Whether you’re self-isolating at home or you’re taking a road trip across the country, verbal games can be both entertaining and educational! Go ahead and play in pairs or small groups.
I Spy (With My Little Eye)
While tradition dictates that “I Spy” is played on long car journeys, it’s actually better to play when you’re going to be in one physical place for the duration of the game. You wouldn’t want to lose sight of the object that you spy, right?
The basic rules are that one player is designated as the spy, choosing an object or item clearly within view. For example, let’s say the spy chooses a flower. Then, they’d say, “I spy with my little eye something beginning with F.” The other player or players then try to guess the object. They might ask yes-or-no questions for more information. “Is it blue?”
Other variations include:
I spy with my little eye something that is blue. (color)
I spy with my little eye something that rhymes with floor. (rhyming words)
I spy with my little eye something that is fast. (other characteristic)
In many ways, 20 Questions is very similar to I Spy. The main difference between these conversation games is that you don’t need to actually see the chosen object with 20 Questions. And, as the name clearly indicates, the “guesser” is limited to a total of 20 yes-or-no questions to figure out what the target object is.
Some variations of the game include the final guess as part of the 20 question limit, whereas others say the final guess is in addition to the 20 questions. That’s up to you to decide.
Prefer spoken word games that are a little more active? Charades may be more your jam. For this game, you’ll need at least two teams of two players each. One person goes up with a clue and must act out the word, phrase or title without making a single sound. The other player or players on their team then try to guess the word, phrase or title.
Funny how such a popular verbal game involves complete silence from one of the players, right? If you need inspiration coming up with charades clues, YourDictionary has an extensive charades words list for kids to get you started.
How good are you at telling a lie and sticking with it? One player describes, in a single sentence, an experience that they’ve had. This experience might be a true story or it might be made up. The other player or players then have the opportunity to ask follow-up questions, and the storyteller has to respond accordingly.
You can decide on either a time limit (like five minutes) or a set number of questions (like 10 questions). After that, they have to guess whether or not it is a true story.
Similar conversation games can be less personal but equally entertaining.
Look up an obscure fact on your phone (or one that you already know) instead of telling a story. This can be a common myth or misconception too. The other players ask questions and then they guess whether it’s fact or fiction.
You can also do the same with an obscure word and its definition. Is “emordnilap” a real word? Or did you just make it up?
Want to add a dash of education into the mix? If you’ve got younger children who are learning how to spell (or adults who aren’t very good at spelling), then Sparkle is one of the best spelling word games you can play! It’s best enjoyed with a group of at least about six players, topping out at a typical classroom at around 30 students.
Players sit around in a circle.
The person in charge chooses a word and calls it out.
The first person starts spelling it, saying only the first letter.
The next person says the second letter and so on.
The player who says the last letter turns to the next player and says, “Sparkle!” That player is now “out.”
The game continues with a new word with the next player after that.
If anyone suggests a wrong letter along the way, they’re also “out.”
Can your friends spell oxyphenbutazone correctly?
Random Word Game
Many popular vocabulary games, like Boggle and Words With Friends, require a game board or game pieces. But, you can also enjoy verbal games like the Random Word Game to challenge your knowledge and dig deep into your vocabulary. It’s easiest if you sit in a circle to remember whose turn it is.
The first player chooses a word and defines the category. For example, they might say, “The category is wild animals. The first word is tiger.” The second player must then come up with a wild animal that starts with the last letter of “tiger,” like R for “raccoon.” The third player must then name a wild animal that starts with the last letter of “raccoon,” like N for “newt.” and so on.
Another variation, called the Alphabet Game, involves naming items in the category in alphabetical order. For example, if the category is countries:
The first player might say, “Argentina.”
The second player can then say, “Brazil.”
The third player can say, “Canada,” and so on.
Just hope that you don’t get stuck with harder letters like Q and X!
This verbal game can be enjoyed in pairs or in small groups. The first player starts by naming an object and a quality or characteristic about it. The second player must then name a different object that has the same quality, plus a quality that this new object has. Play goes back and forth (or around, with multiple players).
Player 1: Daffodils are yellow.
Player 2: Bumblebees are also yellow. And they’re fuzzy.
Player 1: Teddy bears are also fuzzy. And they’re loved by children.
Player 2: Candy is also loved by children. And they’re sweet.
And so on...
For an added challenge, you might choose to restrict the objects to a certain category, like “plants” or “household objects.”
Fun With Words With Friends
Board games and mobile games can be a lot of fun. And it helps when you’ve got a clever word-finding cheat tool to help with top scores too. But, even if all you’ve got is your voice, your imagination, and a friend or three, you can still have a terrific time with conversational games and verbal games. And that’s the word. I have spoken.
Michael Kwan is a professional writer and editor with over 14 years of experience. Fueled by caffeine and WiFi, he's no stranger to word games and dad jokes.