How Do Word Games Help Kids Build Vocabulary?

How Do Word Games Help Kids Build Vocabulary?

Word games for kids are a great way to prepare your student for future writing and speaking exercises.  Word games can be a fun and helpful way to increase our lexicon.  They help us to improve our vocabulary and fluency while having fun.

Most word games use semantics or phonological skills as the base for play.  These skills are important when learning to read and sound out words.  Online word games for kids can also be an exciting way to reinforce vocabulary skills.

How Do Word Games Increase Vocabulary?

phonics games

Focus on Phonics & Spelling

Word games challenge the player to unscramble letters.  This forces them to pay attention to spelling patterns and rules.  They can also force the player to focus on the sounds of the words themselves.  

Rhyming games are extremely popular with younger children.  They teach careful listening skills and increase awareness of sounds.  Vocabulary improves when students can see the words in their heads.

Play with Words

word games for kids

Games are fun for kids of all ages.  Reading and vocabulary study can be boring.  Finding creative ways to work with new words is a great boost for confidence and helps kids learn while playing.  Some may not even realize they’re increasing their word power when playing these games.  

Begin with word ladders with younger students and work up to more complex games like jumbles and crosswords.  Word searches, crosswords, and even simple rhyming games all strengthen the lexicon.

Practice Reading Skills

It’s not just about the words.  It’s about reading those words while recognizing phonics and spelling rules.  Even learning how the word is pronounced is a part of increasing vocabulary.  Students who read daily have a larger working lexicon. 

The more they read, the better their spelling skills will be as they learn to recognize and pronounce new words.

What Types of Word Games Are the Best?

word games for kids

Younger Kids

Rhyming Games

Games that include rhyming are perfect for increasing vocabulary.  Students can both hear and see the words during the games, which helps the brain make connections.  These easy word games demonstrate how kids can switch letters like on a word ladder to create interesting combinations.  

The rhymes are so silly kids will be laughing out loud during the game play.  A favorite is singing the song “Down by the Bay” which includes a rhyming punchline at the end.  This and other fun word games are great ways to have fun learning new vocabulary.

I Spy with Letter Sounds

Most of us are used to I Spy with colors. Kids can very easily upgrade their skills by searching for matching sounds.  

I spy with my little eye something that starts with B.  The child then gets to look around and think about the words that match objects, visualizing which begin with the letter B.  Then they guess the word they think matches the letter of the word sound they heard.

The ABC Game

An oldie, but a goodie, The ABC Game never gets old, especially when you’re trying to pass time. This game includes categories, so kids have to get creative in order to stay within a frame of genre.  

You begin with a category.   Each player then takes a turn saying an item that begins with each consecutive letter of the alphabet.  

You can even upgrade this simple word game by asking kids to write the words.  This is a great way to practice sight words for early readers.

Older Kids

Online Vocabulary Tools

Older kids can easily leverage digital age resources online, like Visual Thesaurus where they can play with words.  Students will begin to build more complex skills by looking at synonyms and antonyms and understanding the nuances of meaning.

Using an online dictionary can help kids when they encounter a challenging word in their reading.  Rather than toting around a huge book, they can hop online and search for their answer.  Encourage them to keep a list of words that they had to look up in order to practice.  This gives them time to prepare for standardized tests.

Prefixes and Suffixes

Having a solid grasp on Latin and Greek prefixes and suffixes can be a great asset.  Standardized testing presents a lot of Latin and Greek root words. It can also help students with basic deciphering of words. 

Find games that allow students to practice through these beginnings and endings.  They can even try to coin new words of your own using roots and common prefixes and suffixes.

Creative Descriptions

Simply describing something can be an excellent way to practice talking around ideas with vocabulary.  Describe objects, artwork, or anything to do with the five senses.  Elaborate on a moment so someone can see it as you do.  Creative writing is an excellent tool for leveraging your word craftsmanship.

Crossword Puzzles

Younger kids might begin by matching pictures with names in animal crosswords.  Older students can upgrade to the old-school newspaper crossword.  Online crossword puzzles are a great way to practice word knowledge and learn new words on a daily basis.

Educational games online can be lots of fun for kids.  Tons of free word games can be found online where your child can practice and build upon their current vocabulary.  Word games are a fantastic way to help your child achieve fluency.