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 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 Snakes & Ladders is a great game for developing literacy skills and confidence.

Adjusting how you play it.

The following tips can help speed up the game:

  • Agree a time limit (e.g. five minutes) before playing. The winner is the person furthest on when the time is up.
  • Play with more than one dice – or ‘just’ double-up (or more) your scores
  • Use ‘snake avoidance’ and/or ‘double-up’ tactics…

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

Snake Avoidance!

Instead of having to go down a snake you have to:

  • Answer a question about material you were reading earlier.
  • Use three appropriate words to describe the snake.
  • Make up a sentence that includes a word beginning with ‘s’, ‘n’, ‘a’, ‘k’, ‘e’.
  • Read one joke or one (short) poem.
  • Make a shorter words from a longer ‘snake’ word (e.g. can from ‘anaconda’, pie from ‘viper’!)
  • Give a word that rhymes with e.g. ‘snake’ or the number of the square e.g. 24 – door.
  • Make up a word from some letters that have previously been ‘allocated’ to each snake’s head.
  • Come up with a fact about a snake!
  • Think of a word beginning with ‘sn’ (and spell it).
  • Name something else you can go ‘down’ besides a snake (or ‘up’ besides a ladder).


 You can double your dice throw if you can:

  • Think of three words beginning with the same letter as the colour of the square you landed on.
  • Name something in the room that is the same colour as the square you landed on.
  • Spell the number or colour of the square you landed on, or a word the other chooses.
  • Use the number of the square you landed on in a sentence.
  • Name a character from the book you are reading.

Word recognition tip

You can put words the child has had difficulty reading - or did not know the meaning of - on cards. To move his/her counter the child must first read the word on a card and explain what it means. Picking a card from the pack can also be used as a 'lifeline' when landing on a snake - if they read it correctly then they avoid the snake.  

If you know any more great tips for Snakes & Ladders 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?