The last Raising Readers post on Board Games That Build Readers was very popular. If you have kids working on pre-reading and early literacy skills, you should give it a read! As promised, I have a follow-up post for you on games for older kids to help develop their literacy skills even further. There are numerous educational companies that make grade-specific games and activities for the classroom, like Lakeshore Learning. While some kids might be willing to play these at home with Mom and Dad, I know that mine see right through them. “Hey, this is NOT a game! This is LEARNING!”
So, for this post, let’s focus on games you can pick up at Target or Amazon and that are designed to deliver FUN.
For Kindergarten to first-graders learning basic spelling, What’s Gnu? makes building 3 letter words fun. Just deal out the word cards, slide the Letter Getter to get 2 new letter tiles, and add them to your cards to build 3-letter words. There are 2 levels of difficulty and 100’s of word combinations. Vowels are printed in red to help reinforce understanding, and learning the rules of the game takes only minutes.
Older kids can reinforce spelling skills with games like Scrabble Junior and UpWords. But for quick thinking spellers ages 8 to adult, try out the hilarious game SmartMouth.
In this quick-play, rowdy game for friends and families, players roll a category and press a machine to get 2 letter tiles. Players then shout out all the words they can think of that start and end with those 2 letters and fit into the given category, all before the timer runs out!
There are a number of really entertaining games families can play to build vocabulary and descriptive abilities in kids – without it seeming like homework.
The boxed games Password and Password Junior are great ways to get players working together and using their words – especially synonyms and antonyms! Players slide a card into the “decoder” to reveal their passwords. They then have a limited amount of time to get their teammates to guess the words on the card.
The game Taboo has a similar premise and play style, but is made more difficult with – you’ve got it – taboo words! You must get your teammates to guess your word – say “giraffe,” for example – without using certain words commonly associated with it – like tall, neck and zoo.
My very favorite in this category is Funglish. Similar to Taboo and Password, teams aim to guess the most words given clues by their teammate. But this time, there’s no talking or gesturing – the player can only give clues using tiles with pre-selected words.
Confused? Check out this video from Ellen DeGeneres playing Funglish with Alyson Hanigan and 2 audience members.
I’m also very partial to Balderdash (PLEASE come over and play Balderdash with me!) However, I will say that to play this game you need a number of players (4 is a bare minimum) with similar educational levels. Each player writes down a made-up definition for an obscure word. Then one player reads aloud the made-up definitions AND the real definition. Players get points not just for guessing the right answer – but for fooling other players with their own. If players’ knowledge level is too far apart, it becomes easy to tell whose answer is whose.
I adore trivia games for improving reading skills. Everyone takes turns reading the questions, so no one person feels they are reading “all the time.” There are a large variety of words and names to decode, which provides an excellent challenge for developing readers. Any trivia game provides reading skill-building, but games like those below also provide an even footing for players of a variety of ages and educational levels.
American Trivia Family Edition was created to reinforce social studies and geography knowledge, but packs a double-whammy by reinforcing literacy skills. Questions provide challenges to kids and parents alike with Junior and Expert level questions. Card type is well-sized and vocabulary reasonable for upper-elementary school kids.
The Brain Quest Game is the best trivia game I’ve found for families with kids at different age levels. Each card has questions leveled by grade. Kids can choose their own grade – or try to get extra points by answering questions above their grade level! Parents get the 6th grade-and-up questions – which have certainly stumped me a time or two.
Please take the extra time to share which board games your readers enjoy and learn from! I can’t wait to hear from all of you.