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Now that it’s summer, it’s time to have lots of projects to keep your kids busy. Making word search puzzles for friends and family is one great hobby. But your kids don’t have to make ordinary puzzles with a random set of words.
Use one of the ideas below for a puzzle with a twist! Kids can learn new words, practice their spelling, make cool gifts, and have fun while making these puzzles.
- First, buy a packet of graph paper at your local office supply store. Purchase graph paper with 4 squares per inch, for kids ages 8 and up. By starting in one corner of a paper, you can make several puzzles from a single page. One packet of graph paper can last you all summer!
- Always think about who will be receiving/solving the puzzle before you make it. Choose simple words for young solvers and bigger words for older friends.
Use Only One Word
- Choose a word of interest to the person who receives it. Suppose, for example, that Grandma has apple decorations all over her kitchen. Your puzzle word could be APPLE.
- Make a rectangular puzzle that’s about 12 x 12 squares. Write the word APPLE inside in different directions about 4 or 5 times. Then fill the blank spaces with A, P, L, E until all the spaces are full. Cut out the puzzle. Glue it onto a piece of red construction paper cut in the shape of an apple.
- Then ask Grandma, “How many times can you find the word APPLE?” She will be delighted, to the core!
- You can think of lots more fun words like this to hide.
- Choose a topic of interest to the person who will be receiving the puzzle. For example, if Grandpa loves to garden, use gardening or vegetables as the topic.
- Brainstorm to make a list of both long and short words related to the theme. For gardening, list soil, seed, plant, hoe, weeds, tomatoes, cucumber, radish, rain, sun and more.
- Place the words in a rectangular space of graph paper. Place the longest words first.
- Decide how large the puzzle will be and make sure your words fit inside that space.
- Make a list of the words as you hide them.
- Double-check the puzzle.
- Make your puzzle into a gift. Type the letters and word list on the computer and add some appropriate clip art. Or simply cut out the puzzle from the graph paper page, glue it onto a blank page, and write the word list on that paper. Tuck the puzzle inside a card or just hand it to the lucky recipient.
Word List Twists
- Choose an interesting theme, make a word list, and then use only half the words in the puzzle. I once made a puzzle about roses for a newspaper. I called it “A Thorny Puzzle.” I included a list of 22 words related to roses and then asked the solvers which 11 of these words were actually in the puzzle.
- Or, write a listless wordsearch. For Grandpa’s vegetable puzzle, for example, you could hide the names of ten vegetables and not tell him which ones they are.
Your puzzle-writers just might come up with their own creative twist on the popular word search puzzle format. Maybe they’ll even start compiling their own word lists to use in the future. And they just might get the same puzzle-writing itch that this author has had since she was eight years old!