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Using Pickles to Penguins! to Build Language Skills

How Are a Beach Ball and a Dandelion Connected?

Check it out! We’ve got a hilarious card game you can play with your kids—and strengthen their language skills at the same time. Pickles to Penguins! is sure to become a new family favorite.

Pickles to Penguins! is known as “the quick-thinking, picture-linking party game.” But a party isn’t necessary to enjoy the fast-paced fun of this easy-to-learn card game. Whether at home or on the road, this is a great way to get in a little language skills practice while having a blast at the same time.

And even though it is recommended for ages 8 and up, Pickles to Penguins! can be simplified to suit younger players. It also includes instructions for five alternate methods of playing, so this game will never get boring!

How to Play

Let’s start linking pictures!

Each player is dealt 25 cards, and the leftover cards go in a draw pile. Grab five of your cards (your “player’s deck”) and lay them out in front of you. Leave the rest of your cards in a pile beside them.

Here are your cards:

Player's deck

Now, be sure to look at both sides of your cards! Each card has two pictures and you don’t want to miss a great word to play.

To start the game, the dealer turns over two cards from the draw pile and lays them side-by-side in the center of the table.

Pickles to Penguins draw pile

The dealer says “Go!” and it’s time to play! Players race to make connections with the cards in the piles.

Can you make any connections between your cards and one of the cards on the piles? You sure can! Your polar bear card could link to the snowman card. But to make your connection valid, you must yell out the connection between the two cards. As you lay down your polar bear card, you yell, “A snowman and a polar bear are both white!”

Pickles to Penguins draw pile with card played

But remember…when you announce your connection, you must say the names of each item and you must use full sentences. Be sure to make a good connection, because if you don’t, you may get penalized!

Now quickly take another card from your draw pile and add it to your player’s deck. With everyone trying to make connections, this game goes fast, so take a look at your cards and try to make your next connection. Remember, your goal is to be the first player to use all of your cards, so keep going!

Pickles to Penguin player's hand

A bunch of connections have been made and the card piles are getting bigger. Another player just made a connection on the dandelion card. “A beach ball and a dandelion are both round.”

Pickles to Penguins playing cards

Lucky you! Your surfboard card links perfectly to the beach ball card. You make your connection and yell, “A surfboard and a beach ball are both used at the beach.”

Placing "surfboard" card on top of "beach ball" card

Uh-oh. Now someone just put apple on top of tire and yelled, “A bike has tires, and I can eat an apple while riding my bike,” but that link seems like it might be a bit of a stretch! You and the other players must decide whether that connection is valid. If you decide it is, just keep playing. But if you don’t accept the connection, the player who made the invalid connection has to take five more cards from the draw pile. Ouch!

Player playing an invalid card

Now you only have two cards left, and one of them is a wild card. You can play that wild card on either of the two piles without a connection, and then you can play your remaining card on the wild card without making a connection. But do it quickly before someone else beats you to it!

Placing the winning card down in Pickles to Penguins

Hooray! You just won the game!

4 Ways to Build Language Skills with Pickles to Penguins!

  1. Build vocabulary. With 528 double-sided cards (that’s over 1,000 different items!), this game provides plenty of new vocabulary words for your kids to learn as they play. The pictures on every card also help by providing clear examples of each item.
  2. Learn to compare and contrast. Pickles to Penguins! is an excellent introduction to the concept of comparing and contrasting items. Kids will have to come up with creative comparisons for numerous items, as well as explain contrasts when it’s time to dispute another player’s comparison.
  3. Construct full sentences. The game instructions require all players to say the names of both items and the connection between them in a full sentence, such as “Frying pans and bathtubs can both hold water.” Kids learn the importance of quickly inventing clear and complete sentences—because if they don’t, they lose the game!
  4. Learn compound words. LOTS of the word cards in this game are compound words. Take the opportunity to discuss the different types of compound words and how they are formed. Download our list of 501 Compound Words for Kids for even more practice!
Download your Pickles to Penguins! Game Sheet

Notes from Our Game Testers

  1. There are a lot of rules to remember, so playing with younger players might require some rule adjustments.
  2. If you are playing with a child who needs more processing time, give her the first chance to play a card. If she decides she doesn’t have a match, she can say “Pass!” to turn the play over to the other players.
  3. Be sure to try some of the alternate games included in the instructions.
  4. Pickles to Penguins! is also available in a Travel Edition. Try it on your next road trip!

