Words, wordplay, reading, and writing have been favorites of Liz’s since early childhood. She enjoys exploring science and science fiction.
Word Games Are Fun Anywhere
This group of games is very adaptable. There can be as few as two players or as many as 5 or more. My mother and I used to play them all the time, usually while passing time waiting for the start of a play or to be called in for an appointment.
These are all on the order of more “old-fashioned” games, requiring only the use of the brain and, in some cases, pencil and paper. No batteries required or included.
Game One: “Think Fast!”
This game can be played repeatedly, but it’s the most fun when pulled as a surprise, with the other party not expecting it.
Basic Game Play:
Simply say aloud a category of some physical thing, be it flowers, furniture, food, etc. (Gee, I got on a roll with the “F” words, there, didn’t I?-heh, heh.)
Once you have stated the category, immediately begin counting quite rapidly from one to ten; it should take you 5 seconds or less. The other person(s) have only until then to name such an item.
For example, I call out, “Flowers! 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10!” If the other player is on their toes, they may make it by the time “5” is called to shout out the name of a flower-“zinnia,” for instance. I say “shout out,” as, in the urgency presented, shouting is usually what happens. If they cannot think of something before the time runs out, they lose, and it is again the first player’s turn to call out a category. However, if they beat the clock, it is their turn to call a category.
This is one of those games to play at home or in your car. You can play back and forth, of course, with the element of surprise missing, and eventually, someone cannot think of anything in time, or experiences a “fail,” by calling out an item in the wrong category, such as “butter,” when the category was flowers. Bzzzzzzttt!! Wrong! Thank you for playing!
This is a good ‘thinking cap’ game for kids, keeping it simple and to things they’d know, of course.
Game Two: “Same Letter”
My mother and I played this one a lot! It was probably our favorite ‘while waiting’ game. Each answer must begin with the final letter of the previous answer.
Basic Game Play:
You begin with a category, as with the first game, but there are no time limits, unless you choose to impose one. With only two players, it’s not really needed, but if playing with a group and taking turns around a circle of players, it may be best to impose a time limit of, say, 20 or 30 seconds in which to answer.
Categories can be anything you choose, with geography probably offering the widest possible choice of answers. You can pre-define the geographic area to local (your own state should be the smallest area used), national, or worldwide. You can further define whether you want to limit answers to just city names, or both cities and countries, and you may include features such as mountain ranges or anything else that has been given a name.
You’d have access, in the latter case, to giving answers such as “Mount Rushmore,” or “India,” or “Lake Huron.” Mom and I usually played a worldwide version, limited to cities and countries.
Specifics of Play:
Once the category has been established and defined to everyone’s satisfaction, it’s time to play. No repetition of prior answers is allowed.
Player one starts by naming something in the given category; I’ll use geography for my examples (mom and I also allowed old/archaic place names, but you don’t have to):
Player two responds with a different place that must begin with the final letter of the previous answer:
Play returns to player one in a two-person game, or continues to the next player if multiple people are playing:
And so forth . . .
The game ends when either player in a two-player game is stumped and cannot think of a fitting answer, gives a wrong-category answer, or one that is outside the predetermined rules, or repeats an answer that has already been stated.
In a multiple player game, the above mistakes result in that player being out of the game. The play continues until there is only a single player left, or until the final two or three mutually decide to call it quits.
This game can get quite funny, especially if you get stuck in a loop of words/places all beginning and ending with the same letter. You would not believe how many cities and countries fit into this pattern:
Algeria, Altoona, Atlanta, Alaska, Alabama, etc. There are many more, trust me. Usually, you don’t even realize it until you’ve spoken your answer, thinking you were so smart to come up with something . . . and thenafter 2 or 3 such cases, the laughter begins.
The game can be tailored for school-age children, and it’s a great way to subtly help them remember how to spell things. Learning should be fun!
Game Three: “Remember What to Pack!”
