5 Dinnertime Games to Boost Literacy

Make mealtimes a learning experience for your family with verbal games that encourage listening, rhyming, storytelling and more.

By Allison McDonald



Sitting dow to eat is about so much more that just fueling our bodies. It’s about connection, sharing, and yes — even learning.

Don’t worry: You won’t need a pencil or paper for any of these games and I doubt your kids will even know they are boosting their literacy skills because they'll be having so much fun. These games work on rhyming, listening, storytelling, letter sounds, and spelling which are all important parts of the literacy puzzle.

1. Food Rhyme. This game is exactly what it sounds like. One person calls out a food, and you go around the table trying to think of a word that rhymes with it. The first person to fail to produce a rhyme calls out a new food or ingredient on their dinner plate.

2. Telephone. You know this game: One person starts a message, and everyone passes it around the table by whispering in their neighbor’s ear. This works particularly well with large families but small families can play too — the focus will just shift to retelling rather than listening. The trick is that you ask questions about your child’s day. Things like “Tell me about when you felt angry today.” Not only are your children going to practice listening they will also be practicing recalling events.

3. Your Day in Photos. OK, so I said these games required no pencils or paper, but I didn't say anything about smartphones. Yes, yes, I know — I have a "no screens at the table" rule too, but rules are made to be broken, especially when it’s for a good cause. Storytelling is an important skill and what better way to tell stories than with photos as prompts. This game is best if you prep for it by asking everyone to take photos of their day to share at dinner.

4. Around the World. This is a favorite road trip game that is fun after dinner, too. As a family, your goal is to go through the whole alphabet matching up each letter to a country, state, or city. You can play all together throwing out suggestions, or you can go around the table giving everyone a different letter. Psst! Xiamen is a city in China, just in case you get stuck with X!

5. Alphabet Soup Spelling. You can do this with any food that has letters. Our favorite is actually chicken nuggets in letter shapes, but chicken nugget spelling didn’t have a good ring to it. The goal here is to spell the longest word you can, but you can only use the letters in your food. It has to be a real word, and all letters are equal value. I like playing this game when dinner has just been served, and we are waiting for it to cool off.

Every mealtime doesn’t have to be learning time but incorporating some fun learning games from time to time pays off.

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