Revered British writer, Roald Dahl (Boy, The BFG, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), believed that "life is more fun if you play games." He also scribbed a character who thought "children should never have baths... it's a dangerous habit" (The Witches). Certainly one of these things is true.
Word activities can be an exciting and engaging supplemental tool for encouraging your child to read. They can also trigger a volcanic eruption of frustration and anger if a child playing lacks the foundational skills required to participate in family or group fun. If a raging river of molten hot lava tends to overtake your kitchen table, expert intervention might be necessary. Contact us today for a free assessment!
If not, here are five board and card games—from classic choices to contemporary concepts—to help reinforce spelling, strengthen word recognition, and fuel your little one's imagination. They might even forget they're learning... and it's sure to bring out the kid in you, too!
For 80 years, Scrabble has become one of the most popular games to grace shelves. Hasbro's newer offspring, Scrabble Junior, is suggested for ages 5 and up, and offers a dual board. The first side has permanent, predetermined vocabulary (like CHERRY, DOLPHIN, and SEA) and players match personal tiles to these words. An adult can help keep score with tokens, and when a player runs out of tiles, the individual with the most points wins. The second side is an advanced edition, so kids can build up to building their own words!
Nearly 15 years ago, creativity trainer and coach, Rory Bamfylde, needed an innovative problem solving technique for adults; "as the brain thinks in pictures but communicates in words, having a visual aid... would be advantageous." So he created Story Cubes: a dice game to help nurture different ideas. To play, individuals take turns shaking up and rolling nine cubes, then generate sentences or scenes from what's revealed, ideally linking a story together from all the upturned images; a suggested prompt is "once upon a time." Story Cube versions feature actions, voyages, and specialized characters (like Batman), and are recommended for ages 6 and up. The best part? Winning isn't everything! The goal is to think fast, be creative, and avoid dwelling on perfect ideas; there are no wrong answers!
Designed for ages 9 and up, this creative combination game encourages kids to talk their way to the top! With a whopping 576-card deck, all players begin by receiving an equal number of Red Apple cards, which feature a person, place, thing, or event (like GYMNASTICS or GETTING A HAIRCUT). Individuals take turns being the judge, who will read aloud a Green Apple card that states a description of a person, place, thing, or event (like CRUNCHY or MAGICAL). Players choose one of their own Red Apple cards they believe best corresponds with the Green Apple card, and tries to convince the judge it fits! Whoever's Red Apple card is chosen wins that round, and the first player to dominate four rounds, wins! The objective (aside from silliness) is to expand vocabulary; become more familiar with nouns, adjectives, and synonyms; and hone quick-thinking skills.
Looking to develop vocabulary with a focus on teamwork? Intended for a younger demographic, Word on the Street Junior is recommended for ages 8 and up. To play, every player helps line up the 26 alphabet tiles onto the board's center spaces, then divides themselves into two teams. Team 1 begins by picking a category card (like A RED FOOD) and Team 2 flips over the 30-second timer; Team 1 has half a minute to choose the best answer/word (like TOMATO), then works as a unit to move corresponding tiles to their "side of the street." Now, Team 2 picks a new category card and has 30 seconds to choose the best response for moving tiles toward their side, ideally with a word including letters from Team 1's side to be "stolen." The first team to shimmy eight tiles off their side of the board, wins. Triple- or quadruple-letter words (like BUBBLE or REFEREE) move tiles to your team's side quicker! Having a parent or adult present helps to ensure words are spelled correctly and rules understood!
Available in several editions—including My First Bananagrams (ages 4 and up) and Classic Bananagrams (ages 7 and up)—this game challenges kids to reconfigure letters with an emphasis on proper spelling. To play the original version, 144 tiles (or THE BUNCH) are placed facedown on a table. Each player takes between 11-21 tiles, depending on how many people are playing. One person says "SPLIT!" and players flip over their own tiles and intersect letters to form a personal horizontal and vertical grid of words. When a player has used his or her last tile, they yell "PEEL!" and all players grab a new one from THE BUNCH. Don't like a letter in your lot? Say "DUMP!" at any time and exchange it for three new tiles. When the amount of letters in THE BUNCH is less than the amount of players, the first person to use all his or her own tiles yells "BANANAS!" and wins. Monkeying around never felt so educational!
Tips and Notes:
- All links are to official brand sites, so scope out local or Canadian shops for availability and pricing.
- Check your library's collection as an alternative to buying or a trial run before purchasing!
- Invest in a holder for smaller hands or those who need extra help clutching cards, like Gamewright's Original Little Hands Playing Card Holder.
SpellRead loves word games, too! Students' card packs, which use pseudo-words to reinforce sounds, include either pairs to play Go Fish and Memory, or are perfect for the program's own beloved activities: Slam and Secret Seven!
Eager to learn more?