I have always loved word games. I grew up in a family that played a whole lot of Boggle, Probe and Scrabble- and fondly remember the Webster's Dictionary as being always nearby to prove/disprove a "word" of suspicious origin.
Now that I have children of my own, I am hoping to pass on the "word game" love. In addition to the aforementioned classics, I have added Bananagrams to my own family's game shelf.
Bananagrams is somewhat similar to Scrabble. The tiles are very similar in size, as are the basic rules of word layout/usage.
A Bananagrams game begins by turning all of the 144 letter tiles (the "Bunch") face-down. Then, each player chooses 11-21 tile pieces (depending on the amount of players). Some lucky player in the group then yells "Split" and each player turns over their tiles and proceeds to simultaneously create their own free form individual crossword with their selected tiles.
When a player runs out of letter tiles, that player will shout "Peel" and will select a new tile from the "Bunch." All players must also take a tile when this happens. If a player encounters a letter tile that they do not like (a.k.a the dreaded q, z, or x) then they can yell "Dump" and exchange their undesirable tile for 3 new randomly selected ones in the "Bunch."
When all of the letters in the "Bunch" are gone, the first player with no letter tiles remaining shouts "Bananas," and then their crossword faces the scrutiny of opposing players. Other players can inspect the player's word formations for misspellings or proper nouns. If the Webster dictionary can exonerate the player of any/all word violation accusations, they are then declared winner of that round. If not, the player becomes a "Rotten Banana" (Wa. Wa. Wa....) and has to return all of his/her letters to the "Bunch" to be played by the remaining players.
I like this game for a few reasons:
- It is small- all of the pieces zip up nicely in a little 8" canvas banana which doesn't take up too much room on my tiny game shelf.
- It is portable- you do not have to lug a whole box around with you when you decide to take it out and about. The game creators suggests playing Bananagrams at a restaurant while you wait for food. This sounds like an excellent diversion for my girls (who usually fill up on the bread basket/chips and salsa during this wait) and we will definitely bring it along the next time we are out.
- It is very simple- the rules are basic and uncomplicated. This game is a perfect precursor to teaching a child Scrabble. With Bananagrams, children can gain confidence in basic word formation, and worry about "triple point" squares, and tile point values after the basics have been mastered.
- It is a fast moving game. No game we have played as a family has lasted longer than 5 minutes. It can, however, be extended by playing more rounds on those days when you have a little more time and/or competitive instinct.
- It is educational. Spelling is improved and vocabulary is expanded through play.