EducationalFamily and Kids Board Games

Junior Learning Spelligator Review

Reviewed by David Ashworth

Spelligator is a word forming game from Junior Learning for 2-4 players aged 5 years and over. It encourages learning of synthetic phonics, phonemic awareness and letter formation and positioning within individual words. The box art is particularly enticing in comparison to some other products from Junior Learning that I have previously seen or reviewed and clearly depicts the objective of the game making it easy to pick up and play.

Inside the box are:

  • 4x Spelligators (plastic alligators with moulds on their backs on which the letter tiles can be placed)
  • 75x letter tiles (23 word beginnings, 27 word ending plastic tiles and 25 middle of word tiles each featuring letters which can form a full word when put together on the Spelligators back)
  • 1x official word list (a list of words, alphabetically ordered which can be used as a prompt or example for words that can potentially be formed in the game)
  • 1x game guide

The aim of Spelligator is for each individual player to choose a uniquely coloured alligator and take turns to flip over letter tiles. They then use the tiles to form words on the alligator/spelligators back until all of the 75 letter tiles have been taken. Once the tiles have all been taken by the players, the person who has managed to stack the highest tower of complete words on the spelligators back is declared the winner of the game.

Simple, right?

Spelligator was designed by Junior Learning founder Doctor Duncan Milne, an educational neuroscientist who uses the very latest cognitive psychology to create unique multi-sensory educational resources that promote and nurture creativity, imagination and emotional development.

Fortunately for me, I have 3 children at home ranging from 3 to 9 years old all performing at different levels of development to test Doctor Duncan’s products on like my own personal guinea pigs!

Before I get into that though, let me give you an adult’s opinion of Spelligator first.

I’ve already mentioned that the box art is very enticing, featuring cartoony alligators chomping down on letter tiles and compared to other products from this manufacturer it does appeal a lot more to kids and parents alike. It entices you to play without negating the fact that this game is for educational purposes, it’s not just a romp in the swamp.

My initial reaction to the four Spelligator pieces, which act as holders for the letter tiles during game play, was that because of the hollowed out design they could easily be broken if accidentally stepped on but other than that they are well designed to mimic the cartoon alligators on the box and brightly coloured to make them distinctive and appealing to the target age group. The letter tiles are also hollowed out but, due to being thinner, are far denser than the Spelligators. There is a risk of choking if younger children are around, however the game clearly states it’s for age five and over. That said, my three-year-old took to it like a duck to water… or… a gator to the swamp if you prefer and had no problems either handling the pieces or placing them on the moulds on the alligator’s backs.

Although my two youngest enjoyed mixing up the word tiles and excitedly forming their own little lexicon, my real interest in this game was for my eldest child. At age 9 he has always struggled at school, in particular with his spellings and word formations so it was my hope that he could play and enjoy this game whilst also further developing his own creative awareness and phonemic knowledge… I was not disappointed.

All my kids really took to this game, but whilst the younger two seemed to enjoy making the alligators battle it out in some kind of literacy death match, my eldest really took well to this game. We played together and he was quick to start mixing words and exploring letter formations. Within seconds he was forming full words, some real and some imaginary but we did enjoy playing around with sounds and letter couplings and it was a joy to see him being creative with language whereas before it felt daunting and overwhelming to him.

This game is wonderful for encouraging creative word play in kids and great for recognition and word formation exercises. It disguises educational word play in the entertaining camouflage of games like ‘Hungry Hungry Hippos’ but unlike such games encourages creativity and imagination whilst the kids just think they’re playing with crocodiles.

Unlike Word Families, a game I previously reviewed for Junior Learning, Spelligator has a single official objective to the game; to stack as many words as possible on an alligators back. Although it is possible to play around with the letters and alligators, disregarding the rules and preventing the game from becoming limited in terms of replay value.

Because of this element of freedom, my kids loved Spelligator and will continue to play with and learn from it for a very long time. As a parent I loved the educational elements of this game but was also thrilled by the potential for creativity amongst my kids. As previously mentioned, this is the second word game from Junior Learners I’ve had the privilege to review and I will endeavour to seek out more of their products as so far they have been fantastic.

Rating: 5/5

RRP: £23.99

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