Word Play: A Workout for Your Brain
As a kid, I loved playing word games. I grew up playing Scrabble and Boggle with my mom, and for me the Sunday comic section was more about the crossword puzzle, hidden word search and Jumble than anything else. Whether it’s a board game, a paper and pencil creation or one of the many apps I have on my iPhone, I continue to be obsessed with any kind of word game or puzzle.
My own two daughters, and the students in my classroom, are continually reminded of my obsession, and I am always looking for ways to impart my love of word play onto others. Manipulating letters into words forces the brain to work – in essence, word play is a (FUN) way to exercise your brain! For young children, word games improve spelling, increase working memory, develop language skills and build children’s vocabulary.
Here are a few oldies-but-goodies for your next family game night:
Now try this homemade paper and pencil creation:
Roll-a-Letter, Make a Word!
Players: 2 to 3
Materials: Printables, Die, Timer (optional), Pencil
How to Play:
1. Before play begins, print out a letter chart. Each player should then roll a die 6 times. After each roll, the player chooses one letter from the column that corresponds to the number on the die. Players record all 6 letters, and their point value, on the recording sheet. Note: Letters can be written down more than once. For example: If you roll a 5 two different times, a player can write down the same letter after each roll.
2. Set a timer, if desired, for 1 or 2 minutes. Each player makes as many words as she can before the time is up.
3. Once time has been called, players score each word by adding up the letters’ point value (similar to Scrabble). The player with the highest score wins. Note: Younger children can also add up the number of words they spelled correctly, and this can be their total score.
Variation: If you have specific spelling words to practice, write these words on small index cards. Turn them face down in the middle of the playing area. To begin, turn over one card from the deck. The goal of the game is to gather all of the letters needed to spell the word before your opponent does. Take turns rolling the die and choosing a letter from the column that corresponds to the number on the die. Write down the letter on a piece of paper. The first player to spell the word on the card gets to keep the card. Continue playing until all of the cards in the deck have been played.
No word play is complete without applying what you know!
Check out these playful picture books all about words:
- The Boy Who Loved Words by Roni Schotter
- Max’s Words by Kate Banks
- Miss Alaineus by Debra Frasier
- Carmine: A Little More Red by Melissa Sweet
- Donovan’s Word Jar by Monalisa DeGross
What are some of your favorite word games?
For another fun word game from Playful Learning, try Word Mastermind!