Playing word games is a great way to help young children learn how to read and spell. It also helps older children fall in love with the nuances of words. And because most kids (and even some adults!) love games, they are often excited to participate. By playing a few learning games at home, parents can spend quality time with their children while helping kids enlarge their range of vocabulary.
You probably have tried the old classic, Hangman. Hangman is great, but your family might enjoy some new games. Below are our top picks for the best children’s word games that can be played anytime, anywhere.
This thinking game is perfect when you’re caught in traffic, while waiting in line, when everyone is at the dinner table…
Game rule: One player states a “category,” and the other players take turns naming items that belong in that group. The round goes on and on until a player runs out of ideas. The category can be as broad as “animals,” or as narrow as “types of dogs.”
Traditionally, a clapping rhythm keeps the pace, so players won’t pause forever to come up with a response. The category chosen determines how difficult or easy the game is. Here’s a list of some fun categories to get your families started:
Scattergories can be adapted for any age group. (Best of all, no batteries or equipment are required.)
Botticelli is a great mind game for kids, especially for teenagers.
Game rule: One player takes on the persona of a well-known person and offers only that person’s initials as a clue. Everyone else becomes questioners. The questioners guess the identity of the person by asking specific questions that can be answered only with yes or no.
The first questions may be general, such as “Are you alive today?” The player, answering in character as George Washington, for instance, may say, “No, I’m not alive today” without offering any other information. The next questions continue to zero in on the identity until a player correctly guesses the mystery person.
Botticelli is a great game for older kids who are familiar with people in the news and historic figures. You can even change the subject to basic animals for your younger learners. They can ask, “Do I have feathers?” or “Do I have a tail?” as they try and figure it out.
3. Three Word Superheroes
This game may be a bit challenging for your kids. However, we found that it can bring hours of learning and laughs, and more importantly, it can provoke children’s creativity and imagination, since the game connects seemingly unrelated words. Steve Jobs once said, “Creativity is just connecting things.”
Game rules: Select three random nouns. Then, imagine a superhero based on the words. For instance, the words banana, hurricane, and dirt might inspire a creature who looks like dirt on the ground. Because of his camouflage, he can blend in anywhere there’s a bit of earth. But don’t step on him! He flies around villains like a hurricane of soil, confusing and containing them until the police arrive. The only way to stop him is to use a banana. His phobia of the fruit causes him to run away from anything banana-related!
What superheroes can your family invent?
To keep your child excited, you may change things up. Instead of a superhero, create a three-word monster, alien, or new animal species. There is even a variation called Superghost. This more challenging twist can keep adolescents and teenagers interested.
Unlike the other games above, Charades can’t be played while you’re on the street, but it’s a great game for your family when you’re stuck at home because the weather’s rotten.
Game rule: Players divide into two teams, and each member writes a phrase on a slip of paper, folds it up, and places it in their team’s bowl. A player picks a paper from the opposing team’s bowl and acts out individual words, syllables, and other hints to depict the phrase.
This pantomime play hones communication skills as each player provides nonverbal clues to help teammates guess the right phrase within an agreed-upon time limit.
We also have Charades app on smart phones, in case you don’t want to waste time on preparation. However, some of their pre-made subjects would be too
Scrabble is a popular board game that increases your child’s vocabulary, thereby building writing and reading skills.
Game rule: Form different words using randomly assorted letters. Each word is worth varying points based on the letters used. The player with the most points over several rounds of play wins.
Scrabble demands the person to pay utmost attention to the word blocks on hand. Kids will learn to use every word effectively to build a high scoring word. These tasks help build concentration levels in your little one. At Everest, Scrabble also has a place in our English learning classroom because it challenges students to think of vocabulary using their own letters and the letters already on the board. The fun part is the competition: students think about more complex words to hit special boxes, such as double word, or triple letter.
This basic game is great for children aged 8 and older. There is also a Junior version for children as young as 4 or 5.
Scrabble Junior is played by matching tiles to letters printed on the board, which builds familiarity with the alphabet.
Boggle shares the same characteristics as Scrabble in that it is a word game that inspires and prompts player to put letters together to form words. However, it also has core differences from Scrabble that make it unique as a word game and as a learning tool.
Game rule: Using a timer, the game is divided into rounds where each player searches for adjoining letters in the randomly assorted grid. Earn points by making words of four or more letters. The longer they are, the higher your score, but you’ve only got three minutes to compile your list. In the junior version of Boggle, children match the letters on the cubes to what they see pictured on a set of cards.
Due to the nature of the game, you may find that your children like to make up their own rules. It introduces children to letter and word recognition, while they use skills in memory and matching.
Zingo! is a matching game that encourages pre-readers and early readers alike to match the pictures and words to their challenge cards. This fun interactive matching game brings fast-paced excitement and learning to the classic game of Bingo.
Game rule: Each Zingo card is double sided: Green is easy and Red is more challenging. The Zingo holder dispenses two tiles. These tiles have various pictures on them such as: apples, a ball, fish, star, house, kite, tree, smile, train, cake, clock,… When player sees a tile that matches one on his or her Zingo card they take the tile and cover up the corresponding spaces on his/her Zingo card. Unclaimed tiles are placed back into the Zingo tile holder. If two players call the same tile, it goes to whoever called it first. The first player to cover all 9 spaces on their card shouts “ZINGO!” and wins the game.
The game also comes with two variants: Mini-Zingo where the first player to match three images in a row up or down is the winner, and Zany Zingo where you select a pattern to match on your card. The first to match it wins.
While Zingo! is particularly designed to support the learning needs of young children, it is fun for all ages. Encourage your child to practice new vocabulary by making a silly sentence with an unfamiliar word. Use the printed text to point out spelling patterns and letter sounds. Exploring Zingo! words as part of game play can help emerging readers learn short and long vowel sounds (cat vs. cake) and understand how letters combine to show various sounds (“gh” as the beginning sound in ghost, “ck” as the ending sound in clock…).
The best word game is neither too easy nor challenging for the average player. These top picks are geared towards providing a great overall game experience while helping your child develop certain spelling and word-recognition skills they may otherwise not want to practice in a more academic environment. Instead of checking sight words off a list or worrying about reading levels, just enjoy some silliness and know you’re inspiring an appreciation for words and language. So if you’re looking for easy ways to entertain your little English learner, why not call your family together for a game right now?