My family loves to play games of all kinds but a few of our very favorites are word-based games. Here are my top game picks that are fun and challenging and also boost language and literacy skills without anyone ever saying it!
1. At the top of the list is Balderdash. My family LOVES this game – we play this frequently and it's also a GREAT party game. In short, it's the ultimate bluffing game. Each player takes a turn as the "dasher." The dasher draws a card and reads an obscure word to the players – the words are not ones used in everyday language (btw – you can use the dictionary to play this game, too!). Each player writes as convincing a definition as possible – as they will attempt to win the round. All the definitions are collected and are then read aloud by the dasher.
This is the best part of the game. Ridiculous and super clever ideas spill forth from everyone. The dasher has to read each definition as though it were the real definition, so as not to give away the real answer. The dasher then asks each player which definition is the correct one, noting that player's choice on the slip of paper. At the end of the round, the players who chose the correct definition move ahead on the board. The players who received votes for their phony definitions move one space for every vote. And, if no player guesses the correct definition, the dasher moves forward three spaces on the board.
For subsequent rounds, each player takes a turn as the dasher. This game is so much fun, and really hilarious. The game comes with 1,500 or so cards that have 5 categories: Weird Words, Peculiar People, Interesting Initials, Laughable Laws, and Movies. The fun is in making up answers that are as silly or as serious as you want – but all with the aim of being as convincing as possible. Most of the time we don't even play using points or the board, we'll pull out the cards and do a few rounds after dinner just for fun and a lot of laughs! We'll go around the table, and each of us will get a turn as the "dasher" and will get to pick the category we want for that round. I've saved some of the most outlandish and most convincing definitions we've come up with – because they're just too good to throw away. When my kids were heading off to school this morning – my 8-year-old said, "…and I'm ready for another round of Balderdash tonight! Yes? You in?" A big "Yes!" from me absolutely followed. Can't wait.
2. Snatch-It! I was first introduced to this game by adult friends and have since introduced it to my kids. It's a simple word game that is quick to learn and really fun to play! The game comes with 100 plastic tiles and players lay all of the tiles face-down in the middle of the table. Then players take turns flipping the tiles over one at a time. When a player sees a word that's three letters or longer, they shout it out and snatch it from the center, setting it in front of them. Players can then steal each other's words by adding a letter to them and making a new word. It's really interactive and fast paced, which kids love.
You don't have to "wait your turn" – what kid doesn't love that? You can play with as few as 2 and up to 10-12 – or more! It's great for parties. You can also level the play and make it age appropriate for littler ones (limit words to 3-4 letters) and level it up for older players (example: no fewer than 5-letter words). A full game may only last 10 minutes or so – but it's addictive, so be warned. You'll want to play it over and over again!
3. Smarthmouth – I have given this game as a gift to lots of kids. It's a fun, fast-paced game of words where players race to make the best word in 60 seconds! The premise of the game is to quickly make a word from the two dispensed tiles that begin with one of the letters and ends with the other, e.g. if "S" and "D" are dispensed you might say "stand." The word has to be at least 5 letters. The player who calls out the first word and the player with the highest-ranking word both collect a letter tile for the round. Once all of the tiles are gone, the player with the most tiles wins!
4. Boggle – I couldn't leave this classic off of my list. I loved it as a kid, I still love it as an adult, and I love playing it with my kids now, too. If you've never played Boggle, it'll only take minutes to learn. You start with a small container that holds 16 cubes. Each cube is marked with a different letter on each of its six sides. Give the container a good shake, and the cubes land within little pockets. Turn the timer on and players then race against the clock to write down as many words (of three-or-more letters) as they can in three minutes. You rack up points based on the length of the words you make. There are many versions of this game now: Original (16 cubes), Big Boggle (25 cubes), Super Big Boggle (36 cubes) and Boggle Jr. for the youngest kids. The more cubes, the more word possibilities there are – and Boggle Jr. focuses on early words and word families and is a GREAT game for beginning readers.
5. Scattergories, the Card Game. My boys LOVED this game from the time they were little – still do. It's fast-paced, can be very silly, and keeps them thinking quickly and creatively! We have the card game version which is simple and easy to play and travel with (there's also a board game version). It's a classic "slap the card" first game.
There are two decks of cards, one deck lists locations on each card and the other deck has an individual letter on each card. You flip one of each card over at the same time and the person who slaps the combination first has to quickly pair the combination and answer "What would you find…" with a specific word. Example: What would you find "On an airplane" that begins with the letter "S"? Quick. "Seats." If you slap first and provide a correct answer (there are many!!!) then you keep the cards and continue playing. Whoever has the most cards at the end of the game wins.
Happy game playing!
There are so many more fun games that get kids laughing, thinking, and using their words. What are your favorite word games for kids? Share your thoughts on the Scholastic Parents Facebook page and continue the conversation.