Lately I’ve been playing a funny little game with my kids. I call it “Daddy Is Dangerous.” (Feel free to rename it “Mommy Is Magical,” if you like. )
It’s a simple game—all you have to do is print out the PDF file I provide in this post and grab a pair of scissors—and if your children are from about 4 to 12 in age (the developmental stage known to experts as “the silly years”), I bet they’ll enjoy it. In fact, my kids are even moved to play it by themselves. And what’s more, every time they play it, they get a good workout in reading, vocabulary, and spelling.
The origin of the game
I stumbled upon this idea while we were playing Apples to Apples Junior, a fun word association game which I highly recommend for families whose minority language is English. Anyway, “Apples to Apples” contains a stack of cards with adjectives on them (tiny, crispy, dangerous, etc.), and for some odd reason only a psychiatrist could fathom, I began flipping over the cards one by one and saying:
“Lulu is tiny.”
“Roy is crispy.”
“Daddy is dangerous.”
I know this sounds silly, even pointless, but to my surprise they responded by giggling madly and eagerly encouraging me to continue. I then realized that this simple activity, since they found it so funny, could be another useful way of increasing their exposure to written text and promoting literacy in the minority language.
“Daddy Is Dangerous” was born.
Preparing the game
- For this activity, I put together a PDF of playing cards with over 200 adjectives. I chose these words based on two basic criteria: 1) they’re common words I want my kids not only to know, but to be able to read and spell; and 2) the words are fun (and not too “insulting”) within the context of the game. (Of course, if your children would feel unhappy being described with a certain word, just remove it from the deck.)
- To make these cards, I used a terrific little online program at www.kitzkikz.com. It’s nothing fancy, but it’s free and it works well. If English isn’t your target language, you could create a set of cards in your own language at this site, or at another. (Or just do it the old-fashioned way, by hand!) To get started, you could simply translate my list of English words.
- To download my PDF (which will open in a new window), just click this big link…
Daddy Is Dangerous
- Print the pages on card stock, or regular paper, and then cut out the cards. (I drafted my kids to help with this task.)
- Put all the cards in a small bag or box, then gather on the floor or around a table to play the game.
Playing the game
- At first, I pulled out the cards and read the words myself, simply using our own names in the pattern “Daddy/Lulu/Roy is (adjective).” Then I included other people, too, like Mommy and extended family members.
- They were soon eager to have a go themselves, so we started taking turns drawing cards from the bag, and the names we used expanded to include friends as well as family. (When it’s your turn, you can say the name of any person you like.) It’s important to note, though, that the person being described should be mentioned before an adjective is picked. Much of the fun is the anticipation of how a particular person will be depicted. So when the kids are sticking their little hands into the bag and stirring up the cards, make sure they say someone’s name before pulling out a word.
- Even if your children aren’t reading well yet, they can still take their own turns—you just help them read the word to complete the sentence. In fact, because they’ll be genuinely motivated to read the word, you may find that they quickly begin to recognize the more simple ones. (And, of course, feel free to play with a fewer number of cards—starting with words that are easier to read—so the game will be even more effective for early readers.)
- Variations of this basic game are possible, of course. One “competitive” version involves writing point values on the back of each card. (Perhaps in pencil so they can be erased and changed for subsequent games.) For example, each card could be assigned from 1 to 10 points, and the winner is the first person to reach 50 points. The game is the same; the only difference is the framework for competition.
- If you place your bag of adjectives in a handy spot (you might decorate the bag, too, to make it stand out even more), you’ll probably witness your kids reaching into it completely on their own and announcing to others: “Daddy is moldy” or “Grandma is wild.” My kids seem to find this fun, gleefully describing family and friends for a few minutes at a time—another helpful few minutes of literacy practice in the minority language.
A final note
It could be argued, I suppose, that this activity encourages “name calling,” but I honestly haven’t found that to be a concern. Because the adjectives are a mix of positive (“generous”) and negative (“selfish”) attributes, and the player picking a card doesn’t know which word will be drawn from the bag, it’s just as likely that the person named will be “praised” (“Daddy is generous”) instead of “insulted” (“Daddy is selfish”). Moreover, I think most children (like my own) will recognize the absurdity of the game and play it in the right spirit, even accepting, with good humor, the “insults” that they themselves face.
“Daddy Is Dangerous” is now another source of fun, effective exposure to the minority language in our house. Maybe you and your kids would enjoy it, too.