Playing games has many benefits. It is relaxed and fun, making it easier for you to engage with a child and build a relationship, impacting positively on their (eventual) willingness to read. 

Playing helps develops the characteristics of effective learning: exploring, creating and thinking critically, and active learning. It also supports learning in areas directly related to improving confidence and self-esteem.

Playing games allows children to:

  • Succeed
  • Be motivated to develop important skills
  • Understand rules
  • Engage in conversation with ease
  • Develop literacy skills and confidence

Many games are designed to support literacy development, but many others are hidden opportunities for reading practice.

With a few tweaks Top Trumps is a great game for developing literacy skills and confidence.

Adjusting how you play

‘Classic’ Top Trumps is played by shuffling and dealing out all of the cards face down. The first player then selects a category on their top card and reads out their score, followed by the second player.  The player with the best value wins and takes both cards, it is then their turn to choose a category from the next card.  The aim of the game is to win all the cards.

The following tips can help speed up the game:

  • Agree a time limit and the winner is the person with the most cards when the time is up.
  • Agree to only have a set number of cards each dealt out.
  • Collect ‘pairs’ of cards (i.e. put the pair to one side and not to the bottom of the pack); the winner is the one with most pairs.

Remember nothing is guaranteed to work with every child and you should always try to match the game with the child’s interests, as you would for a book. It is also good practice to ensure that both reading helper and child understand the rules!  

How to support literacy development

  • Read and discuss the title, category and value for each card.
  • Discuss the ‘file’ information on the card together. This section is often in small print so ask for their help to read it! Children often like to think they can do something better than you and that they are helping! 
  • Make sure the child understands what the different categories mean… ask them to give a synonym or explain the meaning of the word; ask the child to describe what e.g. an “Ice Age” character does/might do to earn a particularly high (or low) ‘mischief’ score; ask them to relate the category to their own life experiences
  • Sort’ the cards by a ‘category’ that is not one on the cards as a means of developing understanding e.g. “Creatures of the Deep” – which five would you be most scared of and why?
  • Make it a ‘rule’ that to win the card the child must make up a sentence containing the category word… or find it in a dictionary and read out the definition.
  • Use the theme of the Top Trumps game to make links to other reading material e.g. “Footballers” to a football programme
  • Make it a ‘rule’ that to win the card you have to answer a question based on the ‘file’ information.
  • Spread (some of) the cards out on the table and then use the titles as your source for a game of hangman [helps with recognising letter symbols and spelling].  
  • ‘Just’ look at the cards together – e.g. for “Footballers” talk about what teams the players used to be in, where they are now, how many goals they've scored.

If you know any more great tips for Top Trumps or how it develops literacy skills and confidence, contact us.

Want to read this elsewhere? You can download this in PDF format.

If you have any more great tips on how to engage reluctant and struggling readers, then speak to us as we'd love to hear them. Or why not put your tips into action by becoming a Beanstalk trained reading helper