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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Stephanie Davis

says:

I love using games to help my kids learn & this is a new game to me.

Danielle Kennelly

says:

This game looks great! Can’t wait until I have some little readers to play it with.

Amy

says:

What a wonderful post! I love the blog and especially all of the posts about how to use games we already have to build language skills :)

Adele Castillo

says:

This looks like a fun game! I can’t wait to try it.

Shannon Schloss

says:

Awesome!

Ashley Blasy

says:

That sounds like a fun game! Thanks for sharing.

Melissa J

says:

Fun, we love learning games, thanks for sharing!

Christi Fetzer

says:

I had not heard of this before. I will have to check it out.

Natalie

says:

What a great idea! Another way you have ofbmaking learning fun!

Jay S

says:

This looks like sooo much fun! I have a three and half year old that loves words and games. She would be over the moon about this :)

Jessica Anderson

says:

I love this game! Thanks for sharing. I’m always looking for great games to add to my list. This is one I will definitely be getting for my boys.

Tracey

says:

This looks like a game that my kids would love!

Tami Sisemore

says:

Thank you so much for this idea! This game is now on my wish list!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Tami,
I think wish lists are a great resource for planning for gift giving like Christmas and birthdays!

Julie

says:

Creative idea for a game!

Ashleigh

says:

How fun! Need to try this!

Amy L Flynt

says:

This looks like a great new game for our family! I’m excited to try it.

Hannah

says:

I love this idea!

Hannah

says:

I love this!

Angela Williams

says:

Love the four ways to build language skills by playing the game!

A Harris

says:

This sounds like a great game to play!

Andrea

says:

Looks like fun!

Heather

says:

This game looks so fun!! My kiddo is turning 4 but he loves games. I bet I could easily modify this for him!

Barbara Lima

says:

This is much better than the flash cards I used to use for my child. I would love these for my grandchild.

Linda

says:

This looks like a great new game for our family! My Grandson lives with us and is in speech classes with articulation and syntax difficulties. What a fantastic game for him!

Amy

says:

I absolutely love All About Reading! My girls on currently on Level 2 and have taken off with the help of this curriculum. I’m SO thankful I found this!

Ruth

says:

What a fun game! I will definitely be playing it with my children!

kim

says:

Everything about this! Look forward to trying this with my kids with special needs! It’ll be a challenge, but she’ll love the pictures!

M. Chen

says:

This looks like fun! I’ll have to try it with my kids.

Andrew B

says:

This sounds like a great game to use with my son who has a speech delay! My kids loving playing games and I’m sure this will be a great addition to our stack of games.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Andrew,
We have had a lot of discussion in the comments of this post about using this game for helping speech development! Apparently, at least some speech therapists are already using it.

I hope Pickles to Penguins! is a great addition to your collection of games!

Johanna

says:

What a fun idea! Thank you for sharing this with wonderful game with all its details. I love the concept of having to use proper sentence structure.

Danielle

says:

What a unique game!
Very “out of the box” concept.
Will definitely look into this for our first grader granddaughter.
We love board/card games.

Nikki

says:

Sounds like a fun. I haven’t heard of this game before. I am excited to try it with my kiddo.

Kath

says:

Love these game articles! Our collection of fun board games is growing. Thank you!

C.d.

says:

This looks like a lot of fun!

Heather

says:

This is interesting and looks fun!

Rosaura Medina

says:

Amazing.

April

says:

I enjoy all the great resources you share! Learning is fun for all of us!

Chasta howes

says:

This is an interesting game. I like how it builds vocabulary and the thought process. When I read the name of the game to really didn’t expect it to be the type of game it was. I definitely like it.

Marci

says:

This is a cute game

Kelsey P

says:

I love this! Definitely out of the box thinking fun!

Krystal G

says:

Looks like a game that encourages lots of fun and laughter!

Brooke

says:

This looks like a fun game made for my family! I hate pickles but l love penguins. I think our kids will enjoy this.

Mary

says:

Looks like a fun game! Fun way to get kids working on language skills and making connections.

Nicole Deardorf

says:

This game looks like it would be great for people of all ages to help their brains. I have had a brain injury and had to re-learn a lot of things including talking. I think this would be great for students and for people that just want to strengthen their minds. I am going to look into getting this game for my little guy, but am looking forward to playing as well.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Yes, such a great observation, Nicole! Thank you.

