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Using Apples to Apples Junior to Build Language Skills

Cards from apples to apples game

Vocabulary Building Fun!

If you’re looking for a new game to try, look no further than Apples to Apples Junior! This fast-paced card game is not only a ton of fun, it’s also a wonderful way to expand vocabulary!

One of the most appealing things about Apples to Apples is its simplicity. Unlike some games that require a thorough briefing before play begins, this one is easy to explain in just a few sentences.

You’ll need at least three people to play, but it is even more fun with a larger group. The suggested age range is nine and up, but younger children should have no problem successfully playing this game in a family setting with help from Mom and Dad! Gameplay lasts 30-60 minutes.

How to Play

Players take turns being the judge of each round. Let’s say your friend is the judge of the first round. She deals five red cards to each player. You look at your cards, but you don’t show them to anyone else.

child holding apples to apples cards

Now the judge lays down one green adjective card. See how there are two synonyms on the card? It can be fun to consider the shades of meaning between the synonyms.

sporty card from apples to apples game

Look at your cards and decide which one is the most sporty.

  • Pancakes? — Not a chance. Your friend doesn’t even like pancakes!
  • Losing your backpack? — Hmm, that might be something she’d do on your camping trips, and camping trips are sporty.
  • Vacuum cleaner? — Well, your friend does love to do chores. Can vacuuming be a sport?
  • Sporty underwear? — Ahhh … that could appeal to her silly sense of humor! And she is the judge of this round.
  • Gymnastics? — Possibly. After all, gymnastics is a sport.

Now you make your final selection and lay it face down on the table alongside the cards selected by the other players.

sporty card with a bunch of cards

The judge shuffles the red cards so she doesn’t know who tossed in which card. Now her job is to decide which card best fits the word sporty. There’s a bit of friendly banter as players try to encourage her to pick a particular card—either their own or the one they think is best. Spirited discussion is allowed, and the judge doesn’t even have to pick the card that makes the most sense. The judge might just like the creativity (or humor!) of a particular card.

sporty and underwear card from apples to apples

The judge picked your card! I guess underwear is sporty, after all! That’s one point for you, and the first player to earn five points wins the game!

5 Ways to Build Language Skills with Apples to Apples

  1. Learn nouns (including some gerunds) and adjectives. As you play the game, help kids understand what nouns and adjectives are and how they are used. The noun cards may also include gerunds (words formed with verbs ending in ing that act as nouns, like surfing and shopping). To find a gerund, look for ing.
  2. Build vocabulary. Noun cards include a short definition or description, giving your child the opportunity to build his vocabulary as he plays.
  3. Encourage creative word play. The game encourages children to think outside the box and find new ways to describe both familiar words and new additions to their vocabulary. It’s fun for kids (and adults, too!) to explain why they chose a particular card during game play.
  4. Play with words and their meanings. The descriptions on some cards are meant to be funny. For example, the description on the hamburger card asks, Do you want fries with that? These fun descriptions provide great opportunities for discussion about the words and their meanings!
  5. Play with synonyms. Adjective cards feature words like talented, interesting, and goofy. Each adjective card also lists two synonyms for the featured word, introducing kids to shades of meaning and expanding their descriptive vocabulary.
Download the Apples to Apples Game Sheet here

Notes from Our Game Testers

  • This review is for the Junior version, but there are other versions available, too. We liked the original Apples to Apples Party Box version but didn’t enjoy the current version nearly as much because there were a lot more pop culture references that many of the players in our group didn’t know or understand. But your group may love it!
  • If a player has difficulty holding the cards, try using a card holder such as the Gamewright Little Hands Playing Card Holder. It also helps people who are bothered by sharp edges and corners on cards.
  • With over 500 cards, there are virtually infinite combinations of nouns and adjectives, guaranteeing a unique game every time—no matter how often you play!

Does your family have a favorite board game that is a fun and “sneaky” way to build language skills? Please share in the comments below.

All About Learning Press, Inc. is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. All proceeds from our partnership with Amazon.com will be donated to local libraries.

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Kim

says:

Blurt is a great game. It has two levels of difficulty on each card, two words for each level per card. You’re provided with a word and you have to define it. I then like to have the students either use the word in a sentence, provide a rhyming word or for younger students, have them tell the sound at the beginning or end of the word. The game comes with six pawns and a die.

Another games many of my students enjoy is 5 Second Rule. That can be used to work on categories or categorizing items. The regular rules have someone state the category named on a card and the other players have five seconds to name three things within that category. A variation of the game can be to provide three things and have the student name the category into which the items could go.

A third game that I have grown to absolutely LOVE is Super Sentences (available through Super Duper). This addresses language in a more direct manner, but my older students become competitive playing it. It easily fills the whole session. It contains a game board, pawns, a spinner and different colored chips that contain parts of speech (green-nouns, blue-verbs, yellow-prepositional phrases and red-when phrases) and provide who / what / where / when. You go around the board collecting chips and build grammatically correct sentences. It helps students identify and use singular and plural nouns, regular and irregular nouns, verb tenses, singular and plural pronouns, prepositions and tense of event. I give students bonus points when they can rearrange the words to make multiple sentences using the same four chips.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you for sharing this, Kim. These sound like great games!

kim

says:

Oops, second paragraph should start, “Another game…”

MAHMOUD ABUSAMRA

says:

Excellent…Thanks

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Mahmoud!

