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  • Kraig Brachman

Use Board Games to Enhance Literacy Skills!

Family playing board game

On our ever-expanding quest to bring you more options to incorporate fun literacy strategies into your child’s daily life, one thing has become clear. If it’s fun, kids will engage with it. There are so many everyday uses of reading and writing that it can pass our attention without notice. So, today, we wanted to shine the light on… drum roll please… board games! You can use board games to enhance literacy skills. 

Board games 

Board game

In 2020, over 5,000 board games were released. If you feel there is an overwhelming amount of board games to play, well, it’s because there is. Board games are more popular than ever, and there are more available to consumers than ever before. 

Not every board game focuses on reading and writing, which we will get into down the list, but every board game incorporates the use of literacy. You can read the back of the box together, read the instructions, discuss the game, set it up together, and play! 

  • Happy Hats — Happy Hats is a bit of a special game that we had to highlight, it is a board game for beginning readers! “Children explore letter names and letter sounds as they create simple words to help pave the path to reading success. Along the way, children collect “Happy Hats” for every word that they create. Game play encourages the use of social skills, literacy, and simple counting.” — 

  • Sushi Go — Sushi Go is a card game where the goal is for you to build a sushi platter. You have 3 turns. Each card has a series of points and multipliers, so you want to combo the cards as best as possible. It is quick to learn, quick to play, and teaches you some new sushi focused words!  

  • Exit, The Game – The House of Riddles — In Exit, The Game, you play detectives summoned to an abandoned house where you must solve the mysteries that you find. Think of it like an escape room in the comfort of your own home.

  • Dixit — Like Happy Hats, Dixit is a special game for our list because it is a story telling game! Players take turns being the Story Teller, and create their own narrative based on the cards provided.

  • Settlers of Catan — The game of hexagon tiles and trading: Settlers of Catan! Catan is a wildly popular game that focuses on crop management and trading. There are various victory points to achieve – like building a city or having the longest road, and the first person to get 10 points wins. 


Word games 

Scrabble tiles

Word games seem like the most fundamental way to introduce literacy concepts in a fun and engaging way. It’s straight to the point and gets everyone grappling with spelling, word recollection, and lateral thinking.  

Some of these games have kid specific versions too, but I haven’t included them. I always appreciated playing with others more than playing a game targeted at a kid when I was younger. We included the essential versions of the games, and you can decide from there. 

  • Scrabble — The grandfather of all word games. You grab seven tiles, and then spell words out with them starting in the middle and working your way out. You build off words already formed and aim for those delicious double and triple letter and word spaces on the board. 

  • Bananagrams — It’s like Scrabble, you’ll be reading that a lot in this section, but instead of taking turns, players race to create their own grid and get rid of their tiles. There is no board, just tiles. 

  • Dabble — Like Scrabble – I told you there would be a lot of that -- but with no board, and the tile rack goes from 2 to 6 tiles in length. Your goal is to create words to fill all rows with words in 5 minutes. 

  • Boggle — Boggle is like a randomized word search. You look for words within the 3 minutes of allotted time. 

  • Up Words — It’s like scrabble, this will be the last time I say that, but instead of playing on the flat board, you can stack letters on top of each other. So, basically 3D Scrabble. 

Trivia games 

Trivia game

Not just for pubs and Jeopardy, trivia games are great for tickling that little spot in the back of your brain when you feel a neural pathway connect and remember the answer. They also require lots of reading out loud, a skill that has been proven to improve reading. 

Reading out loud changes how the brain processes words. Reading out loud helps you remember words, how to pronounce them, and helps you with the rhythm of the English language. 

  • Various Trivial Pursuit games — Trivial Pursuit is a quintessential trivia game series. Your goal is to collect one of each of the 6 trivia pieces, which you get from successfully answering the corresponding trivia question. You must land on the space to get the right question first. Once you collect all six pieces, you must answer one last question that the other player/s choose from a random card.

  • Various Brain Box Games — With Brain Box, you study a card for 10 seconds and then answer a question. If correct, you keep the card. The goal is to have the most cards after five or ten minutes. 

  • Professor Noggin Series of Games — Take turn rolling dice and asking questions from the cards. If correct, you keep the card. Whoever has the most cards wins. 

  • Canadian Trivia: Family Edition — Answer random questions about Canada and move your piece from your “starting city.” First person to move their piece to their “finishing city” wins.

If price is an issue, there are many routes to trying out these games. Try buying second had, either from websites like Facebook Marketplace, eBay, or keep an eye on the board game section of your local thrift shops. You can also head to your local board game café or public library and see what they have available!

Happy gaming!


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