I originally posted this at jasonboyett.com a few months ago, but thought it would be worth posting here, too. If you already read it there, forgive me the re-post.


Within the last year, both of my kids have bought their own iPod Touches after saving their money (my wife and I covered the last $50 of each purchase). While it’s smart to limit their use, one of the cool things about the kids having technology pretty similar to our iPhones is that we can all play games like Words with Friends against each other.

Our family is a game-playing family. My wife and I have always enjoyed games, and it occurred to us pretty quickly into our parenting life that games, while pretty fun, could be educational, too. Once, on a trip to Las Vegas, I came home with two fat, spongy dice. My son was four at the time and I taught him to roll dice and add up the spots. He enjoyed playing a made-up game of Who Can Role the Highest? while learning simple addition.

So…Words with Friends. I love it. I’m a word guy, have always loved Scrabble, and tend to have 12-15 WwF games going at any one time. When my kids realized they could get their own usernames and play against Mom and Dad (as well as their grandparents), we decided that we needed some rules to keep it fair.

Here are our rules:

1. The adults have to hold back a little. Which means I have passed up chances to score 100 points on one of my kids by foregoing a Triple Word Score that was practically flashing neon at me. Do we always let our kids win? No. But we try to keep it close and give them opportunities to score big because part of the game is seeing and being able to take advantage of the board. If I’m stealing all the great plays, they won’t have a chance to learn to see those themselves.

2. The kids can cheat…but with conditions. Here’s the deal. WwF is a game that makes it very easy to cheat. I play against adults all the time who, I’m certain, are entering their tiles into one of those third-party apps that list out for them the highest possible word totals. (I’m sorry, but I’m pretty sure you didn’t just pull JOUNCY out of your long-term memory.) This kind of grown-up cheating annoys me. I don’t do it. Call me square or lame-o or whatever, but if I’m going to beat you, I’d like to do it using my brain and not a computer.

BUT, these cheater apps also have some value. They help you learn weird, useful words like QI, KA, XU, etc. So we let our kids use cheater apps when playing against us…but with two conditions. First, they have to know the word it suggests they play (or, if it’s an uncommon word, they have to have played it against us previously). If not, then they must learn the word’s definition and, using the discussion/chat function of the game, message us a sentence that uses the word. Or, at least, define it for us. This keeps them honest, makes them better at the game, and eventually they’ll learn the meaning of JOUNCY.

(Please use it in a sentence: The potholes made the car ride a bit jouncy for my taste.)

In conclusion, Words with Friends is awesome. Words with your kids is even better.

Competition is fun. Competition + learning is even better.


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