This is an alphabet-sequence-driven game of memory, and it’s suitable for just two players, but it’s more fun if several are involved. It is also known by the name, “Going on a Trip.”
Basic Game Play:
Begin by stating a travel destination, “France,” for instance. Play begins with the first person stating (for example), “I’m going on a trip to France, and I’m going to take an apple.”
The next player must repeat the sequence, and add an item from the next letter in the alphabet: “I’m going on a trip to France, and I’m going to take an apple and a briefcase.”
The third player (or first again, if only two people) proceeds in turn: “I’m going on a trip to France, and I’m going to take an apple, a briefcase and a camera.”
In this game, the player gets “buzzed” and is out of the game if they forget to repeat the “I’m going on a trip to . . . ” sequence.
Play follows this pattern until the end of the alphabet is reached. The game ends for two people when someone goofs or gets stumped. For multiple players, a mistake removes that person from the game; the “winner” is the last player to remain when/if “Z” is reached.
This game helps memory skills, and also reinforces the importance of focusing and paying attention.
It can send people to the dictionary (not during the game-that’s cheating!) to discover things to “pack” besides Zebras, Yaks and Xylophones when that end of the alphabet is reached.
Game Four: “How Many Words?”
This is a pencil and paper game, and one I use to this day while waiting on medical appointments. Anyone who has to spend much time in waiting rooms knows full well the futility of finding anything of interest to read in the outdated magazines sitting there. And, sadly, as we age, we seem to spend more time sitting in waiting rooms.
Basic Game Play:
All you need is a word. Any word, but the bigger the word, the better. The object is to use the letters within that word, (I call it a “seed word”), and re-arrange them to form as many other words as you can. There is no “end” or time limit. Your time ends when you are called for your appointment, or when you are stumped; that’s all.
You may use only letters that appear in the original word
You may use the letters to make other words only as often as they appear in your source word.
You may choose your own rules as to whether one and two letter words are allowed, or whether you must make only words with three or more letters
Archaic and obscure words are allowed (such as those you might encounter in crossword puzzles)
You may choose, if the original letters permit, to include both singular and plural forms for the words you make, that’s up to you
You may set a time limit if you wish, but I usually do not
For example: if I choose the short word, “carpet,” I can make the following list:
And so on; you get the idea. It is up to you to decide the rules as far as limiting or not limiting number of letters that must be in the discovered words. I place no limits, although most traditional word games to require a minimum word length of three letters. This eliminates single-letter words such as “A” a or “I” as well as two-letter words such as “it” and “if.”
If playing with a group, the “winner” is the person who found the most legitimate words.
Alternately, players can read off their lists in turn, and, as with the game “Scattergories,” all must cross out any word ont their list that matches any other person’s word, so the focus is on originality. With more than a few players, however, this version becomes rather time-consuming.
Sometimes, I even play this in my head, if I’m having trouble falling asleep, instead of counting those boring old sheep! Here’s one I used in that situation recently:
No “a’s” and no “i’s” in that word, and only singletons of the other vowels; in fact, no repeating letters at all. I did get a pretty good list out of it despite that. Let me know how you do with it. (My partial list follows at the end.)
“How Many Words?” K.I.S.S. Principle When Kids Are Playing
I disagree with rules limiting word length, especially if kids are playing. You don’t want them frustrated when the challenge is “find as many words as you can.” Besides, by finding those easiest of words first, it gets the juices flowing, and instills an early feeling of success. So, Keep it simple!
For school settings, I would place a time limit, say ten minutes–adjusting that up or down as appropriate for grade level. This is a good game for spelling, memory, vocabulary, and rapid spotting with the eyes, as you “scroll” back and forth looking for likely words.
For school settings, you can have the “winner(s)” be those who came up with the most legitimate words.
This doesn’t quite qualify as a word game, and it’s better for adults, who probably have many more years of movie-watching under their belts. Anyone can play, but it’s best played by movie geeks!
