Friday, February 17, 2017

Word and Image Puzzles for Kids

by Susan Stephenson,

Rebus and other word and image puzzles can be lots of fun for kids. Puzzles help kids think creatively and analytically. Because they are often a little cryptic, it can be very satisfying when they are solved! Add an extra layer of complexity and challenge kids to create their own puzzles for others to try.

Some puzzles for kids to solve

The following puzzles containing some words and pictures represent words, phrases and expressions.

How to create your own word and image puzzles:

Here’s a description of the puzzle I made, above. I decided I wanted to make a puzzle about a Mexican wave. I knew this was something a crowd of people did by slowly sitting and standing while raising their arms, but I knew I should be able to draw or find a pice of clip art of another kind of wave, the one in the sea. For the Mexican part of my puzzle, I found a clip art picture of a Mexican sombrero. (I found both the wave and the hat at the clipart website, Clker.)

That’s just one method of making puzzles by using words and/or images for others to solve. But how do you get the idea in the first place? One way is to think of phrases with prepositions like “over a barrel”, “man overboard” or “hitting below the belt”. These can be represented in a puzzle by their position on the image. For example, “man overboard” could simply be the word “man” written over or above the word “board”. Or you could add variety by having a small picture of a man above a picture of a board, or a combination of word and picture. “Man in the moon” could be a picture of a man inside a picture of the moon, or you could write it like I did in the puzzle below, where MO-ON is split up by the word, “MAN”, making it MAN (in the) MOON.

Phrases that contain homophones can work well too. For example, you can represent to, too, or two like this: 2. Or fore, for and four can be: 4. “To be” becomes 2B for short, and perhaps makes your puzzle trickier to work out. Another way to make it tricky, is to mix up letters or words, and images. So you could show "to be, or not to be" by starting with 2b and adding a picture of an oar, a knot, and two pictures of bees. (2b oar knot 2 bee)

Sometimes you might need to highlight something about your puzzle, perhaps to help readers understand they should focus on the first or last in a series. For instance, if you wanted someone to guess “to have the last laugh”, you could write laugh several times in a row, but point an arrow to or a circle around the last “laugh” in the row.

You can write a word backwards or going upwards to show something important about it. Even writing something very large, small or in a special colour can convey something to a reader. If you wanted to make a puzzle about the expression “true blue” you could just write the word “true” in blue letters. How would you make a puzzle about the expression “Once in a blue moon”?

Try to represent these, using words, images or words and images: up in arms, to wear your heart upon your sleeve, to be in a pickle, to see red, a tall story, to think outside the box,  two peas in a pod, tickled pink. Now try to invent your own!

Puzzle answers: out on a limb, over a barrel, oops-a-daisy, jack-in-the-box, to keep it under your hat, head over heels, redeem, vicious circle. 

You might also be interested in reading Literacy-based and Other Guessing Games, Book Chook Favourites - Word Game Apps, Messing about with Words to Increase Literacy,  Secret Codes and Language Games for Kids, Book Chook Favourites: Word Play, and Fun Word Games for Kids.


  1. Clever ideas - thanks for sharing!

    1. Hi Chris! I always value your feedback - thanks.


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