Reviewed by David Ashworth
Who says that learning can’t be fun?
Obviously not the people at Junior Learning as their new release ‘Word Families’, it puts the fun back into phonics and allows children from five years old and up to learn how to create endless word combinations simply by clicking tiles together… simple… effective… fun!
Word Families comes in a fantastically odd shaped little box and contains seventy-four plastic word tiles which can be paired together to make a practically unlimited number of words, a Word Families Game Guide with four separate ideas of how to play with the Word Families tiles each containing different rules and modes of play to make piecing together the tiles that little bit extra fun and competitive as well as adding extra challenges to add a new dimension to a typical playthrough. Finally, a list of sample words that kids can learn from and imitate to facilitate their learning journey.
First of all, I would like to talk about the tiles. They are made of sturdy white plastic slightly over an inch in length which can be slotted together to make a stadium shape, half of the tiles contain potential beginnings of words printed in red such as ‘cr’, ‘bl’ and ‘ch’ for example whilst the other half are printed in blue and are used to complete the word such as ‘ank’, ‘ow’ and ‘alk’.
The tiles are surprisingly sturdy and robust and the pegs which piece the tiles together and hold them in place are very well designed and although Word Families isn’t recommended for children under three years old due to a potential choking hazard, it’s reassuring that the overall quality of the tiles would prevent my three year old daughter (who still loves to stick everything in her mouth) from biting off part of a tile and possibly swallowing it or rendering the tiles unusable.
The tiles are written in lowercase letters which is in my experience how most schools teach the alphabet and phonetics to children of this age group, making it a useful tool for in school and at home for letter recognition and practicing simple CVC words and some which are more advanced.
So now for the important part, did the kids like it?
Before I’d even taken the wrapper off the box my two young girls were chomping at the bit to play this game and the excitement didn’t dwindle once the tiles came out. My girls of four and three years old absolutely loved piecing the tiles together and asking us to read out the words they had formed to gleeful cheers and prideful remarks. It was a real confidence booster for them as they really felt like they were spelling out and forming words independently. The tiles were just the right size for their little hands to manage comfortably and the rounded edges prevented any accidents from happening.
Without getting too personal, we also tried playing this game according to the suggested rules with my nine-year-old son who suffers with an undiagnosed learning disability. He can really struggle at school and at home with problem solving and letter and word formation, so this game took a lot of the hard work out of it for him and, again, really boosted his confidence. The rules of each game make it really simple and easy to pick up and play whilst also adding some diversity to what you can do with the tiles.
So in conclusion, it’s always going to be difficult to find a game or product which can balance being educational and entertaining for young and old alike but we all really loved this game and Word Families is about as good as it gets in terms of academic and absorbing. Word Families is excellent quality and the tiles in particular are surprisingly sturdy. Our kids loved it and didn’t even realise they were learning as they were playing and it was great for my wife and I to do something which was both productive and interesting with our children.
I gladly give Word Families from Junior Learning a five out of five rating and just wish I could award it even higher marks.
For more information or to buy visit juniorlearning.co.uk.