Crystal

says:

Sounds like a fun game!

Tina

says:

Looks fun!

Nichole Burke

says:

This looks like fun!

Alyssa George

says:

My kiddos would love this fun game! Awesome idea.

Jessie Gruttadauria

says:

Awesome, thank you!

Candace Holder

says:

My kids love any & all the games that coordinate with our AAR lessons, especially those invoking Ziggy!!

Christa Small

says:

Love! Teaching my 5 year old to read!

Katy

says:

What a fun game! I know my kindergartener would love making funny connections. Love that it teaches critical and creative thinking too!

Esmeralda

says:

My kids love board games that includes all family! This games looks fun!

Shai PW

says:

Looks like so much fun.

Christina Sparks

says:

Looks like fun and a great way to learn for the kids.

Shai PW

says:

Looks like so much fun

Susanna

says:

I love using games for learning! I’ll definitely be on the lookout for this one.

Jessica Thrall

says:

Games are a great way to learn!

Ashlea

says:

This looks so fun!

April R Robinson

says:

Would love this for my little girl. She loves books and is just learning to read!!

Melissa

says:

Oh my goodness so much fun!

Genevieve Imbrogno

says:

Looks like fun!

Angela m

says:

Very creative way to practice quick thinking!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Angela,
I love how this game requires players to make connections between seemingly unconnected things. Making connections is a very effective strategy for learning and memory and this game practices it very well!

Lori Shaffer

says:

This looks interesting.

Abigail Frazee

says:

Looks fun & would be great for all my kiddos to play together

Jennifer Kasper

says:

This looks like so much fun and something my kids would absolutely love! We will have to check it out!

Jennifer

says:

This sounds great!

charo bramblett

says:

Great game recommendation. My daughter would
love it. Thank you.

Eraine

says:

Looking forward to playing!

Eraine

says:

Thanks for the free downloads!

Monique L.S.

says:

This would be a fun family game. I’d love to see some of the creative ideas my kids come up with.

Robyn

says:

My daughter would have so much fun with this game, we are always looking for educational games to supplement our homeschool materials

Esther C

says:

Great idea! Thank you for the suggestion!

Kirstin Jellinghausen

says:

Looks like fun!

Kayleigh Chaloux

says:

What a great game recommendation

Paula

says:

Another great recommendation; thank you!

Patricia Voorhees

says:

This is a great game for getting kids to think about the connections and then organize their thought into a sentence. They can evaluate whether a connection is strong or weak,

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I agree, Patricia! This game seems to work on so many aspects of language and thinking as well.

Anamarija C.

says:

Creative! Will use.

Valerie

says:

This looks great! We love this reading program and this looks like a great reinforcement game.

Renatta Welsh

says:

This is a great idea and looks like a very fun game!

Stacey

says:

Awesome game!! Looking forward to playing this with my kiddos!

Shaylyn Moran

says:

I need some of these games for my son!

Gina

says:

Would love to try this!

Marie Knupp

says:

Love all of your resources!!

Lachrisha

says:

I can’t wait to get this game for my 4 kiddos!

Jan

says:

Looks like a game my son would like to play. Thanks

Viktoria

says:

I love this idea. The reviews on Amazon are not great, but, sometimes, using a game in a way not originally intended is the way to go. Even if the kids stretch the relationship between words, they are thinking, analyzing and creating. This is on my wish list!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I wasn’t aware that the Amazon reviews for this game aren’t as good, Viktoria. Interesting. I just took a look at them and read a couple of two-star reviews back to back with one saying it was too young for the age range listed and the very next one saying it’s a better game for adults. I wonder if it’s just one of those games some love and some don’t.

Viktoria

says:

I think that is true with so many products and games. I plan to order this soon. I will read the directions, then create a developmentally appropriate game for my boys based on the idea of the game. Like I said, no matter how they play it, it is some thinking and creativity. Plus, it is family time!!

Vanessa Gooch

says:

What a great, sneaky way to build language skills!

Jessica C.

says:

We love AAR and AAS!! We also love your giveaways and the chance to WIN our next level!! Thank you!!!

Amy P

says:

Looks like a fun game to try with my kiddo!

Shawna A

says:

My son loves games and learning with them. This one would be helpful for him to play and enjoy a game at same time.

Nina jones

says:

What a sweet idea and a fun way to get them thinking without them knowing they are learning.

