Kids can’t escape those vocab quizzes, but learning new words and perfecting spelling doesn’t have to be all work and no fun. If your family likes to play games together—whether on a car trip or just whiling away a morning on the sofa—add some word games to the mix. Here are a few that are fun for kids of all ages.
1 The Letter Game This game can be played anywhere, with two or more people, and you don’t even need a pencil and paper. Start by picking a category, like animals or food. One person starts by saying a word (e.g., orange). The next person has to say a word in the same category that starts with the last letter of the first word (eggplant). For added interest with more than two players, the order reverses if someone says a word that starts and ends with the same letter.
2 Scrabble Scramble My husband and I are serious Scrabble lovers, but a full-on game was too much for the family when our kids were younger. To include them in the fun, we came up with this quick adapted version, which doesn’t use the board (and is similar to Boggle). Choose eight letters out of the bag without looking, and put them face down on the table. When everyone is ready, turn the letters over and start a timer. Each person writes down as many words as they can make from the letters in one minute (or two). The person with the greatest number of unique words (ones no one else got) wins.
3 Memory Match This is a great way to reinforce school spelling words, which are usually categorized by attributes such as vowel sounds. Write words in two categories—say, short A sounds and long A sounds—on slips of paper. Place them all face down on a table and have one player choose two. If they belong to the same family, it’s a match and the player keeps them. Otherwise, the player turns them back over and the next person tries.
4 Spelling Bee This is exactly what it sounds like and can be played anywhere. Have one person call out words for others to spell. If you miss a word, you’re out of the round. Keep words age-appropriate for young players and try for the trickiest words with the grownups.
5 The Un-Spelling Game Here’s one that’s fun for families with older kids. It’s similar to the letter game in that it goes around a group, only this time each person says a letter. The goal is to arrange letters that could be a word, but without actually making a word (for example, after E-X-A-… adding an M would make a word; a C wouldn’t). If a person adds a letter that completes a word or makes an impossible combination, they get a point. Five points and you’re out.
Laura Wallis is a freelance writer and editor specializing in all things family, home, food, and health. She currently lives in New Jersey with her husband, two children, and dog—none of whom take grammar as seriously as they should. She writes for The Stir by CafeMom.