Before I fell hook, line and sinker into the blogging vortex, I used to do other things with my time online, like stalk people on facebook, leave mean Yelp reviews for restaurants that had terrible service and cheat like no one was watching while I played Words With Friends.
I’m kidding. I would never cheat at Words With Friends. That’s like the LOWEST OF THE LOW. I mean— who would do such a thing? Surely not MY MOTHER, now would you? Asking for a friend.
Words With Friends used to be my very favorite way to pass the time on the subway, on lines, on the toilet, etc. I developed very meaningful relationships with an odd assortment of people, based solely on the fact that we knew we would each play our turn multiple times a day. Besides my mother, my Words With Friends inner circle included an old high school friend, an ex co-worker, a family friend of my mother’s and an ex-boyfriend. I don’t know what I would have done without them.
Then I started the blog, became immediately obsessed and let it eat up all of my time (yes, even the time on the toilet) and left my Words With Friends buddies in the dust. Games abandoned right in the middle. Sorry, guys.
Recently, I was very excited to learn that Words With Friends has come out with a version for kids. It’s called Words With Friends EDU (available only on tablets and web), it’s FREE and it’s for kids in second grade and up, meaning I could give it a try with Mazzy.
A parent or teacher has to sign up first from their device and start a “class.” Then you are given a code that you can give to your kids or your students so they can play on their own tablets against one another in a closed circle. As a parent, it’s important to note that even if you are in the same home, you still need two tablets to play. I would also suggest setting up your iPad first and then your kid’s iPad before you initiate play. I made the mistake of trying to sign Mazzy up first which made her into the teacher and then we had to log out and start over. Also, make sure you write your kid’s password down because it prompts you to login each time you open it up and your second grader will surely forget it.
Finally, we had Mazzy logged in from her iPad (aka Mike’s iPad) and she joined my class of one and we started playing.
Mazzy had never played Scrabble before so I had to explain the rules to her from scratch. The game also gives you numerous prompts when you first start, walking you through the rules and what each button means. Still, for kids on the younger side, like Mazzy, I definitely needed to hold her hand and explain a few times. I’m still not sure if she understands how triple letter and triple word scores work, but the game adds up the points for you, so I’m sure she’ll get it in time.
The best moment of the night was definitely when Mazzy saw my first word pop up on her board. She’s never played an interactive game like that with a real person so that seemed like magic to her.
The challenging part was trying to keep my old Words With Friends competitive tendencies in check. I didn’t think clobbering my six-year-old on her first time playing would do much for her confidence, so I resisted the urge to put a “Z” on a triple letter triple word combo score. I also tried not to do anything too complicated by making multiple words at once, although I did show her how she could put an “S” or a “D” at the end of a vertical word and use it as the beginning or end of another word horizontally.
I also played the word “Qi” at one point (although it was really a throwaway Q for Mazzy’s sake) and Mazzy screamed, “THAT’S NOT A WORD!!!” I told her, “It is. But only in this game. You will have no reason to use it otherwise.”
Another funny moment (inside my head) was seeing that I could play the word “sex” so that the “X” was used twice on a double letter score, and then realizing that I absolutely could not play it unless I wanted to answer the question, “What does that mean???”
As a Words With Friends enthusiast, letting that go was HARD.
Mazzy really loved seeing her points add up (I made sure I was a little behind her every turn) and I swear, her head almost exploded when she reached over 100.
You can also earn badges for things like making words, completing games, looking up definitions and playing a word from the list of designated “power words.” By earning a certain amount of badges, you can unlock alternative options and accessories for your cartoon avatar. If Mazzy is our test case, than I can say without a shadow of a doubt— badges can really excite and incentivize little kids.
At one point, I got a prompt to use a word I had played in a sentence with multiple choice answers. When I answered, I ended up scoring extra points which made Mazzy mad because she never got the same option. If I could give one criticism of the EDU version, it is that I wish the game knew I was the “teacher” and just gave the “student” opportunities to score more points if they were falling behind. Or maybe even give the teacher control over additional opportunities for their students to earn points to help make the game more competitive and boost confidence.
I helped Mazzy frequently form words but also let her play her own turns. She’s got a long way to go, but still it was fun to see her get excited by forming a simple word like “bun” or “to” and proudly pressing “play.” Then I’d make sure to play just as easy of a word on my turn and help her score big the next turn so that she stayed ahead. Although, as the game progressed, it definitely got trickier for her and harder for me to keep the board easily playable for her.
While Mazzy was trying to come up with a word, I used that time as an opportunity to quiz Harlow on the letters on my board. It was a great way to involve her and according to her teacher, she really needs to work on learning the alphabet (more on that in a later post.)
In the end, Mazzy won as planned. She pranced around the room, yelling that she beat me so loud that I bet our neighbors are thinking— Wow, that lady next door must be terrible at Words With Friends!
My pride got the best of me. I told Mazzy, “You let me know when you want me to play my hardest.”
She smiled at me slyly. She knew all along I was helping her out.
The next day, I had plans with my friend Emily for our annual joint birthday celebration. She lives on the opposite end of Manhattan and we talked about how we wished our kids spent more time together. Then I had an idea.
“Would Charlie want to play the kid’s version of Words With Friends with Mazzy????”
“Yes! He would love that!”
When I got home, I told Mazzy that we could add Charlie to our Words With Friends class so they could play together. Her eyes lit up.
“All the way from the Upper West Side???”
“That would be awesome, Mom. This is the coolest game ever.”
Thank god. Because I could not go on losing to a second grader forever!
This post was sponsored by Zynga, but the review is honest and my own.