Word games are fun activities that keep kids of all ages busy while boosting their literacy and vocabulary development skills. Word games are available in classic form (paper and pencil) and in electronic app versions, meaning families can play tons of different variations at home and on-the-go. These 11 word games for kids will keep everyone entertained and learning.
Classic Word Games for Younger Kids
Little kids are beginning to understand the foundations of literacy while learning to formulate words and expand on phonetic sounds. Playing word games is an excellent way to enhance their skills while making reading and spelling fun. These classic word games are perfect for developing and growing young minds.
Learning vocabulary elements and how categories and words associate is a major skill in the lower elementary grades. Tutti Frutti focuses on these primary skills and can be done with a single child or a group of children. It also makes for a great icebreaker if you are hosting a birthday party, an after-school club, or another event where kids might need a short activity to become socially at ease. To play, give every child a pencil and a piece of paper. Next, a broad category is given. A timer is set, and children must write down as many items associated with that category as possible. The winner of the game is the person with the most appropriate items written down. If you are playing with one child, challenge them to beat their top score each time a new category is given.
The game does require kids to be able to write and come close to correctly spelling words. For young children, give categories that allow them to be successful in naming several vocabulary words associated with the given topic. Ideas might include:
- Barn or zoo animals
- Picnic foods
- Things associated with winter
Have them sound out words the best they can, and use their understanding of phonics to invent spellings. You can extend this activity by going through the list of words and teaching the correct spelling of the items they wrote down for each category.
Scrabble Junior is a modified version of the classic game for adults. It can be played in two ways, since each side of the Scrabble board has its own version of play. Kids as young as four years-old can join in the classic word fun with the side of the board that contains pre-written words that they must match up their letter tiles to, in order to formulate words and score points. Children who can spell simple words might use the flip side of the board to form their own words from their selected tiles.
If playing with young children, focus on matching letter tiles and sounding words out or creating simple consonant-vowel-consonant words. If your children are more advanced, try spelling words with long vowel patterns or consonant blends and attempt to keep score.
Boggle Junior is a word game based on the classic game of the same name and geared for children ages three to six. There are four ways to play this word game, and each game focuses on a different skill and development level; this word game can grow along with your child as they continue to learn and master new literacy tasks.
The game comes with a variety of three- to four-letter word cards and small cubes with letters on them. Give a child a card and say the letters of the word. Sound each letter out and put them together to formulate a word. Kids then move to the cubes and find the correlating letters that correspond with the letters on the card.
For more of a challenge, kids look at the word card briefly and then flip it over. Using their memory of the word's spelling as well as their understanding of phonics, they then recreate the word on the card using the letter cubes. If they spell the word correctly, they earn a point.
Going on a...
Going on a... is a word game of vocabulary and categories. A category is given for the game. Ideas might include:
- Going on a picnic
- Going on a hike
- Going on a vacation
- Going to the beach
- Going to school
The first child Says:
"I'm going on a _____, and I'm bringing ____."
They then fill that blank in with an item that would suit the category trip. The next person repeats what person one said and then adds their own related item. The third person (or if playing with two people, the initial player), then says, "I'm going on a ____. and I'm bringing ____. They then name all the items said prior in order. The game gets harder and harder as kids have to recall what was already said AND think of another related object to bring along.
Classic Word Games for Older Kids
Word in Words
Word in Words is a fun challenge for older kids who have a broad sense of both spelling and vocabulary. A word is given to all players. Words tend to be lengthy and include many various letters in them. A timer is set and kids must then think up as many words as they can using only the letters in the given word. An example of this is:
Words from the word might be:
To work a vocabulary lesson into this game, choose words that kids might not know the definition of. Explain what the given word means and use it in a couple of example sentences prior to playing the round.
Get your kids learning and working together by playing the classic game of Taboo. The game is best played with older kids who have an extensive vocabulary. To play, one child receives a mystery word and a list of "no-no" words, which are words that would easily help describe the mystery word. The object is to get the partner who does not have the word in their hand to guess the word. The person with the card can describe the word to be guessed in any way possible, as long as they do not use any words on their card.
