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I’m always looking for games or ideas to strengthen a child’s phonetic awareness, spelling, and reading skills. While returning some Christmas gifts to Target, I came across an amazingly simple game that every household with kids should have, Bananagrams!

This crossword style game is a lot of fun while working with letters and the art of anagram. An anagram is a type of word play where the result from rearranging the letters of a word or phrase produces a new word or phrase. While playing Bananagrams, the monkeys (as I always call my players) will rearrange letters to create words. Letters may be reused in a crossword grid format to help create new words. All of the directions and a great resource can be found here:

An older child typically plays this game, from about 1st grade and up. But, with the help of the Bananagrams website and some of my colleagues, I have come up with variations of this game for younger, PreK-aged, children. These variations will familiarize your young children with the letters of the alphabet and begin the process of using letters to form words and collective sounds.

Variation #1:
Give each monkey 5 tiles facedown. Place the banana pouch in the middle of the players.  Each monkey takes turn lifting one tile at a time. The monkey must say the name and sound of the letter, for example “A” “aaaaaaaaa.” Monkeys will then place the tile they have used inside of the pouch.
*If you have a range of age groups, the older monkeys can also use the letter in a word with the correct sound.

Variation #2:
To introduce the idea behind using the letters to form words, give each monkey an odd number of tiles, for younger monkeys you can begin with just 3, for older monkeys you can give up to 11. The reason for an odd number of tiles is because most basic words such as “CAT” or “DOG” require at least 3 letters.  Monkeys are in charge of trying to create words with the tiles in front of them. If they cannot create a word, they can take 1 tile at a time from the pouch to add to their existing tiles.
*Older monkeys can try to form longer words or even one noun and one verb, such as “CAT” and “RUN.”

Don’t be afraid to try any creative way you come up with these amazing tiles! Take them with you on the go in their wonderful yellow, banana-shaped pouch. For even more variation on this game, look for Bananagram’s other games: Appletters, Pairs In Pears, Zip It, and Fruitominoes. You can find these different games by clicking here: