Word games are great because they help children focus on sounds and letters, and develop skills they need for reading, writing and spelling. By playing word games with our kids, we give them the benefit of our company, as well as demonstrating to them that playing with words is lots of fun. There are also word games that have become board games and toys, but the ones you'll find below need minimal equipment.
Guess the animal: Give children a rhyming word and have them guess the animal. "I rhyme with mat. I am a …"
I spy: This is a simple word game most people know. Spot something nearby and tell kids the sound or letter it begins with. Children must look around and try to guess what it is you "spied."
Make a word: If you have plastic letters, magnet letters, or letter blocks, you can play this as soon as your child is old enough to spell. Play it mentally with older kids, or with paper and pencil. Simply give your children some letters and challenge them to make words from those letters. Great beginning for board games like Scrabble.
Categories: This is a game I loved as a child. Do you remember it? Simply draw a grid on a piece of paper. Then write some categories (for instance "plants," "girls' names," "cars," "grocery items") down one side of the grid and write alphabet letters across the top. It needn't be the whole alphabet. The aim is to try to think up a word for each letter and category.
Hink Pink: Kids adore this game! One person thinks of two-single syllable rhyming words, like fat cat. She works out a clue that should lead (eventually!) to the answer "fat cat." One clue could be "an obese mouse-catcher" or "a pet that eats too much," depending on the age of the guesser. The guesser tries to work out what the two rhyming words are. The game can be extended to Hinky Pinky (two syllable rhyming words), like happy chappy = "joyful fellow." Or Hinketty Pinketty (three syllable rhyming words, much harder), like mellower bellower = "less angry bull." Mix and match with Hinky Pinketty or Hinketty Pink!
Here are some Hink Pinks you can use to get you and your child started.
Clues 1. seafood platter 2. huge oinker 3. head cover that's been squashed by a truck 4. warmed up joint between two ropes 5. Rained-on puppy
Answers 1. fish dish 2. big pig 3. flat hat 4. hot knot 5. wet pet
If your child has trouble working out how many syllables are in a word, play a game where you tap the syllables on her arm as you slowly say the word: "butt(tap)-er (tap)-fly(tap)." Or march and dance the words, making strong body movements for each syllable. There is nothing more joyous than the sight and sound of 30 youngsters marching about, chanting the syllables in given words!
Once older kids are used to the game, it can provide a lead-in to crossword puzzles, and then cryptic crossword puzzles. All of these word games are great for developing thinking skills, as well as giving the whole family a way of celebrating the joy of language.
Word Game: I have no idea of the name of this game, but this is how we play it. One person, A, thinks of a five-letter word. A tells B the first letter of the word. B makes guesses at the word and finds out if letters are correct and in the correct place, correct but in the wrong place, or not correct at all. B gets five chances to guess the word.
Here's an example:
A – My five-letter word starts with D.
B – Is it drive?
A - It's not drive. There are no correct letters.
B - Is it donut?
A – It's not donut. The N is correct and in the right place. The U is correct but in the wrong place.
B – Is it dunny?
A – It's not dunny. The U is correct and in the right place, the N is correct and in the right place.
B – Is it dunks?
A – Yes! That's it. The word is dunks.
This game is much easier if you use pencil and paper to keep a record. But doing it mentally is very good memory training! Our family tends to play for fun, but you can keep a running score if you want – the guesser gets 5 points for guessing the word first go, four for guessing on the second go, three for third, two for fourth, one for fifth, and none for missing the word in five guesses. Try four-letter words with younger kids.
If you're interested in encouraging a love of language and words in your children, you might also like to read The Power of Being Punny and Hunting for Words.
What word games does your family play? Let us know on the Scholastic Parents Facebook page.