RGF

Stick flashcards around the room. Everyone holds hands in a circle. Say a flashcard and everyone points or walks (or tiptoes) to the flashcard as a circle, they can't let go. After you have visited each one, let go of hands and they run to the flashcards you call out.

Puppet on your Head Race - RIF

Students must put a puppet on their head, walk to the flashcard which is on a chair or the floor, pick up the flashcard and walk to the finish line. It can be done competitively or not. You can allow cheating or not (it’s usually impossible for young students to do it without using their hands to readjust their puppet or to put it back on when it falls off).

Shark! - RG

Draw islands on the floor. Instruct the students to walk like bears, swim like fish, fly like birds etc… when you shout ‘shark!’ they have to run to the safety of the island as you chase them.

Slap - RIFL

Stick flashcards on the board. Select a student to come up and slap the card (either with their hand or a flyswatter). You can get two or three students to do this at the same time. For older students, line them up in 2 teams and make it a race.

Slowly, slowly! - PGF

Cover a flashcard with a piece of paper. Slowly reveal the image so children can guess what it is.

Songs - PG

Teach the students songs containing the language you are teaching. It's really fun if you can play guitar or keyboard for them. Do this regularly so they can learn the words, e.g. include it in your initial 'circle time' stage.

Spell it Right! - GFL

Give out alphabet flashcards in random order to different children. Say words from vocabulary the children know, one word at a time. Children who think they have a letter from the word you say come and stand in a line at the front of the class and hold their flashcards to spell the word. The rest of the class check the spelling. Make sure to only choose words that have one of each letter.

Spin the Bottle - PI

Students sit in a circle (or 2 or 3 circles for larger classes). Spin a bottle (or marker pen) in the middle of the circle. Whoever it points to must answer a question. After answering, they get to spin the bottle for the next turn.

Stand Up! - RGF

Divide the class into two teams. Stick four or five flashcards on one side of the board for one team, and four or five flashcards on the other side of the board for the other team. Say the words in random order. Children stand up as fast as they can if the word belongs to their team.

Stop! - RPGFL

Also need word cards: Stick a flashcard on the board and elicit the name. Hold up word cards one by one. Children read silently until you hold up the word card which matches the flashcard. They call 'Stop!' and read the word out loud. Repeat with different flashcards.

Teacher Says - RG

A great warmer or filler and a fun receptive activity. Simply say 'teacher says....' and add some direction, such as 'touch your nose', 'wave hello', sit down' and so on. Students repeat as long as you start with 'teacher says'. If you only give the instruction, then students shouldn't repeat.

Team Game - RGFL

Also need word cards: Prepare two sets of matching flashcards with corresponding word cards for this game. Divide the class into two teams. Stick flashcards (as many as there are children) on the board or walls. Give one word card to each child in both teams. Call out one of the flashcards. The child in each team who has the corresponding word card runs to touch the flashcard and hold up their flashcard as fast as they can. The child who get there first each time scores a point for their team.

Threes - RIGF

Sit in a circle with the children and divide them into two teams. Lay three flashcards out in front of you and elicit the names. Turn the flashcards over so that the pictures are hidden. Change the positions of the flashcards on the floor so that they are no longer easily identifiable. Invite a child from one of the teams to name one of the three flashcards. He/ She then tries to find this flashcard by choosing one of them and turning it over to reveal the picture. If it isn't the flashcard they named, the three flashcards are turned over and move around again and a child from the other team has a turn. If it is the flashcard they named, they keep it for their team. You then introduce another flashcard to make up the three in the game. The game continues in the same way with the children on each team taking turns. The team with most flashcards at the end wins.

Traffic Lights - PIF

Hold up different coloured flashcards to make them run at different speeds. Green = fast, orange = slow motion, red = freeze! Whoever is last to freeze, ask them to identify a flashcard.

Whispers Race - PIF

Have the students sat/stood in two lines. Copy your flashcards so there are two sets. Hand the flashcard to the student at the end of each line. The students say the flashcard and pass it to the person next to them who in turn repeats it and passes it on. When it gets to the end the final student in the line stands up and holds it high saying the word. That student then moves to the other end so they are the first person.

Word Race - PGFL

Stick a selection of alphabet flashcards in jumbled order on the board. Divide the class into pairs or groups and give the children a time limit to make words of two or more letters from the flashcards on the board. Let the children know that they can include words in their list where letters are repeated (e.g. green, dinner...). After five minute, check the words and find out how many the class has collectively managed to make.