Whether you’re learning a language, teaching your kids, or looking for some fun, these word games will have the whole family laughing and learning.
Humans rely on a lot of factors to communicate, but the most important variable is sound. From caveman grunts to slang words like yeet, we’ve been making all kinds of sounds to communicate since the dawn of time. And the list keeps growing. Merriam-Webster even added 690 new words in September 2023 alone!
With so many new words added to the dictionary every day, the best way to expand your and your child’s vocabulary is through word games. Whether it’s a board game you find at the store or a spur-of-the-moment invention at a party, these games just have a way with words.
Warning! They’re super addictive.
Made-Up Word Games
Without the need for technology or game boards, these made-up word games can go with you anywhere. And sometimes, the results are far better (and way more hilarious) than what you’d get from a game you’d find in the store.
1. Word Fusion
Just as the name sounds, players combine two random words to create a new, fictional word. The goal is to come up with the most amusing or creative combinations. You can play this anywhere, and it gives kids the opportunity to learn parts of words, meanings, and how words work together.
2. Story Chain
We love stories here at Familius, so why not make a game out of it? In Story Chain, participants take turns adding a single word to a growing story. The challenge is to create a coherent and entertaining narrative by building on the previous player’s contribution.
3. Rhyme Challenge
Homonyms and homophones can be suck a struggle for kids learning a langauge—and even for experienced English speakers. So why not test your skills with a rhyming game. In this word game, players take turns saying a word, and the next person has to come up with a word that rhymes. The game continues, and participants are eliminated if they can’t come up with a rhyme. (If you play this one, you might want to ban words like orange.)
4. Synonym Relay
When you’re standing in a boring line at a theme park, there’s nothing like tossing words back and forth. The Synonym Relay is a team-based game where players race to come up with synonyms for a given word. Each correct synonym earns points, and the team with the most points at the end wins.
5. Word Association Jigsaw
Since the human brain is wired to view the world through associations, word association is one of the most important skills to improve. On a piece of paper or your phone (or even a napkin depending on where you are), create a list of unrelated words. Challenge players to connect them in a meaningful way, building a chain of associations. The goal is to see how long the chain can become.
6. Alphabet Story
The world has so many stories because that’s how people remember things, so if you want your kids to remember the alphabet, try telling alphabet stories. In this word game, players tell a story where each sentence must start with the next letter of the alphabet, and each player starts a new sentence. For added difficulty, try telling the story backward, starting with the last letter of the alphabet.
7. Invent-a-Word Challenge
This game is similar to word fusion, but the goal is to come up with a word that’s entirely unrecognizable. In the invent-a-word challenge, players take turns inventing new words and providing humorous or imaginative definitions for them. The most creative entries win.
8. Vowel Swap
When you were little, did you ever sing the song Apples and Bananas? As in, “I like to ote, ote, ote, opples and bononos!” Just like you do in the song, choose a word and challenge players to create a new word by swapping out one or more vowels. The resulting words might sound funny or take on entirely new meanings. (Not that kids aren’t capable of doing this all on their own, game not required.) Whatever words you come up with could be the inside joke at your next family reunion.
9. Mystery Word Definitions
The next time you’re bored, ask a kid what antidisestablishmentarianism means. The results will be hilarious! You could even turn it into a game with your family or friends. Just create a list of unusual or made-up words and have players come up with creative definitions. (If you really want to laugh, ask them why.) The person with the most entertaining or convincing definition wins.
10. Dictionary Remix
Similar to the Mystery Word Definitions game, use a dictionary to find a word, then challenge players to create a new definition for it. This is slightly harder because everyone already knows what the word means. The goal is to be funny or absurd while still sounding plausible.
All-Time Favorite Word Games You Can Find Online or in Stores
An easy way to exercise your wordy skills, these are the best word games you can grab from the store. Without any extra effort, you can let the games lead you through your language journey.
A classic game where players use letter tiles to create words on a game board, each letter having a point value. You’ll know all the words that start with Z in no time!
2. Words with Friends
Similar to Scrabble, Words with Friends is a website and mobile app that allows players to compete against friends or random opponents in a turn-based word-building game. But unlike scrabble, you can take the word game with you anywhere.
In this fast-paced game, players try to find as many words as possible by connecting adjacent letters on a grid within a limited time. By playing this game, your kids will be so ready for the spelling bee.
4. Crossword Puzzles
Do you remember those days grandma spent sitting at the breakfast table filling out the daily crossword? Well, maybe she was onto something. These traditional puzzles involve filling in a grid with words based on clues provided, either in a newspaper, through various online platforms like Arkadium, or from a booklet you can buy at the store. After daily crossword puzzles, your word game will be strong.
Bananagrams is a fast-paced, tile-based word game where players race to build their own individual crossword grids. And the best part? You only need the banana pouch packed with letter tiles—no bulky boards, paper, or pencils. Which means this is a word game perfect for taking on a picnic or anywhere your kids want to go.
Similar to Scrabble, players use letter tiles to create words on a game board, but in Upwords, the game is practically 3D: players can also stack tiles on top of each other to change existing words. The stakes just got bigger. Scrabble who?
7. Text Twist
Text Twist is a video word game where players unscramble a set of letters to create as many words as possible within a time limit. Not only will this improve your vocabulary and spelling skills but also your reaction time.
While not strictly a word game, Codenames goes deeper than spelling. It involves giving and guessing clues related to words to uncover the correct words on a grid. Which means you could very easily become a real walking dictionary.
9. Word Search
Much easier than crosswords, Word Search is a puzzle where players find and circle hidden words within a grid of letters, usually arranged in a square or rectangular pattern. You can even find themed word searches, like Christmas, Valentines, Animals, and more. Your kids will love it! (Of course, they have more difficult word searches for adults.)
Similar to scrabble, Ruzzle is a word search game played on a grid of letters. But instead, players try to find as many words as possible in a limited time. Since Ruzzle is a mobile app, your kids will get the joy of playing fast-paced video games while secretly learning new words.
Another word association game, Scattergories requires players to brainstorm words that fit into specific categories, each beginning with a designated letter. Constrained within a time limit, players will get the hang of recognizing words by their meanings, not just the shape of their letters.
Check Out These Books for More Offline Fun
Nita’s First Signs
Big Book of Family Games
The Mighty Silent e!
Shaelyn Topolovec earned a BA in editing and publishing from BYU, worked on several online publications, and joined the Familius family. Shae is currently an editor and copywriter who lives in California’s Central Valley.