Mahboobeh

says:

Hi there thanks a lot. What a nice article

Anonymous

says:

My kids occasionally play this game, but I had not considered it for vocabulary. Thanks for the idea!

Another game that can build language skills is Taboo. I’ve played with anywhere from four players up, including a party group of thirty or forty people. Sit in a circle and number off: 1-2-1-2, etc. The cards have a word your team must guess, but the other team won’t let you use the five “taboo” words on the card. It’s hard to describe a shuttle if you can’t say, “rocket” or “airport” or other related words! Though this can be hard for little ones, but if an older helper sits next to them (even if they are on the opposing team), they can still play. You can pass on any word you don’t want to describe, so that gives an opportunity to discuss new words and concepts once the timer goes off. Though not necessarily a vocabulary game, it can help with verbal expression and creative thinking.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you for the description of Taboo and the great ideas for expanding upon it for younger players and for word discussion! It sounds like it would be a great game.

Suzie Homemaker

says:

We have this game. But it’s the kid and I. Daddy HATES games. He has played one in the 16 years we been married. He felt he had too. We were staying at friends house. So we just have fun with the cards and a laugh. A friends kid stays with us a day or 2 every other week thru summer. Thanks for the reminder. I’ll get it out next week when he is here!

Stacy K

says:

This game looks like fun! I will have to pick it up.

Marie

says:

Is this too easy for a bright 13yr old with some dyslexia problems

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Marie,
No. Apples to Apples Junior isn’t too easy for adults. However, the biggest difference between the junior and regular versions is that the regular version has more references to historic events and pop culture that a 13-year-old may enjoy.

Jenny Baker

says:

We love this game!!

Ginny Morgan

says:

What a FUN idea! Definitely adding this to our lessons this week.

Belinda

says:

We love Apples to Apples. I never thought about how good it is for my kids!

Laura Icardi

says:

Oooooh now I need to go buy this game (junior)!

Nikki

says:

What a clever idea!

Amy Redhage

says:

Thanks for the great idea!

SHANNON ALEXANDER

says:

This looks like a fun game. We are always looking for new educational games to play.

Tara Price

says:

We love the all about reading! It is taking the hard work out if teaching our little one to read! Its a wonderful and fun program. Thanks for the chance to win All About Spelling!

Donna

says:

What a wonderful way to extend students’ knowledge. Thank you!

Florence Al

says:

I’ve always wanted to get this game for my homeschooling kids but didn’t know how to incorporate it into our learning. Now, this gives me ideas.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Florence,
Just ask if you ever come across a game or activity that you think could be educational but are unsure. My co-workers and I have a lot of practice in making adaptations and helping others make adaptations for learning, so I’m sure we could come up with some ideas to help you!

Jennifer N.

says:

Hi Robin,
I’ve used parts of AAR and AAS with my children. I love All About Learning’s helpful blog posts, especially the ones about games like this one and the more recent blog post about Boggle. Have you all ever heard of Pickles to Penguins? I just “discovered” it in my local bookstore. It’s a vocabulary-enriching game that encourages kids to make connections between words. I would love to hear what you all think of the game and any adaptations you might suggest. I work as a dyslexia therapist and am always on the lookout for fun learning games to use during my sessions.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Jennifer,
I have not heard of Pickles to Penguins but I just went and looked at a video of it. It looks like a lot of fun! I’m going to pass this on to our team for them to check out.

One adaptation that I thought of by just watching the video is to have players take turns instead of allowing people to go as quickly as they want. I did LOVE that it requires players to state what the two cards have in common in a complete sentence. I can also see the cards being used for things like rhyming games and storytelling.

Anyway, thank you for the recommendation. We’ll definitely be looking into it.

Angela

says:

Can’t wait to try this game out!

Gretchen

says:

My family loves this game! Can’t wait to try your additions with my LD students!

Sarah Gentry

says:

We love this game!

Victoria Lemp

says:

Wow! I never thought of Apples to Apples as sooooo educational! Thanks for the insight! We will pull that out tomorrow! :)

Carly

says:

These games make learning so much fun!

Elizabeth Miller

says:

this is a great learning idea. My granddaughter is crazy into games.

I love this idea. I use the game “Blurt” for vocabulary, but I will try “Apples to Apples” for sure. Thanks.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Heather,
I haven’t heard of Blurt. It sounds like a great game. Thanks for mentioning it.

Tonya

says:

This looks great! I can’t wait to try with my children.

Tammy

says:

Great Ideas!

Brandi

says:

Excellent idea! We have the regular version. We’ll get the junior and try this! Thanks.

Lindsay

says:

Love how AAL (Reading & Spelling) has so many differentiated versions to play games, create activities, etc.!

Kari

says:

Thanks for the idea!

Selina Ramsden

says:

Great idea, thank you!

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