Many homeschooling families have a few word games on their shelves – the very popular Scrabble and Boggle, for instance. Both of these games are terrific, and both are available in several varieties including junior
Let’s talk about Scrabble and Boggle for a minute. You’re probably quite familiar with both of these games, but they have stood the test of time for good reason.
In Scrabble, the object is to use tiles from your rack to build words crossword-style on the board. This is a great game for spelling, creating words, and making the most of what you have. It encourages mental math as you add tile scores and compute special actions like “Double Word Score” to help you decide which word will give you the best score.
There are many variations of Scrabble, including Scrabble Jr. which has a pre-printed side to teach a small set of words and a blank side for a beginner’s version of traditional Scrabble. There are also older versions like Quik Qubes, where you roll a cup full of dice, Yahtzee-style, to spell the best word each round, or the Scrabble Sentence Game for Juniors where the tiles have words instead of letters, and you are working to form sentences (or lay down tiles on the pre-printed side, as in Scrabble Jr.). UpWords, Probe, Bananagrams, Spill & Spell and others are similar games.
In Boggle, all players are looking at a grid of letters, trying to form as many words as possible by tracing paths through the grid. This game encourages quick thinking – and quick writing – and is also good for spelling as well as visual discrimination as your eyes scan the grid repeatedly.
There are also many variations of Boggle, including Boggle Jr. which gives kids pre-printed cards of three- and four-letter words and a cup full of dice; the object is to roll the dice until you can use them to spell the word on the top card. There are also variations like Big Boggle, which has a larger grid, and Body Boggle, which is a Twister-style game encouraging players to spell words on the mat using their hands and feet.
All of these Scrabble and Boggle games are good for working on language skills and they’re worth keeping an eye out for at thrift stores and garage sales. You can also put together homemade versions, if you’re so inclined.
In addition to these games, there are several good games that encourage using words and thinking about words in new ways without having to spell or write them.
In Taboo, one player looks at a card which has one word at the top and a list of related words at the bottom. That player has to get her team to say the word at the top – but she can’t say any of the words on the bottom. For example, you might need to get your team to say “apple” but you can’t say “tree,” “fruit,” “red,” “William Tell” or “Granny Smith.”
This game was made in several editions including Celebrity Taboo, in which all the cards give the name of a famous person (famous in the early 1990s, that is!) and Taboo Jr. which is identical to original Taboo but with easier words for kids. Catch Phrase is a similar game but has no taboo words – instead, the list of words is passed back and forth between the teams hot-potato style, and the team left holding the list when the timer runs out loses that round. Word-giving games are great for learning how to think of new ways to describe familiar objects.
There are also games which encourage players to think about how words go together. Apples to Apples is a very popular game where players choose noun cards from their hand to try to match the adjective card the judge has put out for the round. The judge then chooses the noun that he thinks best fits the adjective, and the player who played that noun wins a point. What’s the best match for “Tough”: “Belt Buckles,” “High School,” “Toenails” or “Getting the Flu”?
You can find the original game, expansion boxes, junior and kids’ versions as well as Spanish versions all in retail stores and online. Apples to Apples is not only a good way to learn about nouns and adjectives, it is a riotously funny party game!
We have other favorite word games, too. The game In A Pickle asks players to choose cards from their hands that will fit in the items already on the table. It’s perfect for thinking about relationships as well as unusual meanings for words, because you’re able to argue your choice and give different slants to the words to explain how the relationship works.
Balderdash is a tricky game of composing new definitions for words you may not know. Word MasterMind encourages one player to try and guess the four-letter word the other player has chosen by using clues given after each incorrect guess (it is similar to the standard game of MasterMind). There are many more word games out there, and they are generally all fun and worthwhile. If you have any favorite word games, or games that have helped your kids in their homeschooling journey, we’d love to hear about them!
In between board games, PisecoMom squeezes in a little homeschooling for her two adorable children at Mind Games.
photographs from Boardgamegeek.com
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