You may have heard of Word Winder in some form by now. They have apps, games, giant games, and books. If you like word games (I LOVE word games) you will love this word search style game. It is NEVER the same and I mean NEVER the same because you can layout the boards different each time. That means you will be spelling new words every game! Endless fun for adults and a great teaching tool for kids.
Word Winder is a game where twisting your words can help you win! Maybe not literally twisting them but you do: you can spell them in any direction. Left to right, Right to left, Top to bottom, Bottom to top or even diagonally! Bonus: you can do all that at the same time as long as each letter touches its next letter in the word. Maybe their video can help explain it a bit better.
Now I can explain how we played which is pretty much how they played…but then I’ll show you how I played this game with my 5 year old and even my 3 year old!
SideWinder – Create a line of words from one edge of the board to the other with your color chips. The focus is on the chips touching each other. This can be from Side to Side or Top to Bottom.
RaceWinder – Create a line of words from one edge of the board to the other with your color chips. The focus is on the chips touching each other however this can ONLY be from the Top to Bottom and must include a letter from the very top row.
First shuffle up the boards with the letters on them while you select a game you want to play. There is SideWinder and RaceWinder which is similar but the board set up is different and there are a few different rules. I will be covering SideWinder rules and setup but will try to explain the RaceWinder version at the same time. Not confusing right? Set up the boards in the pattern for the game you want to play.
SideWinder – Set up the boards 4 across x 4 down for a total 16.
RaceWinder – You can choose 2 across x 8 down or 3 across x 5 down.
Decide if you are playing individually or if you are going to need teams. Select one of the 3 color chips, Red, Blue, or Yellow for you or team.
You take turns individually or as a team spelling words on the board. It is seriously that simple…but actually finding words to work into your line is harder than you think! Let me explain the rules since the easy part is finding words…the rules make the game more challenging (and fun).
- Each team or player has to say the word they are spelling out loud and then place your color chips.
- Words can be spelled from Left to Right, Right to Left, Top to Bottom, Bottom to Top, Diagonally or ANY combination of them! Meaning you can spell the word FAMILY so it looks like a Z.
- You can’t use the same letter square more than ONCE in the same word.
- You CAN re-use letter squares from one word to help spell another word but ONLY if it is YOUR word. (meaning your color chip is already there)
- For team play you may choose to have teams help each other spell or point out words (Noisy Rules) OR choose to have teams NOT help each other when it is there team members turn.(Silent Rules) During Silent Rules the penalty for helping is the loss of a turn.
- You can NOT use Proper Nouns, Foreign Words (unless they are also used in English) and to check for spelling the Merriam-Webster Dictionary is the official dictionary for Word Winder.
Back to playing! You can of course spell words anywhere on the board and in fact you might want to spell a word or to block your opponent. My husband likes to use this method since I normally beat him at word games. He also makes sure we play strategy games as often as word games since he normally beats me at those. THIS game is a nice mix of BOTH and we never know who will win!
I think technically we play RaceWinder Rules since we start at the top and try to block each other a lot…like a LOT. In fact that is more often how one of us tries to win…we are kind of ruthless…I mean competitive.
The box has spots for all the chips inside but they do move around in there a bit. I put them in little bags to help with the mess that can happen sometimes. Other than that the game is a lot of fun for adults and older kids.
It has a nice mix of word game and strategy game to make it challenging, fun and never the same game. Now if you want to play with younger kids I have two options!
If you have a beginner reader that knows the alphabet but is working on sounds or needs a refresher here are two ideas for playing. I played both ways with my 5 year old son. We are learning to read and working on sounds and sounding out words so we aren’t quite to spelling just yet.
The Objective (or how to “win”) is the same for both options. Fill all the boards completely.
Shuffle the boards and select 4 to start with. As your child gets better and better you can add more if you want. If playing with more than one child each child uses 4 OR you can make it so they share an 8×8 board set. This works for both types of games.
For the first way to play I laid out the 4 boards in a 2×2 pattern to form a square. Then my son picked his chip color and I explained the rules. I would say a sound that a letter made. For example “N” I would say “nnnnnnn” and if he couldn’t guess the letter by the sound alone I would say a few words that started with that sound like “Nail, Newt, No, Negative” and he would guess the letter and find all of that letter on the board. He won when he finished the whole board.
The other way we play is the same set up but this time I (or he) would say a letter and he would have to tell me what sound it made and word that started with that letter. Then cover up all of that letter on the board.
Pretty simple to teach and fun to play. Plus its learning and they don’t really know that part! You can adjust the level to suit your child’s level of sounds, letters and reading. Eventually I will have my son tell me a word that starts with a letter for every one on the board. So if there are 4 E’s then he has to tell me 4 words that start with E. We aren’t there yet…but we are getting there.
I also played this with my 3 year old daughter who is not close to reading yet. She DOES know her letters really well and we are just starting sounds. I wanted to focus on letters with her though because it helped reinforce recognition AND helped with her seek and find skills!
The Objective (or how to “win”) is the same as for the Non-Reader version. Fill all the boards completely.
Shuffle the boards and select 4 to start with. As your child gets better and better you can add more if you want. If playing with more than one child each child uses 4 OR you can make it so they share an 8×8 board set.
For the Diva we had the same board set up of 2×2. She chose her chip color and I began calling out a letter. She would then have to find all of that letter on her boards. This lasted about 15 minutes and then we had to switch to a new way. It took that long because of finding all the of the letters each time and she is 3 so taking her sweet time and being silly happened too.
After her attention span shifted I started to cover the letters randomly and asked her what they were. She would tell me and I would move on to the next until the board was covered. This way took about 5 minutes. The second way you can go as fast as she can identify letters and you can cover them with chips. The first way takes longer due to their searching skills.
Playing BOTH ways in one game helps because kids this young generally don’t play a game for more than 15 minutes before wanting to move on. By changing the way you play halfway through you make it a new game and it becomes fun again.
I have to say this is one of the BEST word games I have played that wasn’t digital (which they DO have digital versions I have yet to try!) in large part because of its always changing setup. Most word games can only be played a certain way and usually involve having a large vocabulary and rely heavily on your spelling longer words.
Word Winder keeps you on your toes by challenging you to find words in a certain pattern but doesn’t restrict you to gaining points for longer words. That means that even people who claim to be not so good at word games will do great and people who don’t like word games will like it for its strategy.
If you have Non Readers or PreK/Toddler kids you can use my recommended adjustments too. (Watch out for the small parts though). This is one of the few words games I have ever seen or played that truly is a game for everyone. Except babies or kids who put little things in their mouths…probably not for them. However, it is a game for about ages 3 and up and I am sure all those ages will love it.