Top ESL Games for Kids to Use in your Online ESL Classroom


Kids love games! And what better way to make learning fun than incorporating ESL games for kids learning English.


Being able to teach children online is such an amazing opportunity. Supporting them with their English whilst learning about a completely different culture to our own. 


But sometimes, the online classroom becomes a challenging learning environment to even engage our young English learners. Kids can become easily distracted, bored and completely disengaged with their ESL lesson.


Games for Teaching English Online


Why use ESL Games for Kids in Online Classrooms?


When kids learn ESL online, often they are using a phone or tablet to access the lesson. Their classroom is on a tiny screen with a small camera area for them to communicate with their teacher.


It is challenging to say the least.


Especially for young learners. They are expected to sit in front of this small screen from 25 minutes to 50 minutes at a time, depending on which company they are signed up with.


For kids, this is a HUGE expectation!


Within their online English lessons, they are often expected to go through and complete a whole lesson with so many slides. It can be monotonous for us teachers, let alone kids. Especially, if the company does not offer an interactive platform with different tools and games included for students to get involved with.


Kids are taught slide, after slide, after slide… see where I am going here?! It is DULL! If students are finding the lesson dull and boring, their interests are going to decrease and lead to behaviour outbursts and complete disengagement during class.


Learning should be fun, not monotonous. There are so many ways we can help our students enjoy their learning experience with puppets, videos, songs, visual props, and of course, games.



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How do ESL Games Benefit Kids?


Using Games for Kids within the ESL online classroom is one of the best ways to increase engagement and encourage students to participate. Not to mention ENJOY learning English.

Benefits to ESL Games in Online ESL Classroom


Incorporating games within our lessons offer so many benefits to our students:

  1. They help to increase student engagement through fun and stimulating activities
  2. Can be offered as a reward for positive behaviours and any progress students make within the class
  3. It enables students to have a break within the class from going through the lesson material provided
  4. Provides students with an opportunity to review and practice the language learnt within the lesson
  5. Helps teachers to build a rapport and professional relationship with their students.



Here are 10 of the Best ESL Games for Kids to Use in Your Online Classroom


Tic Tac Toe


This game is a classic and one that all students can participate with no matter their English level and understanding. You can easily make this game relevant to the lesson content or use as a review activity.


For lower-level students, 

  • you can ask students to draw pictures relating to the key vocabulary,
  • recognise different letters 
  • or simply use the original version of noughts and crosses.

pictionary tic tac toephonics tic tac toePlay tic tac toe with ESL students

For more able students, 

  • they could read whole words, 
  • create a sentence with a given word 
  • or read full sentences.

tic tac toe higher level students



Pictionary is a classic and again one suitable for low-level students. This is one of my student’s favourite games to play! 


This game can even encourage your most shy students to participate. 


There are so many ways you can play Pictionary, here are a few of my favourites: 

    • Original: Students have to guess what you are drawing before you have finished
    • Slow: After each line/section has been drawn, stop for the other person to take a guess
    • Fast: Set a time challenge of 10 seconds for you to draw your picture and students to guess (or visa versa)
    • In the dark: the person drawing has to close their eyes whilst doing so. Not only is this fun for students but it can make guessing the picture even more of a challenge



Traffic Lights


Who remembers this game as a kid in the playground? 

This can still be used as an ESL game for kids. It helps students to 

  • refocus their attention in class, 
  • wake them up if they are tired 
  • or even just to engage in a different type of activity from staring at a computer screen.


The idea is that for each traffic light colour, you set instructions for students to follow.

For example:

  • Red: Stop
  • Orange: Walk
  • Green: Run


Within your online classroom, you can set numerous instructions such as 

  • acting out different animals, 
  • creating animal sounds, 
  • showing different emotions 
  • or pretending to play different sports.


Here are a couple of examples:

  • Red: angry, hop, basketball, bark like a dog
  • Orange: sad, climb, swimming, neigh like a horse
  • Green: excited, turn around, ride a bike, roar like a lion.


If you want to practise more than just three actions, why not pretend it’s a lollipop and include more colours. I would advise not to go above 5 and for younger learners to write/draw them on the screen to help them remember.



What’s in the Box


What’s in the box is such an easy game and can be used with lots of different physical props or flashcards. 


