Whether it’s reading books or singing nursery rhymes, children build their vocabulary by learning how to string sounds into words. As your child gets older, word games are an underrated tool for boosting reading and writing skills through play.
Engaging in literacy games puts their skills into practice in a functional way (for example, writing sentences to tell a story or having a conversation with a friend).
The best part: You can do word games anytime and anywhere! Squeeze in a game on the way to soccer practice, while waiting for a doctor’s appointment, when you're making dinner, or as you're standing in line at the grocery store.
Word games not only help your child build vocabulary and form sentences, but they also help solidify your bond and create a positive, shared learning experience with your little one.
Here are top tips for playing on-the-go literacy games with your kids from Melissa Smith, MEd, a teacher at the elementary and college level with a Masters of Education in Curriculum and Instruction and author of Silly Songs: A Fun Way to Build Fluency Skills From Afar.
1. The Emphasis Game
You can play this activity with both simple and complex sentences. Start by making a comment about your surroundings.
For example, “The new park has a huge slide.” Repeat the sentence in as many different ways as possible by emphasizing each word to see how it changes the meaning of the phrase.
Start by saying, “The new park has a huge slide.” Now, say it again with an emphasis on a different word in the same sentence: “The new park has a huge slide.”
Ask your child: How did that change the meaning? The focus now shifts from the new park to the huge slide.
2. Song Lyric Read-Along
Singing songs has always been a great tool for teaching kids how to sound out words and understand their meaning. Following the rhythm of the music helps build word memory.
For this activity, let your child pick a song that they enjoy and have them follow along with the lyrics. Whether they’re reading the lyrics as the song plays or singing along, they will increase their fluency. You can find plenty of lyric music videos online!
3. Sentence Scramble
You can make this activity age-appropriate by choosing easier or more complex sentences. Take a sentence from anywhere — your own imagination or from your child’s favorite book, for instance. Write each word separately on an index card, making sure that the first word is capitalized and the last word has punctuation. Then, scramble up the index cards and have your child put the sentence back together. Your child is using a variety of skills to play this game, such as creating sentence structure and understanding parts of speech.
Your child can also make up their own sentence and have you unscramble it. Watching you think through the task will help your child solidify similar skills, so be sure to voice your thinking process.
For example: After the word the, there might be a noun, but there also could be an adjective. Make the sentences longer and harder each time and resist the urge to jump in and help!
For more skill boosters, shop popular workbooks below (and keep a few in the car for on-the-go learning)! You can find all books and activities at The Scholastic Store, where you can get free shipping on book-only orders over $25.