Dictionary.com’s Winter Break Word Challenges For Kids

Ah, winter break. That welcome respite from homework, early morning alarms, and packing lunches … well, for about the first four hours anyway.

That’s generally when the kids’ cries of “I’m bored!” start echoing through the house, and you contemplate how long you can get away with sending them outside when the weather is something frightful.

To stop those cries (or at least dampen them for an hour), we have a few good word challenges in our back pocket that we want to bestow onto you! And there’s no reason those activities shouldn’t include a little learning to keep minds active until classes resume again.

For young kids, word games can help them learn sight words and build reading skills, while older kids can build vocabulary and their understanding of various parts of speech. OK, that sounded a bit boring, but these challenges are fun too … and we aren’t just saying that because we are the dictionary.

Here’s a list of some great word challenges kids of all ages can play during winter break (or any time of the year), when those cries of boredom start ringing loudly in your head. 

Word challenges for younger kids

Sight word treasure hunt

This one works well with some basic sight words appropriate for your kid’s age.

1. Write or type the words in large letters and cut the letters apart (or use sticky notes).

2. Tape or stick the letters throughout the house.

3. Give kids a list of the words and send them hunting to find the letters that match the spelling of the words on the list. 

Shaving cream spelling

A little planning may be necessary before starting this challenge, especially when coming up with a list of age-appropriate words.

1. Cover a cookie sheet or tabletop in shaving cream (make sure it won’t damage the surface—we don’t want you to hate us!).

2. Have kids spell the words from your list using their fingers to write in the shaving cream.

3. After each word, they can “erase” the letters and start over again.

Talk about good, clean fun! 

Muffin tin word toss

Add a little action to the day with a muffin tin word toss (it’s a ball toss with words!).

1. Using a muffin baking tray, fill each cup with a word written on a small piece of paper.

2. Have kids take turns tossing a small ball, trying to land it in one of the cups.

3. When they get a ball in, have them read and/or define the word.

You can mix this one up for kids of all ages by increasing the complexity of the words and adding fun twists like having them give antonyms or synonyms for the words or asking them to use the words in a sentence.

Vocabulary bingo

Arts and crafts time. Bonus: have the kids help you design the bingo cards!

1. Make game cards in which every square contains a different word that’s uncommon (but not too tough for the abilities of the players). 

2. Read the definitions or synonyms of the words one-by-one.

3. Players mark the squares they think correspond with the definitions.

4. The first person with a BINGO wins. 

Word challenges for older kids

Outdoor explorers

Bundle those kiddos up as needed, and then send them into the great outdoors in search of things they can find and describe in five words.

1. Have them identify an outdoor object they want to describe.

2. Direct them to write down the most creative words they can think of for each. 

3. Have them quiz parents or siblings on what they’re trying to describe.

The winner doesn’t have to mop up the mess from the all the snow they’ve tracked in when they come back inside!

Sentence scramble

Get ready for the laughs (and sentence composition skills) with this one.

1. Have each player choose a word or two from the dictionary (that’s us!).

2. Everyone writes their words on slips of paper.

3. Put the words in the middle of the table.

4. Have players write sentences using the words.

5. The best (or silliest) sentences win!

You can focus on different themes, topics, or even parts of speech for this one.

License plate game

If you’re traveling over winter break, this license plate game can help pass the miles.

1. Give all players a pen and a piece of paper. 

2. Have everyone write down the letters from the first five cars you pass (skip the numbers).

3. Next, everyone has to come up with a sentence in which the words start with each letter of the license plate in order.

    • For example, if the letters are TCRIEF, someone could write, “This car ride is exceptionally fantastic.”

Points for creativity and big words! 

Wordie challenge

1. Have each family member pick the most obscure word they can from the dictionary (us, again!).

2. Next, have the other players try to guess the word’s meaning.

3. Those who get closest get a point. 

4. The most points wins both the round and the title of family wordie

So, as winter break approaches, keep this list handy.

And don’t lose sight of it after the kids head back to classes either, because you know what’s next … spring break. Good luck out there!

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