Get Excited About Word Play Kids Love

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Get kids excited about words with word play games, books, and activities guaranteed to entertain and delight! Once kids see the fun in words, there’s no telling how much that will positively affect them as readers and writers…

Word Play

Word Play Games for Kids

Ready for fun word games for kids? You don’t have to play Wordle (although you can) either. A word play game can be as simple as a pun and as complex as a crossword puzzle.

1. Tongue Twisters

My daughter’s drama teacher uses tongue twisters as a warm-up. And we love practicing them at the dinner table. These are SO easy to mess up, which is hilarious! Try our favorite tongue twisters:

Unique New York.

Toy boat.

Irish wrist watch.

Red leather, yellow leather

She sells sea shells by the seashore. The shells she sells are surely seashells. So if she sells shells on the seashore, I’m sure she sells seashore shells.

Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers. A peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked. If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers, Where’s the peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked?

Read Just Joking for more tongue twisters.

2. Puns

If you’ve ever read Amelia Bedelia, you’ll know how fun it is to laugh at puns! (Poor Amelia always gets words mixed up, and it makes for hilarious stories.)

Puns are plays on words, aka. homophones. In other terms, words that sound the same but are spelled differently and mean different things.

What’s interesting to me is that my oldest daughter, who is 12 years old, does not get puns (or jokes) at all because of her neurodiversity and how her brain processes information. She’s a very literal, black-and-white thinker. We have to make sure that we explain exactly why the joke or pun is funny each time. I’m hoping that with continuous exposure, it will “click.”

Two books I love for puns are Eight Ate: A Feast of Homonym Riddles by Marvin Terban and Deer Dear: A Book of Homophones by Gene Barreta. Have you read these with your kids yet?

Want a few funny puns for some quick wordplay?

Why are teddy bears never hungry? They are always stuffed!

There was once a cross-eyed teacher who couldn’t control his pupils.

Why are playing cards like wolves? They come in packs.

Why are fish so smart? Because they live in schools.Don’t miss watching Whose on First? by Abbott and Costello. So funny!

3. WordARound

WordARound is a super fun word game for kids. The cards have three rings, black, red, and blue, with words written around each ring. To play, start by looking at the black ring. Whoever sees the word first wins that card. That player will flip the card over to his or her winning pile. Whatever color is on the back of the card (black, red, or blue) will be the color ring to look at next, and find the word on that color ring.

Sometimes we don’t play by the rules… and just say the first word we see on any of the rings. (Which is possibly more fun and easier for younger kids.)

The person with the most cards wins the game.

4. Bubble Talk

I think we’ve owned BubbleTalk for about five years, and it’s still one of our favorite word games. (PicWits! is a great second option.)

If you have non-readers, pair them with a reader who can help them read the captions so they can play, too.

Every player but one who is the judge for the round gets seven cards. The judge picks a funny picture. Each player chooses the funniest caption from his or her cards.

The judge picks the winner and that winner keeps the funny card. Players take turns being the judge.

5. Pig Latin

Pig Latin is as popular as it used to be when I was a child. Did you ever try to speak it? I never could get the hang of this word play language, but here’s the gist:

To Translate a Word into Pig Latin, follow these steps:

  1. Take off the beginning consonant of the word. (example: take off the “c” of cat so you have “at”.
  2. Put the “c” sound on the end of the word. (example: “at-c”)
  3. Add “ay” at the end of the word. (example: “at-c-ay”

Or you can always enter your words or phrases in this handy dandy Pig Latin translator.

6. Anagrams

You’ve probably seen the Jumble anagrams in the newspaper by the crossword puzzles, right? Anagrams are word puzzles where the letters must be rearranged to make a new word or words. For example: WEIRD can be WIRED, IEP becomes PIE, and LPAPE can be APPLE.

Download these free printable anagram puzzlesAnagrams from Enchanted Learning,  DLTK’s Anagrams, Fairy Tale Anagrams on The KidzPage,

7. Palendromes

Or learn palindromes. These are my favorite word play literary devices. I’m weird like that.

Read Ann and Nan Are Anagrams: A Mixed-Up Word Dilemma by Mark Schulman.

Palindromes are words spelled the same backward and forwards, like “mom”and “race car” and “Go Hang a Salami! I’m a Lasagna Hog!” 

So, how about messing up palindromes? Just write words backward and see if they sound cool? Like “kids” would be “sdik”. What would it mean? Or “boy” would be “yob”.

8. Bananagrams

Try the Bananagrams game and the Banagrams Book.

word play

9. Scrabble

Junior Scrabble is not our favorite game, but it is a decent first step to showing kids how to combine words into other words, like a crossword puzzle or word search. If you want a word play game with kids ages 9 and up, we prefer the actual game of Scrabble to Junior Scrabble.

I love Scrabble for kids because you get word practice, strategy, and math practice when playing.

10. Charades

Act out words when you play charades — the ultimate active word play activity. Use your spelling words, new vocabulary words, Haikubes, or a store-bought Charades game like Reverse Charades Junior or Rollick!.

Word Play Picture Books

word play books

Read picture books that will help your kids love words! Picture books that inspire learning new words, playing with words, and becoming a connoisseur of words. Picture book reviews and printable list here.

Collect Words! Word Collection Jars

Our word collection started when JJ’s teacher read aloud Donavan’s Word Jar to her class. JJ wanted to start a word collection jar at home. Of course, I was happy to oblige!

word collections

We found jars and labeled them. One of these days, we may get fancier and decorate the jars but we wanted to get right to our collecting so we left that until later.

Where to Find Words for the Word Collection Jars

We began with old magazines. We looked for interesting words to cut out and keep in the word jars.

Picture Books
We found many wonderful, juicy words in the picture books we read. For example, the book King Hugo’s Huge Ego gave us about twenty words for our jar! JJ wrote down these words on slips of paper and added them to her collection.

Chapter Books and Middle Grade Books
We’re reading with sticky notes to jot down favorite words, too. These words can be looked up in the dictionary and added to your word collection, too. Not only that, but it will get kids thinking metacognitively and prepare them for annotating texts later on in school.

Make Up Silly Words

In Ralph Fletcher’s book, Pyrotechnics on the Page, Playful Craft that Sparks Writing, he suggests using the picture book Chicka Chicka Boom Boom to show your writer(s) how authors make up words. Together, find the made-up words like “chicka” and “skoodle” and guess why and how the authors invented those words.

Pyrotechnics on the Page

For older students, Fletcher recommends Andrew Clements’ novel Frindle and the Harry Potter books.

What will you call made-up words? Fletcher says that Rich Hall, the comedian, calls these words “sniglets.” I think I’ll call my made-up words “knibrontons.”

Try this wordplay idea: combine animal words and create a new animal. So a zebra + a lamb = a zamb? Now try to illustrate it!

Funny Poems for Kids
Word Collection Jars
15 Ways to Learn New Vocabulary

Follow Melissa Taylor’s board Writing Activities for Kids on Pinterest.

Get kids excited about words with word play games, books, and activities guaranteed to entertain and delight! Once kids see the fun in words, there's no telling how much that will positively affect them as readers and writers...


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