Playing games with words is not only fun but can help your children (and you) to practice spelling and to develop your vocabulary. Personally, I love word games and always have some on my iPad. This post is focussing on just one type: Word Search, a.k.a Find-a-word, Word Seek, Word Find and others. I think we are all familiar with these puzzles: highlight words hidden in a letter grid. Since all the puzzles work the same way, I’m going to focus on features such as word lists and various options you might find handy. Forgive me if I don’t mention the game that has Weapons as one of its word lists, along with others that had some dodgy spelling and grammar before you even got to the puzzles. The ones here are some of the better ones.
Most game Apps seem to have some sort of social networking features, and many have advertising that links children to other Apps in the Appstore or to other websites. While I appreciate that many developers make their Apps free and rely on advertising for income, I’d be happy to pay to remove ads from games I like. As for social networking, although it is fine for adults who want to compare their scores with friends, or for the developers to promote their apps, if young children are using these Apps, it is entirely inappropriate for them to be taken unwittingly into a social networking environment. Some apps use Game Center and OpenFeint for social gaming. If using these Apps with children, you might want to take the following precautions:
- Make sure you have logged out of any social networking sites. If children tap a social networking link, they should land at the login page and not be able to go further (unless they know your login details.)
- Turn off in- App purchases. I think the unexpected iTunes bills for some unsuspecting parents can speak for themselves. Most of these Apps don’t have in-app purchases, but it is a good habit to get into.
- Turn off App store – this way your child will not be exposed to inappropriate Apps (images and descriptions are not always child-friendly) and can help protect from “accidental” App purchases.
- Turn of Internet Access – Often this makes Ads disappear. If they are still present, children won’t “go anywhere” if they tap the ads.
For information on how to use these settings on your device, see my post about Tips and Tricks for using iPads (and similar devices) with Kids. Taking these precautions will help protect your child from internet nasties.
This word search puzzle is designed for young children and would be a good game for children in lower to middle primary. There are three levels of difficulty, the easiest with a list of 6 words hidden in a 6×6 grid, and the hardest with a list of 10 words hidden in a 12×12 grid. Each word has a picture beside it illustrating the word. A hints option removes some letters from the grid. Words will be spoken if tapped and after they have been highlighted in the grid. Puzzles seem to be generated randomly and the list of high-frequency words is extensive. The App has advertisements that can take children to games you might not want them to see, but they disappear when you turn off internet.
Select one of eleven word list themes, with more themes promised by the publisher. A new puzzle is generated each time. Three levels of difficulty are available, each with the grid size and number of hidden words increasing at each level. You can change the colour scheme to suit your own taste. No ads and no direct links to social networking sites, but there are some links to their games forums and an information page.
Generates random word search puzzles with words from eight themes, including Cities of the World, Animals, Greek Mythology, Works (Occupations) and Countries. Grids are available in four sizes, from 8×8 to 11×11. There are options for changing the font used, turning sound effects off, and you can also access instructions, FAQs and a help feature through the Options. I love how you never get the same puzzle twice but even more fun is the mystery sentence that appears after the words have been found. This puzzle is suitable for all ages, however older students and adults will probably recognise more of the vocabulary. Links to Game Center.
This word search game has very simple controls, lots of stunning backgrounds that are selected at random (you can turn off any you don’t like), and an endless supply of randomly generated puzzles. Each puzzle has 12 words hidden in a 12×12 grid, but what makes this app special is that you can create your own word list using your child’s spelling lists, theme words, family names or any others you’d like. It is very easy to enter the words, the only restriction being that they need to be between 5 and 8 letters in length. At 99 cents, I think it is a bargain and would recommend it for schools.
This is a visually attractive app, with several screen themes. There are 23 word lists in English, including some covering parts of speech. Many of the word lists are also available in French, German, Spanish and Portuguese, making it a great game for multilingual families and for students studying one of these languages. Puzzles are generated randomly so you get a different puzzle each time you play. Younger children may find some of the words to be unfamiliar, but the beauty of the word search game is that they don’t need to understand the words to complete the puzzle. In fact, in this game you can look up unfamiliar words in your choice of online Dictionary. The app is suitable for all ages, although parents should be aware that there are discreet links to Facebook and Twitter on the main page, and there are also links with Game Center and OpenFeint. A free version of Ultimate Word Search is also available.
Watch this Space
In coming weeks I’ll have more word game posts looking at anagrams, hang man, crosswords and other Apps that can help with reading and spelling. If you have any great word puzzle apps you’d like to mention, feel free to leave a comment below or post on my Facebook Group, where I occasionally put links to discounted or free Apps.