Donna Mauney

says:

Thanks for the idea! My kids love games!

Andrea McDaniel

says:

I will have to try this! My kids love games!

Jennifer

says:

We love All About Reading! Only thing that worked for my son.

Micah

says:

Our family has a younger aged child of five. We enjoy the headbands game. I am often surprised at the youngest child’s clues.

Kathe Himebaugh

says:

Great idea!

Kim

says:

This sounds like a fun learning game. I’m always looking for ways to have fun while learning.

Sara R

says:

These ideas and this curriculum has sent my 6 year old way ahead of the curve in reading. She has begun decoding in her own, passing me up on teaching the lessons. The foundations of AAR are wonderful.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

It sounds like she is doing incredibly well, Sara! Keep up the amazing work. 😊

Michelle

says:

I have never heard of this game before, but looks like something we should definitely add.

We love games, and I’ve never heard of this one! Thanks!

Hannah Ellery

says:

Yay for non screen games!!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I agree, Hannah! I’m not against screens, but their nature limits the socialness that other games have.

Sharaylah_O

says:

This is so fun! Haven’t heard of this game before

Nicole

says:

My son would love this!

Myra

says:

I like the game ideas you give!

Heather Zalenski

says:

Cute!

Kendra

says:

Looks like fun

Dawn Fenton

says:

Love the games you guys provide to help aid further and make learning fun!

Nikki summers

says:

This sounds like such a fun game! I will definitely have to check it out!

Elizabeth Thomas

says:

So much fun!!!

Summer I.

says:

This is my first time reading about this game. It looks like a fun family game.

Nishath Rehman

says:

Sounds fun!

Michael B.

says:

This looks fun!

Rossy

says:

That is a fun activity, my child can improve vocabulary and thinking skills.

Holly B.

says:

This game looks fun!

Mary Schuh

says:

How fun! Both my kids will love this game! Thank you for the idea!

Terri

says:

Cute game

Anna Pry

says:

looks like a fun game with lots of opportunity for creativity

Cassandra D

says:

Great products.

Sarah Masters

says:

Love this!

Rhonda T

says:

I don’t think I have ever heard of this game before. I think my daughter would like it.

Melissa

says:

This sounds like a blast to play! My kids would love it!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Melissa,
It is a fun game! I hope your kids really enjoy it.

Erin

says:

I love these products!

Beth C.

says:

This is such a great idea! Can’t wait to try it out with my kids soon!

Maria

says:

This looks amazing!

Robyn

says:

I’ll have to check this out!!!

Rachelle

says:

Sounds like a fun game! Will have to try this one!! Thank you!

Laura

says:

This game sounds fun!

Victoria Lemp

says:

This is going to be a ton of fun! I can see my very logical son trying to make sense of his younger brother’s creative thinking! Thanks for partnering with us in enhancing our homeschool days!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You are so welcome, Victoria. I think this would be a great game to start to understand how others think.

Misty

says:

This look like an excellent learning game!

Alex Fisher

says:

This looks fun!

Brandee

says:

I love the AAS system!!

Jasmine basch

says:

Love all the free resources!!!!
So fun!

Jaime Edwards

says:

This game looks adorable and fun. I love the bright colorful illustrations.

Megan

says:

This looks like fun!

Crystal alexander

says:

This looks so fun!

Beth

says:

Super cute! We’ve loved all the products we’ve ever used from All About Learning!

Ali H

says:

That looks like a fun game!

Korie Cox

says:

Fabulous idea, and looks like so much fun!

Renee Priess

says:

I have never heard of this game. I’m super excited to check it out!!

Kristina Poehls

says:

✔️

Loreen G

says:

This looks like a really fun game! Lots of vocabulary and thinking skills going on 😊

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Yes, lots of thinking and making connections with this game, Loreen!

Karin

says:

I will be purchasing this game for our family. Thanks for the neat suggestions!

Tiffany

says:

I Love all the creative ways to teach out children.

Mary C.

says:

Cool!

This looks like a great game! My wheels are turning thinking of ways to adjust the rules to help my 4 yr old with an articulation delay. We’re going to have a blast with this!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Elizabeth,
Have you come up with ideas yet? I’m thinking of playing by taking turns, so there is no rush or time pressure on your little one. Then when she (or he) makes a connection but doesn’t speak in a complete sentence, you could speak the sentence for her. Then, ask her to repeat as best as she is able. It is often easier for those with speech delays repeat other’s words than to come up with their own.

