Game On! Brain Building Board Games to Make or Fake at Home.

I am thrilled to bring you today’s post from fellow blogger Katey Howes who blogs about literacy, parenthood and writing for kids at:

Every Monday her blog features a new Raising Readers post to help parents raise kids who love books. Katey is mom to 3 girls and countless manuscripts, all of which vie for her time and attention. She wrote this seated on a kid-sized chair while supervising the painting of wooden treasure chests from the craft store. The dishwasher and clothes washer were running, but there was still a good bit of cinnamon sugar on the floor from cooking streusel muffins with the kids that morning. (My kind of Mom!)

You can often find Katey discussing children’s literature, song parodies and household disasters on twitter @kateywrites or on Facebook at her author page:

Here’s Katey:

My hall closet, originally intended for coats, is absolutely stuffed with boxes of board games and puzzles. I have a hard time resisting a new game – especially one that tricks my kids into using their brains. Unfortunately, it seems like these games get more expensive every time I turn around. Just today I came across a boxed set of card games that promise to help preschoolers with their letter skills:    Alphabet Zoop Card Game

From what I understand, this box contains 2 sets of 26 letter cards, a joker, and instructions for alphabet-themed versions of traditional games. For $19.95.
ABC Go Fish? Great idea!
$20 worth of great? No way.
Index cards and markers great? Oh, yes.

As a matter of fact, there are a lot of great, educational games you can make at home for a lot less money and just as much fun.

Don’t Say It retails for $16.95 and can be best described as Taboo for kids. Each card has a key word at the top. The goal is for the player to read that word silently, then describe the word in such a way that other players can guess what it is. The challenge? The player describing the word cannot say the other words on the card. For example, a player may need to get others to say “PIG,” but without using “sty” “bacon” “ham” or “mud.”    Don't Say It Game

Want to make it yourself? Index cards or card stock, a list of vocabulary words and your imagination are all you need. To level the challenge for kids of different ages, you can make your own rules: perhaps kindergarteners can’t use the 1st word on the list, but can use the others.

Want to leave the hard part up to someone else? Lucky for you Teach Speech 365 made a fabulous version of this game and sells the printables for $5.50 at Teachers Pay Teachers.        Teach Speech 365 graphic

Zingo is the name given to a variety of products that help practice literacy skills like letter recognition, sight word reading, and simple spelling. The games come with a dispenser that pops out cards when you push the handle. Players then try to match the card to their playing card. The first to fill their card Bingo-style wins.
I love these games – and kids do, too. But buying a new one for each level of learning is an expensive proposition – since each dispenser and card set are a slightly different size from the others. I recommend skipping the bells and whistles and simply creating your own BINGO cards using the parts of speech your child is currently working on.   makes it quick and easy to create printable templates.

Scrabble Junior claims to make the classic game easy and fun for kids – and does so by providing you with a game board pre-printed with words for kids to fill in. For older kids, the back side of the board is more like a traditional Scrabble board, so it grows with kids. If you don’t already have Scrabble around the house, this may be worth the $13 it retails for at Toys R Us. If you already own Scrabble, think instead of making cards with words from your child’s classroom list. Draw tiles from the handy bag and see who can fill in their cards first!
Scrabble also sells a game called Alphabet Scoop with a fun twist. All the tiles are placed in a bowl. Each player has 1-3 cards with words on them. They take turns scooping out tiles with a spoon and trying to fill in their word cards with matching tiles. Fill in a word and yell out “Yummy!” to win. Again – seems pretty easy to make a version of this at home and customize it to your children’s reading levels!

Kids Charades from Family Fun retails for $19.95 at Barnes and Noble and other retailers. It is a great way to get reluctant readers to get in on the action, as they draw a card, read it to themselves, and then act it out for the group. Once again, with a little ingenuity, a kitchen timer and a stack of scrap paper you can make this at home in a flash – and tailor it to your children’s interests and reading levels. You could even put favorite book titles or characters into the mix!    Kids Charades picture
My kids – and my daughter’s Daisy troop – totally love the game Hedbanz – at least, when we make it ourselves. I have yet to cave and buy the boxed game that sells for $15-$20. Here’s how it works:
Players draw a card and do NOT look at it. Instead they stick it to their forehead, facing out, so that the other players can see/read it. Use elastic headbands worn sweat-band style around the forehead to hold the card in place. (Or, if you’re short on supplies, just write your clues on post-its and smack ‘em on the kids’ heads!)                hedbanz
Players then take turns asking questions like “Am I an animal?” “Do I have four legs?” and the like until they guess who they are. The player to guess first OR the player to guess the most cards by the time a timer runs out is the winner. Make this game easier for beginning readers by using pictures with words. Make it harder by eliminating the pictures. Have kids studying together? How about making it fun by putting glossary terms on their heads? “Am I metamorphic rock?” “Am I magma?” “Am I George Washington Carver?” The possibilities are endless.

I’m sure there are plenty of you out there with ideas for games you can make at home for less. I’d love for you to share them in the comments. And if you’re looking for more games that grow brains, check out Board Games That Build Readers and Board Games That Build (Bigger) Readers on Kateywrites.    KathrynHeadshots-45

I wish I’d thought of some of these great ideas to use when my kids were small.  They are great for classroom use as well, since we teachers are on a tight budget. Thanks for a fabulous post Katey!


7 thoughts on “Game On! Brain Building Board Games to Make or Fake at Home.

  1. Pingback: Game On! Brain Building Board Games to Make or Fake at Home. | kateywrites

  2. I absolutely LOVE board games, and when it makes learning fun—all the better! 🙂 I love the Hedbanz one 🙂 And I know there are some very creative mom bloggers out there who do very creative stuff, including games. I like the idea of making it yourself, and I think it would be fun, too, to actually make/invent a game WITH your kids 🙂 Great post, ladies!

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