Irresistible Word Chain Games for All Ages
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How to Play First Letter, Last Letter
Let’s start with some basic instructions for how to play word chains, step by step. The best way to understand this type of word game is to think about it as “first letter, last letter” or “last letter, first letter.”
Choose a category. A broader topic like “food” will be easier for kids, whereas a more specific topic like “French food” will be more challenging for adults.
The first player names a word that fits in the topic, like “sandwich.”
The second player must then name a word that starts with the same letter as the last letter of the previous word. “Sandwich” ends in H, in this example. So, the second player has to choose a word that starts with H that fits in the category. “Hamburger” would work.
The next player continues the word chain. “Hamburger” ends in R. Suitable words that start with R may include rice, raisins, or radicchio.
If a player cannot come up with an appropriate answer, then they are “out.” The game continues until only one player remains.
If you are playing in a classroom with children, students can sit in a circle, taking turns. You can also decide on a time limit for how long a player has to come up with a word. This is a great game for ESL students and younger learners to build up their vocabulary. Better still, it requires zero materials and can be played anywhere.
A Team Race Variant
For a different take on word chain games that places more emphasis on cooperation, think about playing in teams. Divide the group into two or more teams. Pick a category of words, just like you would in the individual game.
The difference is that team members work together to create one chain, and the teams compete against one another. Here are two ways you may choose to play the team-based version.
Race Against the Clock: Write down as many words as you can -- maintaining the last letter, first letter dynamic -- within an allotted time limit. The team with the longest list wins. For example, how many words can you come up with in 10 minutes?
Race to a Goal: Instead of trying to write as many words as you can within a certain time limit, teams race to see who can come up with a certain number of words the fastest. For example, who can create a chain of 20 words first?
Playing in teams encourages everyone to participate without putting too much pressure on any one individual.
Thinkfun Last Letter Card Game
Looking for a more creative challenge? The Last Letter card game by Thinkfun could be just the ticket. Meant for players ages 8 and up, Last Letter offers an “artistic twist” to the word chain. To play:
Deal five cards to each player, face down. Each card features an intricately illustrated scene.
Flip one card from the deck face-up to form the discard pile.
The dealer calls out a word that appears on the face-up card, like “hat.”
The next player must then find something on one of their cards that starts with the letter T, like “tomato.” The card with “tomato” is placed on top of the discard pile.
Play continues as everyone tries to find words on their cards so they can discard them. It’s a free-for-all, not turn-based.
The first player to get rid of all their cards wins.
Optionally, you can say plural words aren’t allowed. That way, you can avoid an endless word chain of S-words.
Play Word Chain Phonics Game Online
What if you don’t have a group of people to play together? Preschoolers and kindergartners can benefit from online solo-play options like TurtleDiary’s Word Chain phonics game. To make the game simpler for the youngest of players, this online game doesn’t keep the first letter, last letter dynamic of standard word chain games.
Players simply click and drag letters to replace letters (in any position) in existing words to create new words, similar to Scrabble Slam. This game requires audio, as it tells the child what new word they should try to create. Go ahead and sound it out!
Word Chain Games for Mobile
Word Chain for Android (by Section 05) challenges you to defeat Wordy, a computer-controlled opponent. Select your level of difficulty and keep the chain going with over 600,000 words.
Word Chain for iOS (by XLabz Technologies) also features an AI bot named Wordy, but you can choose to play with friends instead if you prefer. This game supports local leaderboards as well.
Word Association Chain Games
Did you know you can boost your brainpower with word association games? They’re a different interpretation on word chain games. Instead of using the last letter of the previous word as the first letter of the next word, the words themselves are linked together into two-word phrases.
If you start with “Beet Red,” for example, you can continue the word chain with “Red Hot,” “Hot Coffee,” “Coffee Cup,” and “Cup Noodles.” You can play these types of word chain games on your smartphone or tablet with apps like these:
Word Chains gives you the first and last word in the chain, and it’s up to you to connect them. You can work from the top down or the bottom up. It also supports online multiplayer.
String of Words makes word association a little easier, because it places the words in two columns. This way, it may be clearer to see the potential two-word phrase.
- Word Mates game for Android
Word Chain Memory Game
More interested in improving your memory? You can take spelling out of the picture with this fun party game that’s also great for corporate ice breaker events. You start again with a category, but the objective is to remember (and recite) a growing string of words.
For example, if the category is cities, the first player might say, “I’m going on a trip and I’m going to visit Seattle.” The second player then adds a city: “I’m going on a trip and I’m going to visit Seattle and Chicago.” The third player adds another city: “I’m going on a trip and I’m going to visit Seattle, Chicago and Orlando.” If a player recites the growing list incorrectly or in the wrong order, they’re “out.”
You can adjust the level of difficulty too. Responses might have to be in alphabetical order, for instance, or you might even retain the first letter, last letter dynamic of other word chain games.
Get Connected, Speak Out
Learning and playing with language can be a lot of fun, especially when you’re playing the right games, regardless of age or skill level. For more inspiration, check out our list of fun spoken word games you can play anywhere. From family road trips to office parties, you’ll always be ready to play.
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.