English is a tricky language with a lot of words and a whole heck of a lot of crazy rules (and exceptions to rules) about how things should be spelled. When I watch a kid learning the English language I honestly don't know how any of us do it. It's truly amazing that any of us learn how to read and spell.
Parents can support their kids learning to spell and write in school by spending time with them at home, reading and playing word games. Word games can help early writers just learning how to spell, as well as more advanced writers to increase their vocabularies. I've picked out a few word games that help kids with spelling words and tried them out with my seven year old. Not only have I been impressed with his growing ability and comfort (sometimes that's the most important thing) with spelling words, but we've had a lot of fun too. And great warm up for back to school.
Note: I am listing the suggested age for each of these games, but if you are going to use them as a learning tool, working with your kids, you can play these spelling games with younger children and change the rules as needed to help them enjoy it. We sometimes made up our own rules and did not always finish entire games. If it gets frustrating or boring (or time for dinner) we just quit. Keeping it light and easy makes it fun, rather than a chore.
Here are some Words Games that help kids learn spelling:
Scrabble Jr (ages 5 and up)— Scrabble Junior is a great game for starting kids out with spelling, and one of the few games I would recommend for kids just learning to spell words. On one side of the board all the words are spelled out already and you use your letters to fill the words in. Kids don't actually need to know how to spell anything, but they familiarize themselves with putting letters together to form words and it's more fun than you think (at least to play a few times). This game helped us build confidence spelling words before we moved on to harder word games.
Once they are able to spell words you can flip the board over to a blank grid board where you can play to form your own words. Play goes basically like regular Scrabble on this side, but without bonus blocks like double word score or extra points for certain letters. Everyone simply gets one point per letter in their words. This game can get difficult and frustrating if the letters in your hand don't form familiar words and we don't always finish the game, but it's still fun to play for a while.
Quiddler (ages 8 to adult) — In Quiddler you have a hand of letter cards which you form into as many words as you can. With each hand you are given larger numbers of cards to allow you to form more and longer words. There are bonuses for making more or longer words each turn, but you can also simplify it and use the cards to just make words. We did not play by the official rules of this game, which is just as well since I could barely understand the not very well written directions. We played one point per word which allowed my son to win since he made more shorter words.
Pretty Darn Quick Game (ages 10 to adult) — This game is recommended for older kids, but we actually had a fun time playing it and I was really surprised with how well he did. The idea is you deal out a few cards and think of a word that you can spell with those letters (in order). The standard game is three cards which can be tricky, depending on the sequence, but for a younger kid you can do it with only two cards which is much easier. This game is different than other spelling games because you need to imagine the missing letters that will create a word rather than forming words out of the letters you have. Playing with an older child, it becomes more of a vocabulary tester as the trick is to be able to think of words that work.
Bananagrams (ages 7 and up) —Of all the games Bananagrams is the most fun to play for me. Perhaps because each player really gets to play individually creating a crossword like grid of words with his word tiles. Other than that it is very similar to the other games where you create words from the letters in your hand. It's fun to try to figure out how to use up all your tiles and look for tricky spots. This game gets harder as you go along since using up your tiles gets trickier. Feel free to quit with younger kids before they get too frustrated.
Boggle (ages 8 and up) — I expected my seven year old to have a hard time with Boggle since it requires the added element of searching out words across zig zags and in different directions. It was definitely hard for him, but he was able to find several words on his own and I like that Boggle requires you to write your words down, taking the spelling to the next level—bringing in writing skills. We made a rule that I could only write down words that were five letters or longer which made it more fun for me and pretty much evened us out. We also skipped the timer to avoid any anxiety that might cause. I hope that this game will get easier for him over time.
Another great spelling resource:
Electric Company — You remember the Electric Company, right? F-UN, FUN. Well they've brought it back with a whole new series all new and updated. The show still focuses on reading skills, with each episode tackling some of those tricky, weird English spelling rules. The stories are fun and kids get to see the words on screen helping them remember what they've learned. Best of all, you can watch the Electric Company episodes online for free. Or buy the classic Electric Company series on DVD. Electric Company is educational television at it's best. You can see the little gears turning as they watch and learn those spelling rules.
You can buy all of the above games from our affiliate, Amazon.
This post originally published in October 2010.