5 Fun Brain Busters for Families that Love Word Puzzles

Word challenges that build literacy skills and workout your brain

By Sarah Hauge, publisher of Macaroni KID Englewood, Greenwood Village, Centennial, Colo. February 23, 2022

Have you hopped on the Wordle trend yet? People are going crazy for guessing the 5-letter word of the day — me included! As a language enthusiast, I LOVE word puzzles.

My kids get increasingly chatty and silly right before bed, so we've started a routine we call "Bedtime Brain Busters." As the name implies, it's the time of night when we challenge each other with a puzzle, and since my kids just want to talk and talk and talk, our Bedtime Brain Busters session usually evolves into an exercise of getting creative with words.

Here are five of the word puzzles and challenges we have been playing at our house:

1. Using ONLY the letters in your first name, create a word, phrase, or story

This game had us rolling on the floor in laughter! We worked through all the members of the family (including our pup) before trying this with the names of our friends, neighbors, classmates, and favorite movie characters. Here are some of the results that had us giggling:

Sarah: "Ah! Sarah has a rash!"
Kristen: "Ten sinks in Tennessee stink."
Alfredo: "Order a red folder for dear, old Alfredo."

2. Create your own sentence that uses every letter of the alphabet

"The quick brown fox jumps over a lazy dog" is a phrase that has gained notoriety for being an example of a sentence that includes every letter of the alphabet. This is known as a pangram.

3. Create your own alliterative sentence

Alliteration occurs when repeating sounds (typically at the beginning of each word) are connected in a sentence.

To make this an interactive challenge, my family takes turns adding alliterative words to a sentence. The game ends when a person can no longer add to the sentence or they've forgotten the words from the previous participant. You can add words to any part of the sentence and you can include small words like "of," "an", and "in" as free words for harder letter choices.

Here's an example of what our alliterative sentence challenge looks like:

Person A: Bob builds.
Person B: Bob builds boats.
Person C: Brave Bob builds boats.
Person A: Brave Bob builds blue boats.
Person B: Brave Bob builds big blue boats.
Person C: Brave Bob builds big blue boats beautifully.

4. Create your own palindrome

Palindromes are words or phrases that can be read the same forward and backward. They can be as simple as "mom," "dad," or "wow." A more complex and widely-known palindrome is, "A man, a plan, a canal. Panama."

5. Create a double acrostic poem using your name

You've likely created a simple acrostic poem in elementary school, but have you ever tried a double acrostic? These poems challenge the writer to start and end each line with the same letter, thus forming the acrostic twice.

An example using the name Mac:

Mornings aren't warm
across the desert area
closest to the Arctic.

Sarah Hauge is the publisher of Macaroni KID Englewood, Greenwood Village, Centennial, Colo.