It doesn't get more classic than a round of Hangman. This is a great game to keep older kids busy during travel. Player one thinks of a word for player two to guess by suggesting letters in the mystery word. If they suggest a letter that does appear in the word, then the person who thought the word up puts the letters where they go in the mystery word blanks. If the suggesting player offers up a letter and the word does NOT contain that letter, a body part is drawn on a sheet of paper, whiteboard, or even on the sidewalk if playing outside.
The goal is to suggest enough letters to be able to correctly guess the mystery word before a head, body, arms, and legs are drawn out. Older kids can think up challenging words, play with the option of "offer up a clue" or draw faces, hands, or feet in addition to a head, body, arms, and legs, which add up to a hangman.
Word Game Apps for Kids On-the-Go
Today's youth are forever immersed in some sort of electronic device. While screen time should have boundaries and limitations, not all apps and electronic activities are the same. These word game apps for kids can be played on-the-go or during downtime. They might utilize an electronic screen, but they aid in children's literacy learning, so count them as a win.
Alphabear: Words Across Time
This word app is similar to Scrabble but can be done on-the-go from an electronic device. Kids spell words by selecting letters from a grid. Cute bears appear when a player is able to use letters next to each other. The more letters that get used, the more points are earned, and the larger the bear grows. As kids solve more puzzles, they collect bears. Bears then increase points and give players special advantages like extending the timer or modifying the gameboard.
Learning to recognize and read sight words is a crucial lesson for young children entering the wonderful world of literacy, and Word Bingo is an excellent addition to the arsenal of learning games geared toward helping kids become stellar readers. In the game, the Bingo bug says one of 300 sight words. Kids listen to the word and then tap the grid where they see the word in writing. A bug pops onto the space where the child tapped. Kids must get four words in a row to score big in this game. More points are awarded for quickness. The faster kids get four words in a row, the higher they score. The educational word game app includes three other games for kids to work on enhancing literacy skills:
- Spelling Practice
- Word Fling
- Word-It Up
What Am I? Riddles by Think Cube
Word games are not all about spelling, and What Am I? Riddles by Think Cube takes a love of words and applies it to puzzles. Kids will really have to put their thinking caps on to master this game. In What Am I?, children are given clues to help them arrive at a mystery word. A selection of letters is provided to kids to aid them in figuring out the mystery word. When a puzzle is solved, coins are earned. Kids can later use these coins to ask for hints on perplexing puzzles, or even email or Facebook message a pal for help. Parents might want to get in on this fun, as some of these riddles are quite tricky!
Wordscapes challenges children to create words from a random selection of letters to fill in crossword puzzles. The brain booster is paired with serene backdrops, making this game a perfect mesh of educational and mind-soothing fun. Players play bonus words at the end of each puzzle with the hope of earning coins. Those coins can later be used to help players out when they get stuck on a particular puzzle. This game is a favorite word game among so many kids, and the bonus is: it's learning-based.
When to Work Word Games Into Your Life
There is no particularly bad time to work word games into your kids' schedules and routines, but some pockets of space lend themselves to activities such as these more than others. Electronic word games can be utilized:
- During wait times at the doctor's office
- While standing in a long line at the store
- While waiting in the car line before school
- During meal preparation time
- When driving to after-school activities
- On road trips
Word games that require physical materials might make for a great addition to:
- Family Friday Game Night
- During daily rest time (for kids who no longer nap but still require quiet, alone time during the day)
- Before bedtime on occasion, in lieu of reading books
The Benefits of Word Games
Playing word games has lots of benefits for families and children. Kids hone in on literacy skills such as spelling and vocabulary, or phonics and rhyming, depending on the development level of the player. They utilize their memory and problem-solving skills, and recognize that learning really is fun. Work word games into your family's daily or weekly activities and watch everyone blossom and benefit from them.