In this activity, you will practice with your child the notion of collocations and word formation.
You will do this by talking to your child about word families wherein words often commonly show up with some other words or parts of words.
Objective(s) of activity:
The main objective is to see how many related words you and your child can form using the same word as a base.
Both of you will take turns forming related words and the winner is the one who can form more words than the other.
Targeted age group:
Children from ages 6 onward can play this game. Children who are younger than this will require clear examples in order to understand properly what word ‘families’ are.
Number of participants:
One child is sufficient to do this activity.
Tell your child that you are going to be finding word ‘families’ much like how you and your child are part of a family.
The game is simple. The first step is to choose a word, say a verb like ‘kick’.
The other person then has to come up with another word which uses the word ‘kick’ as its core meaning. The following shows some members of the ‘kick’ word family.
Eg. Kick – Kicks – Kicker – Kickers – Kick a ball – Kick the bucket – Overhead kick
The first three (kick, kicker, kickers) are part of the same family because they have affixes (or more specifically, suffixes) added to the root word ‘kick’.
The other three can also be considered to be part of the ‘kick’ family because these are collocations, whole words that occur commonly with ‘kick’.
For the purpose of this exercise, we will consider both these types as parts of the same ‘kick’ family.
If your child has difficulty understanding the notion of ‘word family’ you should discuss the ‘kick’ example to illustrate.
My daughter was 5 going on 6 when I did this activity with her for the first time, and once I discussed this example, she knew what I meant by ‘word family’ and was able to play this game quite easily.
You and your child will take turns coming up with one member of the word family and the winner of the round is the one who is able to come up with more words than the other.
The winner will then come up with another word and the game continues.
See the list at the end of this article for more examples of word families.
Notes for scaling up difficulty:
The activity as described is difficult enough for children of ages up to 12 to find interesting. However, there are still ways you can make the game more challenging:
i) Ban certain affixes:
One of the most common affixes that can go on a noun is the plural affix, which can be banned.
Eg. cat – cats, dog – dogs, teacher – teachers
Likewise the most common affix with verbs is the past tense, which can also be banned.
Eg. walk - walked, kick – kicked, jump - jumped
ii) Require more than one family member at a time:
Instead of offering one member at a time, you can do two members at a time. This means that the easier answers run out faster and it becomes harder to come up with more family members.
Eight words and a non-exhaustive list of their ‘family members’:
Child – children – child seat – childish – childlike – child free - child menu
Destroy – destroyer – destroys – Destruction – destroyed – wanton destruction
Lock – locks – locked – unlock – unlocks – unlocked – lockable – unlockable
Ball – balls – basketball – soccer ball – netball – volleyball – pinball
Game – games – gamer – gaming – video game – game of thrones – game boy
Phone – phone call – telephone – phones – phone home – smart phone
Happy – unhappy – happier – happy camper – happiness – unhappiness - happily
Sell – sells – selling – sellable – salability – unsellable – sold – sold out
What other words and their family members did you come up with? Let me know in the comments.