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 and affiliated sites. All proceeds from our partnership with will be donated to local libraries.

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Loretta Heuer


Pickles to Penguins, that I play one-one with Immy, who is 6 yrs old. I am the dealer. I deal out two cards. She has to find the connection. No competition (not the point.). We play until she has 20 cards (10 pairs.) (Can we play it again! ) There are only a few cards (like a matchbox or a silo) that aren’t in her experience. But if that kind of card comes up ? An opportunity to explain . the pictures indicate not only jog her overall knowledge but also stretches her higher cognitive ability to connect two abstract concepts. (PS The instructions that came with the game seemed confusing. So as always in these situations, Grandma creates “house rules”.) She’s coming over this afternoon, Gonna play it again today. :-)

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

What an excellent adaptation for this game, Loretta! Thanks for sharing how you approach it so that it is non-competitive and more social and fun. I love that you take the time to teach her about cards that may contain pictures of items she is less familiar with!

The Ace Card Company


Such an interesting post. Thank you so much to tell us how to play with cards and their uses. Keep us updating.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome! It’s such a great game.



Building child’s vocabulary through these games we can improve their verbal fluency and also semantic fluency.

Stephanie Davis


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

Danielle Kennelly


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



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


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

Shannon Schloss



Ashley Blasy


That sounds like a fun game! Thanks for sharing.

Melissa J


Fun, we love learning games, thanks for sharing!

Christi Fetzer


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



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

Jay S


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


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.



This looks like a game that my kids would love!

Tami Sisemore


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

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

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



Creative idea for a game!



How fun! Need to try this!

Amy L Flynt


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



I love this idea!



I love this!

Angela Williams


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

A Harris


This sounds like a great game to play!



Looks like fun!



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


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



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!



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!



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



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!