I’d love to hear of ideas you have come up with too.

Elizabeth

says:

Yes! I would for sure take away the time element. When I actually get my hands on the game I may have more ideas! My son talks all the time, but we can’t understand him about two thirds of the time. He still has a lot of phenomic processes that should have been eliminated by now (fronting, tons of substitutions, etc). So, right off the bat, I can see making the connections with words that have phenomes in common…so connecting things like ‘cat’ and ‘car’ and ‘kite’ because they all start with the /k/ sound. You could also play so that the first sound of one word has to connect with the last sound of the other. Like ‘truck’ could connect with ‘kitten’ (because truck ends with the /k/ and kitten begins with it), which could then connect with knight (because they end/begin with /n/). I suppose that would be useful for phenomic awareness in general…not just speech therapy. But it would get tons of repetitions, especially if I kinda stacked the deck before playing! I think if I had enough time to think about it I could come up with something for minimal pairs too.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Elizabeth,
Great ideas! I’m loving how adaptable for various needs this game could be. I’m going to save this for ideas if anyone asks about helping children with speech. Thank you.

wen budro

says:

Wow……that sounds like a fun game and a great learning tool. My kids would enjoy playing this game.

Melissa

says:

This looks like a fantastic, educational version of Apples to Apples, which my kids enjoy. I’d like to see how their minds work making connections.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Melissa,
This does have similarities with Apples to Apples, which we reviewed previously, but it is more than different enough to be fun even right after playing Apples to Apples. I like observing how other people make connections and think too!

Spirit Carr

says:

This looks so fun!! I love how it uses Language Arts without the child even knowing! The best kind of learning. Definitely adding this game to my wish list!

Liz

says:

This looks like a fun way to learn together.

Audra Talley

says:

Games are such a good way to learn.

Jess

says:

What a great game!

Debby

says:

Very neat!

Joanna

says:

Great idea!

Heidi

says:

Thanks so much! Great video and it is now in my Amazon basket :)

Susan W

says:

I already have this game and I love your resources to expand my thinking!

Ashley

says:

I love that you review games! I am always looking for educational games to play with my boys that will reinforce what we are learning with AAR. This look like a good one for the whole family!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Ashley,
Games are such a great way to review. I hope your boys enjoy this one as much as our tester family in the video did!

Karren Savorgnan

says:

Looks like A fun addition to our school day.

Christy Torres

says:

I love how I can consistently depend on AAR for such fun learning activities! You take engagement to a level others should – yet you make it look so effortless. I definitely appreciate all of your hard work, reliable information and fabulous resources!! Thank you!!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Awww, thank you, Christy. I’m going to show this to the entire AALP team, as I know they all will appreciate your appreciation!

Sarah Travis

says:

What is the reading level for the words on the cards?

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Good question, Sarah, but I don’t know. The manufacturer lists it for ages 8+, so I would think that suggests a third-grade reading level. However, each card has both a picture and a word, so the game is playable even by children that can’t read.

Lauren Scotto

says:

I’m putting phonics dominoes on my gift ideas list!

Sara P

says:

Just ordered Pickles to Penguins. Thanks for the great suggestion.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Let us know how you like it, Sara!

Julie

says:

Can’t wait to get this game! Sounds like so much fun!

Jenn A

says:

I appreciate the emphasis on using complete sentences in this game!

Sara P

says:

Me too! That’s one of the reasons I decided to order it.

Andi

says:

This game looks great for speech therapy! A similar game that my students love is Slapzi. A category is read and cards similar to the one used in this game are slapped down. My students age 7-15 love Slapzi.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you for the recommendation, Andi! I’ll have to checkout Slapzi. But yes, I agree that Pickles to Penguins would be a great game for speech therapy.

Jennifer Nowicki

says:

Yay! You reviewed Pickles to Penguins! I’ve been needing some hand-holding to get the most out of this game with my kids and students. Thank you for some great ideas!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

So glad this is helpful to you, Jennifer!

Tami Sisemore

says:

Great ideas!! Love this!!

Hope

says:

This game looks perfect for my middle school language kids!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Hope,
I was thinking my husband and I would enjoy this game, so yes I think middle schoolers would too. I’d love to hear how they enjoy it if you decide to give a try.

Kristi

says:

What a neat game.

Bethany T

says:

What a fun game! We’re going to try it out. :)

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