Practicing Language in Play with Barrier Games


Barrier games are a fun and exciting way to practice language with your little one through play. Sounds great! But what exactly is a barrier game? 

What is a barrier game?

A barrier game is a game with a barrier in between the two players so that they cannot see the other person’s side. The aim of barrier games is for the players to use their talking and listening skills to make both sides match. An example of a barrier game that we love at Cooee is the MagneTalk®!


Barrier games are great for expressive language skills!

Barrier games such as the MagneTalk® are fantastic for practicing expressive language as players need to specifically describe what they want the other person to do (e.g. put the fish on top of the treasure chest). This provides many opportunities for you as a parent to model whole sentences on your turn so that your child can use this as a scaffold for their own response.

Barrier games are also a great way to target location language (such as between, on, next to and below) as these pieces of information are critical for making the sides of the barrier game match.

Additionally, checking how each player went with their side at the end of the game is a perfect time to practice using the words ‘same’ and ‘different’ and talking about why any differences occurred to promote language learning

(e.g. I said to put the mermaid between the starfish and the boat. That means in the middle of those two things. Would you like to try again? Put the mermaid BETWEEN the starfish and the boat.)


…and receptive language skills!

In addition to expressive language, barrier games present a great opportunity for your little one to practice their receptive language or understanding, particularly with regards to following directions. If your child can typically follow 2 step instructions in day to day life barrier games are a great way to expand on that by making your instructions gradually more complex in a fun and playful way.

Remember – you can think outside the box, or outside the board, with your directions!

Directions can include things like ‘take the starfish and put it on your head then put the mermaid below the boat’.

Fundamentally, barrier games teach our little ones about the power of language – that the words they say and the words you say have meaning. We hope you have fun playing barrier games with your little one!

If you need support to help your child with their language development, please contact our North Brisbane Speech Pathologists on 07 3265 4495. Our speech therapists enjoy supporting children with their language skills – we’d love to hear from you!


Kaitie Davey

Speech Pathologist