Great Word Games – and not just for parties

Word games can be valuable and enjoyable at any time of year, reinforcing knowledge about vocabulary and spelling patterns in fun ways.


I thought it might be useful to send out a reminder of some of the favourites that children can play independently, once they have been shown the fairly simple rules.

Of course, any time of year is good for children to play word games but they can be particularly useful as an alternative to traditional homework - asking parents to get more directly involved perhaps.

They offer an alternative to computer games as well as a good source of educational ‘fillers’ in the classroom.




Word Pyramids

Players start with a 3 letter word at the top of their sheet of paper (e.g. CAN)

The rules are to add a letter to the first word to make a new four letter word on the next line. Then add another letter to make a 5 letter word and so on until no more can be thought of.




This can be played in pairs against each other or against the clock.



Word Pyramid – (Version 2)

This version is similar – you still have to build a pyramid of words but each word in the pyramid has to use the letters from the previous word but in a different order.

You can start with just a single letter:









Word Ladders

Start with one four letter word and end with a different one – changing just one letter at a time.

Variations:  How many different versions of a  word ladder can be made from the same starter word?

Have children make ladders for each other – giving the starter and end word but others having to fill in the steps in between


HOME                                          Solution:     HOME

---------                                                              COME

_____                                                               CAME

______                                                              SAME

______                                                             SAND

LAND                                                               LAND



Word snakes

Big pieces of paper are useful here.

The first player writes down a word. The next person has to write word using the last letter of the previous one. Words can be written down, across and up – as they ‘snake’ across the paper.




One player thinks of a 4 letter word. Others take turns to say any four letter word they know by way of a guess. The first player can give clues about any letters that match their ‘secret word’ and what position in the word they are. Harder with longer words or if no written notes are allowed.




Opposites Memory Game

Part 1 of the game: Give out blank pieces of paper or card to each player.

Everyone writes down a word on their piece of paper and passes it to the person on their right. They look at it and write a word that is its Opposite on another piece of paper.

Repeat this until there are up to 40 different pieces of paper.

Then they can be placed face down and a game of matching pairs/memory game can be played. Discussions about what are opposites or not are inevitable and provke interesting discussions about word meanings.




Category Challenge

Children to think of a Category: Animals, transport, capital cities etc.

Set a time limit for writing down as many words in that category.

Take turns to choose the category or have them on cards to turn over.




Alphabet Categories

One player thinks of a category and then there is a timed challenge to think of something in that category for each letter of the alphabet.

Points awarded for the person or team with the most after a set amount of time.



Scrabble – can be played according to its usual rules but the letter tiles can be used for variations:


Against the Clock: Each player is given  7 or 8 tiles at random. When the time starts they have to make as many different words as possible using their tiles. They need to write them down to record their score.


Speed Word Search Place 25 tiles into a 5 X 5 grid – just randomly selected.  Players then spot as many different words in it as possible in just 2 minutes


PDQ – This is normally a card game but it can be done with letter tiles.

Turn over any 3 tiles. The first person to shout out a word that contains all three letters wins them. E.g. PNI - someone could shout out the word 'PINEAPPLE' and win those tiles.

To make it easier just turn over two letters. Or start with just one letter but then make a rule that it has to be at the beginning or end of a word.


Have Fun!




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