Hunting for Words

Let&s encourage our children to be word hunters!
By Susan Stephenson
Dec 27, 2013



Hunting for Words

Dec 27, 2013

Words are the building blocks of language. I believe that by encouraging our children to play and have fun with words, we're helping them develop both reading and writing skills. One way to do this that most parents are comfortable with is by sharing picture books with kids. Another is to encourage them to hunt for and collect words.

What kinds of words? It depends on our purpose. For young kids, we might help them to look for words near or in the home. Being a word hunter combines perfectly with a walk to the park or to a friend's house. Can children recognize any letters or words they know? Can they figure out what the sign on the building says, the one next to the picture of a pizza? Dedicated word hunters might like to record words they find, perhaps using a camera or an iPhone, or try to write them into a little book.

Once children become more aware of letters and sounds, their target might be to find words that start with B, or words that have the same starting letter (visual) or starting sound (auditory) as their names. Letter magnets or letter blocks are useful to follow up a word hunting session -- and they're lots of fun too! Word hunting and word building activities encourage children to be observant, and they become more aware of the reading possibilities that exist outside books.

We also get wonderful opportunities to collect words when we're sharing books with our kids. Can you find the main character's name on a page? Can you see a word that starts with the same letter as Daddy? Old magazines and newspapers are excellent fodder for word hunters, and again, letters and words can be cut out and collected, perhaps in a notebook, or in a collage.

When screen time rolls around, we can explore websites that encourage kids to focus on words. StoryIt has an activity where children can find words with short and long medial vowels (vowels found within the middle of a word), and drag them to form sentences. ABCya! Word Cloud generates an image of words a user types/pastes. You'll see an example in my image above. Spelling City offers word games, many of them free.

As kids mature, word hunting can become more creative. We might make suggestions like:

•    let's collect words that make us feel happy/sad/shivery/cold
•    let's collect words we love
•    let's collect words that increase our vocabulary
•    let's collect words that Mom forgets how to spell
•    let's collect tricky words
•    let's have a Word of the Week, and give points to anyone who uses it in conversation

Just because a child becomes an independent reader doesn't mean word hunting and collecting should stop. Kids might notice a reduplicative like higgledy-piggledy. Can they think of any more words like this? Why are they fun to say? What's the longest word children can find? How many one- or two-letter words can they collect? What are all the words that rhyme with lake?

By paying attention to the word-hunting opportunities that arise during conversation, shared reading, or homework time, we can help our kids celebrate the joy of language and the wonder of words. Let's encourage our children to be word hunters!

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