Tools to Try: Barrier Games

We recently asked our therapists about their favorite resources for building speech, language, and social communication skills.  Jennifer Wayman’s pick was Barrier Games, which can be easily used at home, in the classroom, and in therapy sessions to provide a fun and useful way to easily tailor goals and objectives to your child’s needs.

Barrier Games

The basic idea is that two kids facing one another have identical scenes in front of them, with identical objects to add to the scene.  The barrier (an easel, cardboard box, or another separator) prevents the players from seeing the other person’s scene.  One player directs the other to set up the scene in a specific way, providing clear and specific directions for the other person to follow.

This type of game builds receptive and expressive language skills as kids practice tasks like giving and following directions, asking questions for clarification, using and understanding vocabulary, building concept and descriptive words to make themselves understood (e.g. “put the flying bird in the sky next to the sun”, “put the pink smile on the potato head”).  The game can be expanded to include telling a story about the scene or sharing a personal experience related to the scene.

Barrier games can be played using different types of boards or with two identical figures to dress in clothing and accessories (two Mr. Potato Heads work well too).  A version of the game is sold by Super Duper ( but, you could create your own board using two copies of a drawing with items cut out from magazines.  Or, kids could start with a blank paper and markers.  Then, one child describes what they’re drawing (step by step) and the other child tries to draw the same thing.  An adult could also be the person directing two or more kids about what to draw or how to set up their board.

Try one of these variations or create your own for an engaging way to help kids build language and communication skills!

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