Antonym and Synonym Games for Kids

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Goal of Activity: Your child will learn the difference between antonyms and synonyms and practice finding each for words he knows.

Skills Targeted: vocabulary building, opposites

It’s not just kids who have trouble remembering the difference between and an antonym and a synonym, it’s adults, too!

Playing antonym and synonym games can help both you and your child not only remember which is which, but also to come up with them more spontaneously.

That’s great, because when it comes to creative writing, your child is going to need to know antonyms and synonyms to make her writing a little more creative!

What Are Antonyms and Synonyms?

Before playing these games, it’s a good idea to make sure both you and your child are clear on what antonyms and synonyms are.

An antonym is a word or phrase of which the semantic meaning is opposite to another word or phrase. For example, "sad" and "happy" are antonyms of each other. (Interestingly enough, "antonym" is the antonym of the word "synonym.")

A synonym is a word or a phrase of which meaning is the same as that of another word. Synonyms are a little trickier because they’re not always exact. For example, "good" and "kind" are synonyms, but only for one definition of the word "good." If words mean basically the same thing, there are known as synonymous.

Materials Needed:

  • pencil and paper
  • a timer

    1. Play: Name a Synonym (or Name an Antonym)

    You don’t need to play this game with pencil and paper, which makes it a nice game to play when you’re in the car or as a grocery store learning activity when you’re standing in line. If your child has a set of spelling words she's working on this week, you can play using those words.

    Otherwise, the words you play with are your choice.

    Decide whether the object of this round of the game is to name antonyms to a word or synonyms for it. Once that is established, one player says a word. Set a timer for two minutes or take a quick glance at your watch. See how many antonyms or synonyms all the players can come up with in that time.

    Note: For the paper and pencil version, each player writes her words down. For the on-the-go version, players just call out the words as they think of them.

    2. Play: The Antonym or Synonym? Game

    This version of the game requires a written list of words with which you can play. Again, they can be your child’s vocabulary or spelling words or simply a list of words you come up with together. Each player needs to write down the words so they have a copy of the word list.

    The first player picks a word from the list, without revealing it o the other players She then begins saying words that are either all antonyms or all synonyms to her chosen word. The other players must figure out which word from the list she is using and figure out whether she was naming antonyms or synonyms. The first player to figure both of these things wins the round and goes next.

    3. Play: The Antonyms and Synonyms Game

    This last game is more complicated and more competitive than the previous games. It works much better if you have at least four people to play, so you can split into teams. If not, each player is on their own.

    Each team (or player) takes a piece of paper and folds or divides it into two columns, one labeled "Antonyms" and the other labeled "Synonyms." Using the word list from The Antonym or Synonym? Game; cut the words into slips/cards and place them face-down on the table. Have a player draw a card to begin the game.

    Set a timer for five minutes or designate someone to watch the clock. The teams have those five minutes to write down as many antonyms and synonyms they can think of for the word that was drawn.

    When time is up, one team reads their lists.

    For each word or phrase, the other team didn't think of, a point is awarded. (It works the same for both teams, so it is helpful to cross off words that the teams or players have in common.) The team with the most points wins the round.