What are Some Good Family Spelling and Word Games?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

There are plenty of spelling and word games that are easy to play and enjoyable to many families. Playing a game with words or spelling is often a fun way to teach about these concepts without the pressure of grading or the academic setting that makes some kids squirm. You can enhance learning, spend quality time together as a family, and all have a good time doing it.

Charades is a word game in which players act out words without speaking.
Charades is a word game in which players act out words without speaking.

Several spelling and word games are recognized by many. Scrabble® has long been a popular game, as has Boggle®. These games can be a little more challenging when children’s spelling or reading levels are far apart. It’s a good idea team up a younger child with an adult if you plan to play Scrabble® or Boggle® or group people by skill level. Another way to play Scrabble® with less pressure is to not count points, but merely offer praise, or for younger spellers, Junior Scrabble® may be easier to play. A variant on Boggle®, where players try to make words out of a group of letters is to play the "How Smart are We?" or "Everybody Wins," version. Instead of using the complex point assignment for words, merely have everyone write down as many words as can be found and count these up for a total family score.

Pen and paper will be needed for spelling and word games.
Pen and paper will be needed for spelling and word games.

You don't have to spend a lot of money to play spelling and word games, or even purchase a game. A classic game that people can play together is hangman, where people try to guess a word before a little stick figure man is "hung." All you need for this game is a pencil or pen and some scratch paper. If you find the idea of hanging the stick figure too brutal, you can choose other symbols, such as drawing the head tail, body and legs of a dog or cat. Simply call the game "Dog" or "Cat" instead.

Even without a pencil and paper, you can play spelling and word games like “Ghost,” a simple spelling game where the goal is to not create a word, yet still be adding letters to a word that is real. The game usually outlaws three letter words and each player contributes a letter on their turn, with the end goal of trapping someone else into spelling a word. For example, the first four players could choose the letters M,E,R,C. The next player might think the word is mercy, and feel they're trapped into adding a Y. The superior player might think of the word merciful or merchant and contribute an I or H. Each time a player spells a word, he gets a letter of the word ghost, until someone becomes the Ghost. Some people also pay sentence ghost, where people contribute words until a sentence is formed.

Another of the spelling and word games teaches about geographical places (states, cities, countries). The first player names a place, and the next player must name a new geographical place that begins with the last letter of the previously named place. If you were playing this with Countries, someone who followed a player suggesting the United States would have to think of a country that begins with S. This can be timed, or not.

Word games like charades can be fun to play, or alternately, families can play spelling and word games like Wheel of Fortune®. Even watching the program can be a good way for families to participate together in figuring out phrases. Other word games involve memory, and again are quite adaptable to travel. One popular one is "I am packing grandfather's trunk." Each player contributes something odd to grandfather's trunk and the next person must remember the whole list in order while adding something else to the trunk. This game is a great way to sharpen the memory, and you can put plenty of unusual and silly things in the trunk. Other games like twenty questions or I Spy are great entertainment for families at home or when traveling.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments


My son had trouble remembering the letters of the alphabet so we created the Alphabet Game. We choose a word starting with each letter, in turn, and build a story within the words. For example:

A is for the apple tree in the field. B is for the buffalo which spots the tree and lumbers over. C is for the crow in the tree, startled by this great big animal coming over. D is for the dandelion stomped by the buffalo's feet. E is for the egg in the crow's nest.

X is special, because there are so few words we can use with it, so 'exit' is allowed, and 'x marks the spot'.

Not only did my son get the letters of the alphabet figured out, we've had a lot of fun with this game.


I love Scrabble too. It is a classic. There is another fun game called Electronic Catch Phrase. It has a buzzer and the team has to guess the catch phrase before the buzzer goes off. If your team doesn’t get it, then the other team gets the point. It’s really fun.

For younger children, memory games are always fun. I have a 4 year old and he loves to play memory or matching games. We have some games that have words on them instead of pictures so he has to remember the word to match it with its mate. It’s really entertaining for him and helps him learn his words at the same time!


We love playing word games! We designate Tuesdays as family game night. Scrabble has always been one of our favorites. There is actually a Scrabble dictionary that you can purchase for those who try to sneak those questionable words in!

Another fun game that we play is Upwords. It is a lot like Scrabble except you build up on the letters. It is three dimensional and is really fun.

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