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Tips for Playing Scrabble with Preschool Children

What are Some Tips for Playing Scrabble with your Preschool Children?

Scrabble can be a fun and educational game to play with your preschool aged children. At this young age, Scrabble is less about strategy and winning, and more about developing early literacy skills, learning new words, and spending quality time together. Here are some tips to make playing Scrabble an enjoyable learning experience for preschoolers:

  1. Choose an Age-Appropriate Set:
  2. Look for a preschool or junior version of Scrabble that has simpler rules and game boards tailored for younger players. The words will be shorter and easier to read. Some sets even include pictures on the tiles to help kids recognize the words. Make sure the tile rack is also sized right for little hands. Avoid adult Scrabble sets with small pieces and complex rules which will only cause frustration.

  3. Use a Simple Children’s Dictionary:
  4. Don’t overwhelm them with an adult dictionary. Look for a children’s dictionary or Scrabble dictionary for early learners. It will have age-appropriate words they are more likely to know. You can also make your own abbreviated dictionary with index cards that have preschool level words on them. Having an easy-to-use kid-friendly dictionary on hand reduces frustration when they need help finding a word.

  5. Focus on Building Phonics Skills:
  6. For preschoolers who are still learning letter sounds, Scrabble is great for practicing phonics. Ask them to sound out the word as they place the tiles on the board. Help them identify patterns and sounds. Break longer words into smaller parts. Celebrate when they successfully spell a word. With practice, their phonics abilities will improve as they grasp how sounds connect with letters to make words.

  7. Make Letter and Word Recognition Fun:
  8. Make it fun by singing the alphabet song when searching for letters. Encourage them to identify the letters and read the words aloud. Clap for them when they spell a word correctly. Their reading skills will improve with praise and practice. Turn identifying the letters and reading the word into a fun celebration, rather than a chore.

  9. Emphasize Learning Over Scoring:
  10. Avoid paying too much attention to points and scoring during the preschool years. It’s more important that they are engaged, developing reading skills, and having fun. So, offer encouragement as they build words, whether or not the placement earns a lot of points. Tallying complex point scores will only slow down and complicate the game. Stay focused on the goal of learning.

  11. Provide Guidance When Needed:
  12. If they are stuck trying to come up with a word, give hints about letter sounds or ask guiding questions to steer them in the right direction. Avoid giving them the full word, but help them sound it out. With support, they will gain confidence in creating words. Resist the urge to provide the words for them. Instead, give clues and prompts to allow them to figure it out after some effort.

  13. Start with Short, Simple Words:
  14. Start with basic two to four letter words. At first, young kids will do best with short, simple words like cat, dog, mom, dad, love, play, etc. They may need help coming up with words beyond 3-4 letters at first. As their skills improve, encourage them to expand to longer words. Don’t expect them to spell long complex words in the beginning. Build up from short words of 3-4 letters like pet, car, home, park, etc.

  15. Add Kid-Friendly House Rules:
  16. Reduce the need to tally complex point totals by establishing some kid-friendly house rules. For example, let them count and add up the letter tiles used to make a word rather than looking up point values. This still gets them to practice math concepts. Making up simple rules allows you to focus on learning rather than rigid game play.

  17. Be Patient and Take Your Time:
  18. Games with preschoolers will move slowly. Expect to pause frequently to guide them. Make sure to allow plenty of time to play. Don’t plan on completing games quickly. Playing half a game over a period of days is fine. Rush through the game and you’ll lose their interest. Move at their pace, offering guidance, praise, and taking breaks as needed.

  19. Minimize Frustration:
  20. If they start getting upset or losing focus, it may be time to take a break. Difficulty with spelling, losing turns, and game rules can be frustrating at this age. Reset by taking a snack break or switching to a new activity. Scrabble will test their patience as they learn new skills. Watch for signs of frustration and change course before they have a meltdown.

  21. Make it Silly and Fun:
  22. Preschoolers have great imaginations! Encourage them to spell made-up silly words or make word pairs for laughs. They’ll get creative with letters while building vocabulary and phonics in a playful way. Insert silliness and fun even if the words they spell aren’t real. The goal is to spark their interest, not perfection.

  23. Incorporate Related Learning Activities:
  24. Extend Scrabble learning by reading word concept books, doing letter arts and crafts, or writing the words they spelled. Weaving spelling practice into other preschool activities builds early literacy. Link the words they learn to books, art projects, and writing exercises for extra reading and spelling reinforcement.

  25. Play Without the Board:
  26. You can develop spelling skills without the game board by drawing letters and asking kids to spell or sound out words. Or spell their name and the names of family members. Get creative! Ditch the game board but continue spelling words using letter tiles or paper and markers. Spelling names and favourite things makes it meaningful.

  27. Praise All Attempts and Effort:
  28. Above all, praise their effort and persistence at this age, regardless of outcome. Recognize that learning how to create and spell words is an ongoing process. Motivate them to keep trying by celebrating approximated attempts. Focus praise on their hard work instead of letter-perfect accuracy, which takes time to develop.

  29. Keep it Low Stakes:
  30. Avoid any hint of competition. Don’t emphasize winning and losing. Remind them that doing your best and having fun together is what is most important. Any sense of competition will undermine their confidence. Reinforce that effort is what counts, not getting the highest score.

  31. Set a Good Example as the Adult Player:
  32. Model good sportsmanship when playing. Verbally work through sounding out words. Point out your mistakes and demonstrate how to handle minor frustrations. Your example will teach them how to be a thoughtful, fair-minded player.

  33. Further Learning Opportunities:
  34. Think beyond just one game session. Connect it to an ongoing learning process. Note which words they struggled with and review them later. See if they can incorporate Scrabble words into their pretend play. Revisit the game in a continuous way to reinforce growth.

Scrabble is so much more than just a board game when playing with a preschooler. View it as an opportunity to nurture their blossoming literacy abilities in a fun way. Focus more on the journey than the final score. Be prepared to slow down, offer guidance, celebrate small successes, and infuse learning with humour and imagination. Playing Scrabble with a preschooler requires patience and meeting them where they are developmentally.

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