Children love to play games. I believe that children NEED to play. As Kay Redfield Jamison says, "Children need the freedom and time to play. Play is not a luxury. Play is a necessity." Play is just as crucial for children's development as fresh air, a balanced diet, and exercise. As parents and teachers, it's wonderful for us to find and encourage games that also support literacy.
The first group of games I like to encourage are informal ones. Very often these games spring from the books we share with our kids, or the movies they watch. They will dress up perhaps and act out parts of stories. Sometimes they'll even ask us to join in, although somehow I always end up being a mean step-mother or villainous queen! Other times, kids use toys or puppets to create stories they've learned, or make up new ones from their imaginations. Encouraging this sort of play is so beneficial to our kids. It supports literacy by allowing children the time to process and reflect on a story, and gives them the opportunity to make story language their own. All we need do as parents is to make sure we read, read, read with our kids, and ensure they don't lack the time for such creative and imaginative play. One informal game that arises naturally from shared reading is one where you mix up a story and ask your kids to fix the order, or leave out rhyming words for children to supply.
More formal games can involve board games, cards, and guessing games. Kids learn lots of great social skills such as taking turns and playing by the rules with such games. They also gain opportunities to develop literacy and thinking skills. Even a simple game like I Spy helps them become aware of sounds and letters, and their relationships. Matching and memory games like Go Fish, Snap, and Concentration are also helpful and are lots of fun. If children are a little young to play word games like Scrabble, Boggle, and Bananagrams, I like to use the tiles and/or boards and adapt them by inventing a much simpler new game. It might be "Find the S" or "Who can make their name the fastest?"
While not all guessing games are literacy-related, they are an excellent way to get kids thinking. Recently at The Book Chook, in Play Guessing Games With Kids, I compiled a list of several guessing games you might like to try with your young ones. Games like charades prompt us to think creatively, and often the focus will be on well-known stories and books. Creating a board game themselves encourages children to look at games from a different perspective, and gives them the chance to practice spelling, choose vocabulary, and demonstrate understanding.
As a parent, maybe you try to limit your kids' screen time. Great idea! But I believe some screen time as part of a child's balanced daily activities is fine. Even better when that screen time involves something that's also a little educational. Here are some websites where you'll find games that encourage various aspects of literacy: BBC KS1 Bitesize - Literacy, PBS Kids, and Interactive English Games and Activities from Woodlands Resources. I curate iPad apps I've reviewed on my Pinterest board. There you'll find fun ways to involve kids in word play like SparkleFish and Shake-a-Phrase, plus lots of other story apps and ones that encourage creativity.
Do you play games that help your children develop and practice literacy skills? Let us know on the Scholastic Parents Facebook page.