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Using the 5 Second Rule board game for therapy

Using the 5 Second Rule board game for therapy

Well known and loved family board games can make very useful and beneficial therapy tools. In fact, at Rehab Connection, we regularly incorporate games and activities into sessions with our clients – it’s fun, doesn’t feel like therapy and gets results!

In this blog, we look at 5 Second Rule and suggest some ways you can modify the rules to play with your clients. If you’re not interested in 5 Second Rule, keep an eye out for future blogs about other board games we use in sessions. 


The aim of 5 Second Rule is to say three items from a given category in under five seconds.


  • Name three times in the day.
  • Name three excuses for being late.
  • Name three birds or animals beginning with P.

Target skills for therapy:

  • Categorisation
  • Word-finding
  • Turn-taking
  • Providing context and examples for appropriate conversation topics

How to play:

One player is in the hot seat. The player to their right draws a card and asks the question.

If the person in the hot seat cannot produce three responses in the timeframe, the next player can steal the points. To do so they must produce three different examples in the timeframe.

Number of players: 2-6 players.

In therapy situations, the ideal number of players is three or four. That way the client gets to play and see multiple models of both good examples of categorisation and someone else who may be struggling to find words when there is a constraint on their language system.

Modifications for therapy:


  • Increase the timeframe for your client to anywhere from 10-20 seconds. I use the stopwatch function on my phone instead of the game timer if a client needs additional time. Turning the game timer over multiple times during a client’s turn can be distracting and draw attention to the fact the client is struggling to complete the task.
    • If the client requires longer than 20 seconds to respond, remove the time element altogether.
  • Players without a language impairment do not get increased time to answer. Involving others in a game format like this adds to the sense of fun and evens out the playing field.
    • It’s nice for the client to watch others experience trouble finding the words when a constraint is placed on their language system. 


While the game comes with a board to move through, I never use it in a therapy situation. I just keep a tally on a scrap of paper of the players and the points they’ve scored. This way you can stop at any time and have an outcome.

If no one has been able to name three items in a category, stop and generate possible examples as a group. If necessary, use a search engine to look up more examples.

Card selection:

If you think a client will find it difficult to answer some of the questions, go through the cards and select ones that are suitable for your client.

There is a junior version of this game with easier examples. The junior version can be great for clients with more significant impairments but the cards need careful selection for adults, as the categories are more child-focused.

Number of players:

You can play this 1:1 in therapy. You can also use the cards for the client to complete independently as home practice, or with the support of an Attendant Care Worker (ACW).  However, when an ACW or family member is supporting a person to use these cards, my preference would be for BOTH people to play. That way the person with the language impairment receives modelling of the target skill.

If you’ve used 5 Second Rule or another board game in your therapy sessions, let me know what you think, any modifications you’ve made or the games you most like to use. You can email me