How Do Word Games Help Kids Build Vocabulary?

How Do Word Games Help Kids Build Vocabulary?

Word Games are a great way to prepare your student for future writing and speaking exercises.  As we work to improve our vocabulary and fluency, word games can be a fun and helpful way to increase our lexicon.  Most word games use semantics or phonological skills as the base for play, skills that are extremely important in learning to read and to decode texts.  Online word games for kids can also be an exciting way to reinforce vocabulary skills.

How Do Word Games Increase Vocabulary?

Focus on Phonics & Spelling

Word games often challenge the player to either unscramble letters, forcing them to pay attention to spelling patterns and rules, or focus on the sounds of the words themselves.  For example, rhyming games are extremely popular with younger children, teaching them to listen carefully for phonological awareness.  The more students can visualize the words and see how they are constructed, the more their vocabulary will naturally improve.

Play with Words

Games are fun!  But 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 with phonological awareness and knowledge of spelling rules.  Even learning how the word is pronounced is a part of increasing vocabulary.  The more students immerse themselves in reading materials and words, the larger their vocabulary will be.  

What Types of Word Games Are the Best?

Younger Kids

Rhyming Games

For phonological awareness and auditory learning, games that include rhyming are perfect for increasing vocabulary.  They demonstrate how kids can easily switch letters like on a word ladder to create interesting combinations.  Plus, rhymes are silly and kids love to laugh.  A favorite is singing the song “Down by the Bay” which includes a rhyming punchline at the end.

I Spy with Letter Sounds

Most of us are used to “I Spy” with colors, but kids can very easily upgrade their skills by searching for matching sounds.  For example, “I spy with my little eye something that starts with a <b> sound or starts with the letter B.”  Then the child gets to look around and think about the words that match objects, visualizing which begin with the letter B.

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 and then each player takes a turn saying an item that begins with each consecutive letter of the alphabet.  

Older Kids

Online Vocabulary Tools

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

Prefixes and Suffixes

Having a solid grasp on Latin and Greek prefixes and suffixes can greatly aid students in standardized testing and in basic deciphering of words.  Find games that allow students to practice through these beginnings and endings, and 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 circumlocuting with vocabulary.  Describe objects, artwork, or anything to do with the five senses.  

Tons of free word games can be found online where your child can practice and build upon their current vocabulary.  From simple games from person to person to online games or apps, word games are a fantastic way to help your child achieve fluency in reading, writing, and speaking.

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