You simply place something in a box and students have to guess what it is. This can be a suitable game for different levelled learners: 

  • Beginners: select a category for them to guess the object e.g. fruit, animals etc.
  • Intermediate: describe what’s in the box to the student, pausing at each description to allow them time to process the information and think of what it could be
  • Advanced: have the student ask you questions to guess what it is





This is a fantastic game that can be applied to all ages and abilities also. The idea is for students to be able to list something from a given category independently.


For example, if the category given is fruit, you compete against your student to each list as many fruits as possible.


Usually, I would draw a grid with at least 3 headings, the student’s name, my name and categories.


Then, within the categories column, I would add a list of different categories e.g. the letter A, food and feelings. 


The first person to be able to name one thing from each category wins.


For lower ability students, I always make a couple of intentional mistakes or miss a few to help build their self-esteem and let them win.


For my older, more able students, I add in a timer so that they have only so long to complete the whole grid.

categories gameGuess Who


I personally use this as a reward at the end of a lesson, but it works just as well if you are teaching particular topics such as animals, family or careers.


As a reward, I focus on the topic of animals, because, well it’s fun and ends up quite comical!


The students and I take it in turns to provide statements and the other person has to guess which animal they are. The person being the animal has to provide statements in the first person.


For example:

  • I am big.
  • I stomp loudly.
  • I have two big ears.
  • I have one long nose.


This person can provide statements or clues until the second person guesses the animal correctly:

Are you an elephant?

Yes, I am.


You can adjust the difficulty of this activity, from using one-worded statements e.g. big, loud, grey. Or for more advanced students, they could focus on certain facts such as what country they live in, climate, what it likes to eat, etc.



2 Truths and 1 Lie


With 2 truths and 1 lie, you can use this as either a game or a ‘getting to know you’ activity for higher-level ESL students.


The concept is simple. Each person takes a turn to provide three statements about themselves. Two statements must be true and one must be a lie.


The other person must ask questions in order to figure out which statement is a lie.


This ESL game does tend to work better with older kids, but, you could adjust your statements for a younger student e.g.

  • I have a dog.
  • I like pizza.
  • I live in America.



Word Train


This is a great ESL game for checking students vocabulary and supporting them with phonetic sounds and spellings.


You start with a word relevant to the lesson, say you have been learning about different fruit, so the first word is apple. Your student must then think of a fruit beginning with e – elderflower. Then you must think of a fruit beginning with r – rhubarb. And so on:

Apple – Elderflower – Rhubarb – Banana – Apricot – Tangerine – Eggfruit.


Now, this could be rather challenging for your lower-level ESL students. Instead, you could use this as a break activity during the lesson, and students don’t have to focus just on one specific topic.


This would allow them more freedom and flexibility with their answers, providing a higher chance for lower-level students to be able to participate in this activity.


Here is an example:

Apple – Elephant – Train – November – Run – Night – Tiger – Rabbit – Television.


The idea is to keep the word train going for as long as possible until one person cannot think of the next word.



Level Stairs


Again, this is another one of my favourite games to use with my ESL Kids. It is flexible in the questions you set and so can be accessible to all levelled students.


I personally tend to use this with older students. I find my younger students prefer games which are more active or involve drawing.


For Level stairs, start by drawing a set of stairs on the screen. Draw your students at the bottom and a prize at the top of the stairs, such as a gold star or trophy.


The aim is for them to answer a question on each step. If they answer a question correctly, they can move to the next step until they reach the top to win their prize.


For beginner learners, you could have a letter or small CVC word they have to recognise and read. For higher-level learners, you could write a question on each step for them to answer or visa versa.level stairs



This ESL game for kids offers an opportunity for them to be creative and use their imagination within class.


Simply show the students either a selection of flashcards, virtual or physical props. I really enjoy using physical props as I can use each item to act out the story.


Students are then challenged to create a story using all of the items shown. If they do need a bit of extra support, particularly when introducing this game for the first time. You can take it in turns with your student to add a sentence to the story.


Students really enjoy getting involved with this activity and will often grab their own toys to use as well.

10 Different Games to Play in ESL Lessons

There you have it, 10 of the Best ESL Games for Kids to use in your online classroom.


I try to include at least one game within every lesson with my students. They gain so much from playing these games. From enjoying the lessons to having a fun method of reviewing the lesson content. 


Games offer an excellent benefit to online ESL lessons. With providing a fun, stimulating and enjoyable activity, we can ensure as online ESL teacher’s, our students gain the best learning experience possible.


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