Words matter. A lot. Kids whose parents read to them and engage them in conversation have bigger vocabularies and become better readers themselves than those whose parents aren’t as verbally engaged. Being a good reader increases a child’s chances of doing well in school, going on to college, and having a successful career. And since reading never goes out of style – and it’s never too late to start – here are some of our favorite word games.
BANANAGRAMS, APPLETTERS, PAIRSINPEARS, AND ZIP-IT
If you like Scrabble, Anagrams, and Boggle, you’ll love these games. Actually, you’ll love them even if you’ve never heard of those other games. Besides being really fun, they all have a few things in common: boys and girls will both enjoy them; they’re fast – no sitting around waiting for everyone else to take their turn; you don’t need a board or even pencil and paper; they can be enjoyed by adults as well as kids; they come in really cute packages; and they’re a great way to help early gradeshoolers with spelling, and help those know-it-all teens and tweens build their vocabulary for the SAT. Oh, and they’re insanely addictive.
Bananagrams is the one that started it all. Players turn over tiles and race to be the first to use them all, cross-word style.
Appletters offers a fun twist on Bananagrams by allowing words to be built from only the first or last letters. So instead of a crossword you’ll end up with more of a snake. It’s actually three separate games in one – each appropriate for a different age group.
PairsInPears stays true to its word-building roots, but adds a memory and matching component. Very fast paced.
Zip-It might be the fastest of them all – you can play a hand in less than 20 seconds – but you’ll want to stick with it for longer than that. Zip-It uses lettered cubes (like dice) instead of tiles and the zippers on the carrying case are used to keep score. www.bananagrams.com
POPPO AND ZOTTO
Both of these soon-to-be-classics use plastic poppers (which contain a specially designed multi-sided die) to form words.
Poppo is designed for the 4-and-up set and provides the instant gratification and engagement that preschoolers need while offering realistic challenges that help develop skills in letter matching and word recognition, spelling, concentration, grouping and sorting, and more.
Zottois aimed at a little older crowd, ages 8 and up. It plays kind of like Boggle, but with Zotto, players put the letters wherever they want, meaning that no two people are looking at the same grid at the same time. In both games, rounds are short, which nips boredom in the bud.www.poppo.com
CAMPBELL’S ALPHABET DICE GAME
There’s very little that’s completely unique in this crossword anagram game, but the clever soup can design makes it just about as delicious for dads and kids as some of the Bananagrams games. There are some fun twists, though. Players can insert letters into the middle of others’ words. And, unlike at the dinner table, they’re encouraged to “slurp” – pull a letter out of someone else’s crossword and replace it with one of your own. Parents can be gently teaching word skills, making education (and time with ma and pa) fun with just a smidgeon of good-natured competition. Play it with a cuppa real soup and it’s Mmmm Mmm good, old fashioned fun.www.tdcgames.com.
(Armin Brott, Paul Banas and Samantha Feuss are the Parents@Play team. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
By ARMIN BROTT, PAUL BANAS AND SAMANTHA FEUSS