Friday, October 14, 2016

10 Fun Word Challenges for Kids

by Susan Stephenson,

Activities like challenges involving words can be enjoyable AND educational. They can help kids increase their vocabulary, reinforce spelling and rhyming, and exercise all those critical thinking muscles. But above all, they are lots of fun, so let’s encourage students to also invent their own challenges and try them out on their friends. (Some activities could be adapted for younger kids, but I think the majority would be useful with kids 10+.)

Link through to read how to play the word game, Bug, invented by Keith Schoch and his students. Here's Keith's intriguingly named game: Mysterious Box of Mystery ! and Big Words.


1. Write a summary of a well known story in (say) three to five sentences. Now re-word the summary, using a dictionary and thesaurus to try to find words that mean the same but are longer or more difficult to recognise, and making it wordier too. See if someone you know can recognise the story from your very wordy summary. Here’s an example:

Simple: Once upon a time there lived three little pigs who wanted to build a house each. But a Big Bad Wolf came and destroyed two of their houses. When the wolf got to the last pig’s house, he couldn’t move the brick house, so he entered the chimney and died in the fire below.

Wordy: In a bygone time, there existed more than two but less than four petite porcine mammals who each yearned for a domicile. But a substantial dangerous lupine mammal materialised and annihilated more than one but less than three of their domiciles. When the substantial dangerous lupine mammal materialised at the domicile of the final petite porcine mammal, he was unable to dislodge the domicile of brick, therefore he penetrated the flue and perished in the conflagration beneath.

2. As a variation to 1. (above), use the website, to translate difficult text into more simple text. See if your partner can then put it into more difficult language again by only using a dictionary and thesaurus.

3. Check out these Shakespearean insults. Make up some of your own insults in a similar style. Swear words are banned!

4. Look at the words that have been giving you and your classmates trouble in spelling. Look at the grammar and punctuation rules your class has been studying. Combine them to create a short passage with errors in it that your class needs to re-write correctly. If you’re typing your text, watch out for spell check! Here’s an example:

we luv to go to the seeside, we play in the warter and bild san castles one saterday. dad drived us to a beech near ow hous and we staid there alday. my littel bruther got the worse Sun Burn i ever sore.

5. Be a word detective! Can you find some words that have smaller, whole words in them? They must be at least three letters to count. For example, potato has “pot” inside it. How many words like this can you find?

6. Be a word detective (2)! This challenge is much harder than the last one, but is similar. Can you find the real words if the syllables are misspelled but with real smaller words that sound almost correct (a bit like homophones of the real syllables)? For example, I could spell mosquito like this: moss - key - tow.

Now try these:
tray - tar =
fill - loss - off - fur =
so - wing =
hop - her - eight =
dee - feat =
tab - bee =
obey - one - kin - obey =
oar - flea =

7. Hink Pink is a great word game. One person thinks of two single syllable rhyming words, like fat cat. She works out a clue that should lead to the answer "fat cat". One clue could be "an obese mouse-catcher" or "a pet that eats too much”. The guesser tries to work out what the two rhyming words are.

Here are some Hink Pinks for you to solve.

A sad kanga:
A shivering raven with white feathers:
My brother sat on my cap:
Alligator’s cousin, made of stone:

Now try some of your own!

8. Hinky Pinky is an extension of this game. If I was thinking of two, double syllable rhyming words: “happy chappy”, then my clue might be “a joyful fellow” or “a man who isn’t sad.”

Here are some Hinky Pinkies for you to solve.

Wet puppy:
Steve isn’t odd:
A doll made out of candy:
Pretending to cook:

Now try some of your own!

9. My Aunt Likes is another great game. It’s all about trying to work out what things have in common and thinking up another example to fit the rule. Here’s one I told to a group of kids:

“My Aunt likes carrots, but not turnips. My Aunt likes cats, but not dogs. My Aunt likes carrying fruit to the bowl but not slicing it up into pieces.”

At first they think she must like vegetables. Carrots are vegetables. But so are turnips and they are vegetables too, so it can’t be that rule. Plus it was too obvious. Let’s try the second one and see if there’s an easier clue there. She likes cats. Okay, so she likes pets, and animals, but she doesn’t like dogs and they can be pets and animals. In the last one she is okay with carrying fruit, but not cutting it. No wait, not slicing it. Hang on. Maybe it’s the words themselves that make the rule: Carrots, cats, carrying - what do they all have in common? Yes, they start with “c”. So the rule must be My Aunt likes things that start with “c”. One of the kids suggests My Aunt Likes curry. Yes! Another suggests My Aunt Likes pizza. No, that person hasn’t worked it out yet. Another one says My Aunt Likes cuddles. The game ends when everyone “gets” it or the rest give in and have it explained.

Try these:

a) “My Aunt Likes dogs but not spiders. My Aunt Likes chairs but not cushions. My Aunt Likes tables but not traffic.”

b) “My Aunt Likes ping-pong but not chess. My Aunt Likes soccer, but not cards. My Aunt Likes skittles but not quoits.”

Now invent some of your own!

10. The answer is ….What is the question?

I am going to give you a word that is the answer to a question. Can you work out what the question might be? If the answer is “happy”, you could decide the question is “What is the opposite of sad?” or “What is a five letter word with “app” in the middle of it?” or even “How do you feel on your birthday?”

The answer is three, what is the question?
The answer is tiger, what is the question?
The answer is mud, what is the question?
The answer is “only in winter”, what is the question?

Now create some of your own!

Answers for 1-5 and 10 are not definitive, but 6 - 9 are below. 

Answers to 6: traitor, philosopher, sewing, operate, defeat, tabby, Obi-Wan Kenobi, awfully
Answers to 7: blue roo; snow crow; flat hat, rock croc.
Answer to 8: soggy doggy; even Steven; lolly dolly; faking baking.
Rule for 9: (a) My Aunt Likes anything with four legs. (b) My Aunt Likes any game that involves a ball of some sort.

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