This activity is a variation of the traditional ‘pass the parcel’ game that is aimed at developing vocabulary relating to animals.

What will this activity help with?

Core area: Language (vocabulary)

Age: 18 months – 6 years

  • Pass the parcel is a traditional party game that can be played by children of a variety of ages. This game focuses on developing early vocabulary and think it’s best for children aged around 3+ years old.
  • Pass the parcel is a great way of supporting early speech and language skills. We can use this game to support many skills including early listening skills, turn taking, waiting and developing vocabulary.
  • In this activity we are focusing on introducing new vocabulary. This is great for helping young children to learn new words and to support older children who might have a reduced vocabulary or word finding difficulties. 

How to play

You will need the following:

  • Newspaper or scrap paper
  • You can use wrapping paper for the last layer but this isn’t necessary
  • Sellotape
  • Something to go in the middle of the parcel/prize (see Top Tips for some ideas)
  • Small farm animal toys to go in each layer (if you don’t have any small animal toys, you could use pictures of animals instead)
  • Music that you can easily pause and restart again

Getting ready…

Wrap the item going in the middle in the wrapping paper, then wrap it again in newspaper, putting a small animal in the layer. Wrap it again and again with newspaper, putting a small animal toy in each layer until you have a parcel with several layers of paper. You can make as many layers as you want. Remember to make sure there are enough layers for everyone to have a turn but not too many that the children playing will become bored waiting to get to the prize in the middle!

How to play: 

Many people will have played pass the parcel before but here’s a quick reminder of how to play:

  • Choose someone to be in charge of the music, this could be an older child.
  • Sit in a circle.
  • Explain to the children that when they hear the music they need to pass the parcel around the circle. When the music stops the person holding the parcel can unwrap a layer of paper. 
  • As the child unwraps the paper, model verbs such as ‘unwrap’, ‘peel’ and ‘rip’.
  • When the child finds the animal in their layer, name this and make the animal noise. For example ‘Cow! The cow says moo!’
  • If the child has played before or has some animal knowledge, you can encourage them to label the animal they have found. 
  • When the music starts again, they need to pass the parcel again. 
  • Carry on until all the layers have been unwrapped and the item in the middle has been found by the winner!

Take it further:

  • You can use this game to work on developing other categories of vocabulary. This game focuses on animals, but you could play using toys from other themes such as food, transport, clothes or furniture. 
  • You can step this up by using subcategories such as sea animals, winter clothes and fruit.
  • If playing with older children you could place written instructions in each layer. Such as ‘Name 3 occupations’, ‘Name 5 words which begin with b’, ‘Name 5 things that are blue’, ‘Name 10 animals.’

Top tips

  • Present this as a party game. Children will not know they are ‘working’ and will be really keen to join in. 
  • Complete it as a family if possible with the adults joining in. This helps the child understand what they need to do and makes the game more fun!
  • Switch off any background noise such as the TV or radio to help the child/children really listen to the music in the game.
  • Wrap the parcel in newspaper or scrap paper, you could save special wrapping paper for the last layer. 
  • If playing with young children, don’t wrap the parcel with too much Sellotape as it makes tricky to unwrap it.
  • Model verbs language as the child unwraps each layer such as ‘paper’, ‘unwrap’, ‘peel’, ‘rip’.
  • You do not have to have a super special prize in the last layer. You could wrap up a little snack, a toy that hasn’t been played with in a while or even objects to lead onto another activity such as a paint brush and a paint pot, or some cookie cutters. In this game you could wrap up a cardboard box to make into a barn for all the animals.