Warm, warmer, hot!

3 - 6 years
Child looking under the couch cushions

Do you play Hot and Cold with your child? It’s quick to set up, easy to understand, and hides lots of learning in the fun. To hide even more skill development in the game, use our five simple extension techniques.


The basic concept of Hot and Cold is very simple: you hide an object, your child looks for it, and you use temperature words to tell them if they are moving towards the object (getting warmer) or away from it (getting colder). While your child is enjoying the thrill of the search, they’re also practising important skills including:

  • following directions
  • imagining possibilities (where could it be?)
  • testing solutions (maybe it’s under the sofa)
  • decoding a temperature scale (freezing … cold  … warm … warmer … hot … hotter … burning)
  • using comparative language
  • analysing feedback (dad said “colder”, so I must be looking in the wrong direction).


Alternating roles gives your child practice in taking turns, and seeing things from a different perspective. So when you play Hot and Cold, make sure that your child takes turns at hiding the object, as well as searching for it. This will also develop leadership skills such as being in control, making decisions and giving feedback (without giving away the answer!).


Narrating (talking aloud about what you are thinking and doing) is a powerful way to extend your child’s language skills and problem-solving skills through modelling. In Hot and Cold, when it’s your turn to search, you can say something like:

I wonder where it could be? Is it near the dining table? You said warmer, so I must be on the right track. Maybe it’s under the reclining chair?

Without even realising it, you’ll be teaching your child new words, new phrases, how to describe positions, how to solve problems, and much more.


Giving your child opportunities to collaborate develops their teamwork skills, such as making suggestions, listening to other people’s ideas, and making decisions together. In Hot and Cold, if you have three or more players, two people can work together to hide the object.

Would this be a good hiding place?
How about under the blanket?
That’s a great idea


Hot and Cold is a great game for sparking your child’s interest in other languages and cultures – all you need to do is find out how to say cold, warm and hot in another language, and use them in the game. For example, your child might be interested in:

  • a language you speak, or studied in the past
  • the language of someone your child knows – eg a preschool friend, a relative, or a neighbour
  • a language related to your child’s favourite food – eg Italian if they love pasta, or Indonesian if they love fried rice
  • the language of a country they’ve read about, or seen in a movie or TV show
  • the indigenous language of your area
  • a language taught at your child’s childcare, preschool or primary school.

If your home language is not English, playing Hot and Cold using your own language will strengthen your child’s skills in their home language, which will make it easier for them to develop strong skills in English.


Creating variations of a game is a great way to foster your child’s creativity skills and confidence. Here are some ideas to help you and your child develop your own version of Hot and Cold:

  • replace the cold…hot scale with something else, such as sad…happy or empty…full
  • instead of saying cold … warm etc, act it out (like when you play Charades)
  • combine it with another game – for example, you could create a game called Hot Spy where you choose an object that everyone can see (like in I Spy), and then give feedback on guesses using cold…hot.


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Last modified
13 May 2020