Remember the scene in “The Princess Bride” when Inigo and Fezzik were rhyming just for fun? Playing with words IS fun, and it’s a great way to build reading, writing, and grammar skills. Here’s how to get your kids engaged with wordplay and develop those important skills.
To make it easy to get started, we’re providing you with a mega pack of Mad Libs printables your kids can play around with at home. Look for the free download below.
1. Collect Cool Words
Noticing words takes intention. Show your kids how you (yes, you!) read and pause to notice interesting or unknown words. Help them do the same. (Initially, you may need to require that they find one word per every two pages to build the habit.)
Write down your favorite words on notecards. Or, if you’re reading a magazine, cut out the cool words. Start a word collection in a jar, box, or bulletin board. You can use these favorite words later in conversation or in writing.
Here’s a few of our favorites: eureka, ubiquitous, confuzzled, flabbergasted, serendipity. What are yours?
2. Write and Read Mad Libs
Mad Libs give kids a silly and social way to remember parts of speech. Fill in the blanks with random nouns, adjectives, and verbs to complete the stories. Watch your kids crack up as they read their crazy stories. Then, they’ll want to do it again. Before you know it, they’ll even remember parts of speech.
3. Play Engaging Word Games
We love these word games — especially WordARound and Smart Mouth. They help us become word nerds, and that’s a good thing in my estimation.
4. Read Word-Loving Books
I’m positive these word-crazy books will inspire lots of discussion and play. See what you think.
- 13 Words by Lemony Snicket, illustrated by Maira Kalman
- The Boy Who Loved Words by Roni Schotter, illustrated by Giselle Potter
- The King Who Rained by Fred Gwynne
- The Word Collector by Sonja Wimmer
- Max’s Words by Kate Banks, illustrated by Boris Kulikov
- Miss Alaineus: A Vocabulary Disaster by Debra Frasier
- The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus by Jen Bryant, illustrated by Melissa Sweet
- Noah Webster and His Words by Jeri Chase Ferris, illustrated by Vincent X. Kirsch
5. Play with Your Words
So far my best made up word still has not caught on — snoff. It’s a combination of a sneeze and a cough. Don’t you think Merriam-Webster should consider it?
Try to invent words with your kids, too. Either combine words like I did or make up your own like Lewis Carroll did in his poem, “The Jabberwocky.”
Maybe you’ll want to use your newly invented words in a tongue twister. Tongue twisters are a blast at the dinner table! We think “Irish wristwatch” is the most challenging tongue twister so far. What about you?
Another fun wordplay activity is introducing your kids to palindromes. Palindromes are words or phrases that are the same backwards and forwards. “Mom” is an easy one to remember. Or “Race car.” You’ll find more ideas in the book, Go Hang a Salami, I’m a Lasagna Hog!
And don’t forget about anagrams. Anagrams are those word games in the back of the newspaper in which you unscramble the letters to make words or phrases. Try making your own anagram notes with your kids. Maybe next week’s chore list?
While you’re playing with words, why not give your kids something to groan about by helping them invent their own puns. Look for riddle books or books on homophones to get started.
Q: Why did the pony go to the doctor?
A: Because she was a little horse.
I know. Groan…