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Learning English for Kids: Word Games

Learning English is important for the development of your children, and lots of fun with these word games, puzzle games, & phonics for kids!

Even if your child regularly hears English at home or at school, you may need to spend time with them learning new vocabulary and helping them master English language reading and writing techniques. One of the most enjoyable way to learn English as a family is by playing word games. In fact, many kids’ educational games and activities can be adapted to help your child learn English. We’ve already shared some great English games to help your child practise his or her spoken English. Here are a few more ideas for fun word games and word puzzle games from Surf excel!

Family playing English word games


Word Games to Improve Vocabulary

Did you know that you can help your child start to learn English words by ear before they understand how to read the English alphabet? Aim to introduce your child to a maximum of 10 new words a week. Use word games that involve play-acting, imagination, storytelling, and the act of describing something. For example, try these fun word games:

  • I’m Going Shopping. Take turns with your child to compile an imaginary shopping list of items. Every time you add a new thing to the shopping list, you have to name all the things that were already on the list before. So, if you say, ‘I’m going to the shops to buy some shampoo’, then your little one will have to say ‘I’m going to the shops to buy some shampoo and an apple’. Normally, this is a memorisation game – but you can focus on learning English words, instead. If your child finds it difficult to remember so many different words, then maybe try drawing pictures of the items on your list, or using toys to help your little one remember.
  • What are you Wearing Today? Every time your child leaves the house, why not pretend they’re about to go out to a ‘red carpet’ event. Pretend you’re a TV presenter and ask your child what they are wearing. Encourage them to describe their outfit: the garments, the colours, the fabrics, and – if they’re particularly fashion savvy – where the outfit was bought. This is a great way for your child to practise English sounds and words.


Phonics for Kids – Learning the Alphabet

Mastering the alphabet in English can be tricky for even native speakers, but it is an important first step towards teaching your child English language writing and reading. English has three systems of writing the alphabet:

  • Upper case or capital letters
  • Lower case letters
  • Cursive or ‘joined-up’ letters

So, learning the alphabet can be confusing for kids! It’s best to focus your child’s efforts on upper-case letters first; then, move onto the other the more complex systems.  Sometimes it helps to leave out the actual names of the letters and teach the sounds instead, referring to the letter ‘L’ as ‘Luh’, for example. This ‘sound-based’ method of learning the alphabet is called ‘phonics’ and is part of a larger system for learning to read English. You can help your children start associate letters to sounds and words by playing phonics games. Here are some examples:

  • I Spy. This game is a visual treasure hunt. Each person takes turns looking for an object in the room for which they will give the first letter, or sound, as a clue, repeating: ‘I spy with my little eye, something beginning with (letter or sound)’. So, if the treasure is an apple, then you would say ‘I spy, with my little eye, something that begins with A’. The person who guesses the right answer looks for the new object.
  • Alphabet hopscotch. This can be a great outdoor activity, but it works well on a big sheet of paper indoors too. Draw a grid of letters (upper or lower case) with chalk, or a pen, and instruct your child to jump from one letter to another. This teaches visual recognition of letters, but you can also use their sounds to guide your child.

Word Puzzle Games for Kids

Once your child has learned to associate sounds with letters, it’s time for them to learn how letters work together to make different sounds – ph, ch, sh, th, for example. It’s then a short jump to creating two and three letter words. Your child is now well on his or her way to learning to read and write in English! Some combinations of letters aren’t very logical in English, so the phonics method includes a list of words that your child will need to learn to read and pronounce by ‘sight’. Since this is more or less a case of memorisation, these fun kids’ educational games might help:

  • Word Bingo. Make a three by three square grid filled with nine ‘sight words’ that your child has been learning. Read out the words slowly at random, with a few other words thrown in for good measure, and ask your child to cross them off as soon as you read them out. When they’ve crossed all the words off, they should say ‘Bingo’ and get a small prize.
  • Hangman. This is a classic game that generally helps with spelling English, but can be used to great effect with ‘sight words’, too. Select a sight word and draw dashes on a piece of paper to represent the number of letters it contains. Have your child guess the letters and draw a part of a hangman’s gallows every time the letter they choose is incorrect. It’s a race towards the end: will your child guess the word, or will the hangman picture be finished first?! A good alternative to drawing a gruesome gallows is to just build up a sad stickman figure instead.

Do you have any word games that you like to play with your little one? We would love to hear your ideas for games to help kids learn English.