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Hangman: 13 Fun Alternative Word Games (Snowman, Spaceman,…)

Hangman Chalk Writing on Old Grunge Chalkboard
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Almost everyone is familiar with Hangman. It’s a simple word game two or more players can enjoy with only paper and pencil. The goal of playing Hangman is to correctly guess the hidden word before the stick man, aka Hangman, is ‘hung’. 

Regardless of its long history and overall popularity, the past few decades have brought about some rising concerns and debates regarding this game – after all, it does involve hanging a man if the players cannot guess the hidden word or phrase! 

While the core mechanics of the game undoubtedly represent a valuable learning tool for children and those seeking to learn a second language, the visual depiction associated with it has been brought into question as it can be considered insensitive, offensive, and may even cause distress for players, especially children.

As a result, teachers and parents across the globe have come together to find alternatives for the game of Hangman. These games cultivate similar skills but employ mechanics and visuals that are more kid-friendly. So, if you are part of the group of parents or teachers out there who worry that Hangman might not be an appropriate game to bring into the home or classroom, you may want to be armed with alternative games when the kids ask to play it. 

We have taken the time to round up 13 simple games that have a similar underlying lesson as Hangman, but are presented in a more appropriate form of gameplay for children. These games are fun to play, easy to learn, and often used as alternatives to Hangman.

Alternative games to Hangman – 13 fun options to consider:

1. Snowman

This is probably one of the most common alternatives to Hangman. The rules are pretty much the same. But rather than drawing a hangman, you draw a Snowman. There is also another digital version of Snowman, where instead of drawing the Snowman, you have to prevent the Snowman from melting. Every time you guess incorrectly, a part of the Snowman melts. 

2. Spaceman

This is another great alternative to Hangman. Again the rules are the same, but instead of drawing a hangman, you draw a spaceship.

3. Category Words

This is a simple and fun, yet non-competitive game that can help your children or students cultivate their vocabulary. The idea is to make a table with categories of words (such as food, clothes, animals, etc.) marking the columns, and alphabet marking the rows. Then, you ask the children to come up with a word for each category that starts with a given letter in turn.

If you wish, you can make the game competitive by assigning rewards based on the number of words can come up with, or you may assign a reward for all of them if they succeed at filling up the entire table

4. Word Hunting

This is a very proactive game that helps children learn their alphabet and practice their reading skills. Give them a notebook where each page is marked with a ‘task’ to fulfill or words to hunt, such as ‘words that begin with R’ or ‘words on store signs’. 

Instruct your players to record words they see on pages marked by fitting categories, then encourage them to read them aloud. Word hunting is a game that activates a child’s brain in a similar way to Hangman. 

5. One Letter Change-Up

This one is best played with school-age kids. You give them a short word, with four to five letters at most, and instruct them to come up with a list of new words by changing one letter at a time. For example – time, tome, tore, lore, core, cork, etc. 

If you would like to, you can make it more competitive by setting up a timer and/or assigning rewards for coming up with a predetermined number of words. 

Have a dictionary handy when playing this game, as there are bound to be words that crop up that need a definition! As you might have already guessed, this is a great game for developing a child’s vocab.

6. Big Words, Little Words

Big Words, Little Words is a great game to play with children who can read and write. To play the game, write a long word on a piece of paper or on your blackboard. It doesn’t matter whether the children are familiar with it or not. It only matters that it has an interesting and diverse collection of letters. Give your children a timer and instruct them to come up with a list of small words by using the letters they see in the big word.

The colorful words "PLAY" made with wooden letters
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7. Call my Bluff

Call my Buff is a fun, competitive game that is excellent for students or sleepover parties. The children should be divided into teams. Each team should be given a list of words that may not be quite familiar to them, but are still common enough to be used. Each team should use a dictionary or an internet search to find true definitions of the words they were given. Then, they should come up with two alternate meanings for each word. 

When all this is done, teams compete by reading each word in turn, along with all three meanings associated with each word, and trying to guess the right one, scoring points along the way. 

8. Rhyming Animals

The idea behind Rhyming Animals is to imagine a word, usually, an animal, come up with a rhyme for it, and have the children try to guess what it is. As an example: “I rhyme with log. I am (dog)”, “I rhyme with vow, I am (cow).” This proves to be a fun game for children of all ages. 

9. Unscramble the Words

This one is simple but will get your children thinking. Write a list of words, then scramble up the order of letters. Encourage the children to look at the letters and try to figure out what words they spell out when aligned properly. This game can be played this game for fun or as a competition.

10. I Spy

This one is almost as popular as Hangman and almost as classic. Spot something and tell children what letter it begins with, then let them take guesses at what you’re seeing. To play the game, you simply start by saying, “I spy with my little eye, something beginning with S.”

11. Word Family Game

This is another rhyming game that is fun for kids. Select one word and have them write as many words as they can that rhyme with it. It helps build their vocabulary and hone their language skills. As with some other games we have discussed here, you may choose to make it competitive by setting timers, word number thresholds, and rewards. 

Word Search Puzzle
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This one is really fun but somewhat more challenging. Draw a grid of ten by ten squares, or as many as you would like, and place words onto the grid – trying to get as many as possible. Words can be written downwards, upwards, horizontally (in either direction), or diagonally just the same. Some may overlap. Have children identify as many of them as they can. 

13. Scategories

While this is an official board game you can purchase online, you can also make it yourself. You will only need some pieces of paper and a pencil for each player. The sheets of paper are to be filled with grids. The top columns are to be filled with different categories. These can be anything you want, but they should probably relate to something most players will be familiar with, such as city, movie, animal, etc. 

Once the grids have been drawn, it’s time to choose a letter. This can be done by throwing a dice, or blindly pointing to a page in the book. When the letter is selected, players are to fill in as many of the gaps for each category with words that start with the chosen letter.

This game is almost always competitive, and the winner is the one with the most cells filled in at the end. Scategories is excellent for honing vocabulary, language, and spelling skills, as well as their general knowledge. 

All in all

Despite the controversy, Hangman is still a widely played game that doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon. You are perfectly within your reason to ‘stick’ to it if you feel it’s appropriate for your purpose. 

But, if you are on the lookout for alternatives, we hope that the list we have provided proves useful and entertaining as either a learning tool or a fun family pastime. While most of them have been designed with children in mind, many are quite popular with adults as well, so don’t hesitate to try them out yourself.