The Best Word Puzzles and Games to Play as a Family

published Mar 4, 2022
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Black family of four sitting on couch smiling and interacting. Mother, adolescent daughter, preschool-aged boy, and father are interacting with screens while also talking to one another.
Credit: Shutterstock

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My husband proposed in a crossword puzzle he made for me, making my nerdy hobby part of our forever love story. Though he doesn’t share my obsession for word games, I can always count on him for the answers to obscure-to-me sports and history crossword clues. Over our parenting years, I’ve played hundreds of games of Candy Land, Go Fish! and Rummikub, just waiting for the day our three kids will be old/literate/patient/competitive enough to play Scrabble with me.

So you can imagine my delight when the game Wordle exploded in popularity and my family and friends began comparing their scores, strategies and streaks. The sensation grew from a simple game that software engineer Josh Wardle designed for his partner and shared online in October. By the end of January, over 2 million people were playing daily, including celebrities like Trevor Noah, Monica Lewinsky and Dan Levy.​ My husband solves it most days before I’m even awake. My 12-year old and his friends play as soon as they hop in the carpool home from school. 

How to Play Wordle

In February, the New York Times purchased Wordle for its Games platform and currently offers it for free here. Players have six tries to figure out the five-letter word of the day or “wordle.” After entering a first guess (typically one loaded with vowels and frequently-used letters like S, R, or T), the player receives color-coded feedback on how close their guess is to the word: A letter in the right spot is highlighted in green, a correct letter in the wrong space in yellow, and a letter not in the word in gray. 

What makes Wordle so irresistible? I think it’s become a hit because we love connecting over a shared challenge, especially one that offers a quick reward. Wordle requires focus, but it’s very solvable, usually in just a few minutes. Everyone faces the same puzzle each day, though each player’s path to the right answer can differ based on the first and progressive guesses. 

Playing Wordle With Younger Kids

Teacher Natalie Vermeer solves Wordles with her fifth-graders on her classroom whiteboard, and praises the game for getting her students “thinking about spelling patterns and considering letter possibility.” After seeing the hand-written Wordles that New York pediatrician Jaclyn Siskind swapped with her 9-year old son, I made this Wordle template for my second-grader. We started with shorter words and a category (like “Type of Fruit” or “One of Your Stuffed Animals”) to make it easier to solve. We slip the printed template into a sheet protector and use dry-erase markers to play. My daughter was quickly engaged, explaining her guessing strategies, why she determined a space after the letter R might be a vowel instead of a consonant. She eagerly made me guess her secret word too. 

If you’d rather solve Wordle together instead of taking turns, try Spellie, an awesome digital version for young spellers. Spellie has three daily puzzles of increasing difficulty, stretching from easy puzzles that use short words within the Grade 2 vocabulary to longer and more challenging words within the Grade 5 vocabulary. It took us six tries to identify the word “cookie” — humbling!

Wordle Clones for Teens

Tweens and teens might like to try Wordle spin-offs. There’s Worldle, a geography game that gives a player six tries to guess the country through its shape, Mathler where players have six guesses to find a hidden calculation totally the daily target number, SWordle for Star Wars fans, Taylordle for Taylor Swift fans, and more cropping up every day. 

My 15-year old has ignored the Wordle trend, but spent hours solving these free printable logic puzzles this summer which reminded me of the LSATs. My 12-year old races to finish the New York Times Mini Crossword each day and uses the Leaderboard feature to compete with his friends. 

The site MyWordle allows you to make a custom digital Wordle game, allowing you to choose your five letter word and share a link for friends and family to solve. 

What about actual physical games?

I’m thrilled word games are having a moment, but I’ll happily bond over any game that strikes the balance of being stimulating yet not too tiresome or frustrating for my kids. My kids favor games we can learn in minutes (they groan when I start unfolding the instructions). Here are some of our favorite puzzles and games that are quick enough for daily play:

1 / 5

For the younger set: Spot It is a perfect first card game to play with preschoolers and comes in a small tin perfect for travel. In the classic version, players need to find and name the matching picture symbols between two cards. There are different versions themed for letter, number and word recognition, holidays, sports teams, movies, hobbies, and more.

2 / 5

Our latest favorite is the very silly card game, Taco Cat Goat Cheese Pizza, best for ages 6 and up, which requires fast hands and quick thinking.

3 / 5

For the breakfast table: This Wooden Daily Calendar Puzzle is tough and addictive, with eight puzzle pieces that can be arranged each day to reveal the month and day. If you get super-stumped, the day’s solution is available here.

4 / 5
Bed Bath & Beyond

For wall decor: Made for Scrabble traditionalists, this deluxe dry erase and magnetic edition hangs on the wall to maintain an ongoing game with your family.

5 / 5
was $19.99

For after dinner bonding: My extended family and I have played a game called Snatch-It, a face-paced word-building and word-stealing game that is similar to Scrabble, but doesn’t require taking turns or an hour to play. My sisters and college-aged nephews regularly trounce me in it. Snatch-It is no longer in production but we’ve found a close match in OneUp.