I bought a new game called Mental Blox a couple of weeks ago and I love it! Good language games are not always easy to come by, so I thought I would share it here in case it is of use to anyone. No-one has asked me to write this review and I bought the game with my own money. I’m just sharing something I’ve found useful.
The game is called Mental Blox Critical Thinking Game. You can find it on Amazon by clicking on the link (this is an affiliate link).
You get 20 different brightly coloured blocks in a variety of shapes and patterns (2 each of 10 different designs). You also get 40 cards showing different structures that you could build with the blocks provided. The way the game is supposed to be played is as a visual memory game. Players work in two teams, take a card, look at it and try to remember it to build for the rest of the team. However, I don’t play it like that!
Mostly I use Mental Blox as a barrier game, similar to Make and Break. The child and I take turns to pick a card and describe the picture. The other player has to follow the instructions to build the same structure that is on the card. There are lots of speech and language skills you can work on while doing this.
- Shape names. I have worked on both 2D and 3D shape names with children using this game (it includes cubes, spheres and pyramids).
- Description words. You can target colour words and also words such as stripy, spotty etc.
- Positional vocabulary. Any game like this is good for working on under, on, next to etc. However, with this game you can also work on some more complicated positional vocabulary if you want to. On the stripy cube, should the stripes be horizontal or vertical? The crosses can be placed in a variety of ways (like a +, like an x or with the cross facing upwards). With secondary age students you can really challenge their description skills with these blocks!
- Asking questions. Some of these cards are difficult to describe. Barrier games are great for working on what to do when you don’t understand. This is actually quite a complex skill – you have to recognise that you don’t understand, know which part is tricky and be able to ask clearly to get clarification. I encourage the kids not to guess, but to ask if they are not sure what the other person said or they can’t remember. We work on breaking the instructions down and asking particular questions (eg Was it the green pyramid or the green sphere? Should it go on top or next to? Which way round does it go?). These are vital skills for the classroom and for everyday life.
Other ideas of ways to use this game:-
- Motivation. It is a great general motivator for children who like to build things. After they have practised their words they can build something out of the blocks.
- Teamwork. You could play it in teams to work on collaboration skills. Each team could have one set of blocks and they could work together to see who can build the highest/ widest tower or they could work in teams to describe their structure for the other team to build.
- Logical thinking. All of the cards have little brain teaser puzzles on them, so you could also use these. They are quite hard – I had to think a lot for some of them!
What other games do you use for older children to develop language?