I used to belong to a theater group, and several of them would play this all the time after rehearsals, and I could not keep up!
Player 1 names a movie-any movie at all-for example, Hunt for Red October.
Player 2 must come up with the name of an actor or actress who was in that movie. It need not be one of the main stars, but can be-for example, “Tim Curry.”
Player 3 (or back to player 1, if only two are playing) must then name another movie in which that actor played-for example, Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Player 4 (or back to player 2, if only two are playing) must name another actor or actress in that movie, etc.-for example, “Susan Sarandon” and so forth.
Play continues until someone is stumped or gives a wrong answer. In the case of multiple players, the one who goofed is out; and play continues until there are only 2 left.
Game ends either when one of the last two makes a mistake or gets stuck, or by mutual agreement.
(You can also begin the game the other way around, as well, by naming an actor first instead of a movie title, but the rest of the play follows the same pattern.)
The two best players in the group I was with could come up with the most obscure actors that most of us have never even heard of. I swear, they must have sat there and memorized all the credit rolls! There were also a lot of obscure “B” movie titles tossed about. Those two could play until all night if the mood struck them!
And Now, That List . . .
Here are the words I got out of “desultory:”
dolt, sultry, sold, yet, toy, sod, us, use, used, yes, lot, let, lose, lost, toe, toed, tole, tor, tore, led, red, redo, rode, rot, rote, rust, rusty, rod, rut, rout, route, rose, ruse, rest, resort, sue, suet, soy, ley, lute, lye, try, tory, slot, sued, sled, sly, douse, dust, dusty, lust, lusty, old, ole, os, do, doe, dot, dye, yet, yule, ted, slut, slue, sly….
That’s a starter: there are quite a few others!
When I’m doing the game in my head, it comes out a lot as you see it above. When I use pen and paper, I try to keep the words by alphabetical order–though not strictly–just by first letter, starting with “how many words starting with ‘a’ can I find?” Then I move on to the next letter that follows in alphabetical sequence, and so on. Since there is no a, b, or c in the word I chose above, my starting letter was ‘d,’ and on from there.
© 2012 Liz Elias
Liz Elias (author) from Oakley, CA on December 15, 2012:
Yes, we often played such games on car rides, including “not quite word games” such as 20 questions.
I don’t think I’m familiar with “How Many Words?” I’d be interested to hear about that chúng tôi perhaps I know it by another name.
Thanks for stopping by and adding a point of interest. Cheers!
Susan Zutautas from Ontario, Canada on December 15, 2012:
I too like word games and remember playing How many Words. They are sure great to pass the time especially on long car rides.
Liz Elias (author) from Oakley, CA on December 13, 2012:
Thank you so much–I’m most pleased that you find these worthwhile games for a youth group. I do think they need a “disconnect” from electronic devices every now and then!
Sarah Carlsley from Minnesota on December 13, 2012:
These are great! Would be wonderful as easy youth group games while we’re waiting!
Liz Elias (author) from Oakley, CA on December 11, 2012:
Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on December 11, 2012:
Great ideas especially the games you can play alone. These ideas will come in handy. Thanks for sharing.
Liz Elias (author) from Oakley, CA on December 10, 2012:
@ GiblinGirl, Thanks for stopping by–I’m delighted that you enjoyed these suggestions of time-killing yet mentally stimulating games. Have fun with them!
drbj and sherry from south Florida on December 10, 2012:
What great ideas for word games, Lizzy, thanks for reminding me what fun they can be. You are anything but Dzy, m’dear.
GiblinGirl from New Jersey on December 10, 2012:
I LOVE word games – I play Scrabble all the time. I’ll have to try some of your suggestions out next time I’m waiting around at a doctor’s office or something. Thanks!
Liz Elias (author) from Oakley, CA on December 09, 2012:
Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on December 09, 2012:
Great ideas; a couple of them I have played, but a couple I have never heard of. I’ll keep these in mind for the holiday parties that are sure to come.