Hangman is a much-loved game for kids of all ages that’s often seen on whiteboards in elementary school classrooms as an easy brain break activity, or as a game to play just before the kids head out for lunch. But, is it an appropriate game to be playing with young kids?
Don’t get me wrong, I used to play a Hangman game almost every day in the classroom when I was teaching! It was a great way to increase their vocabulary and develop their logic and spelling skills. But, after doing a bit of research into the origins of this game, and the fantastic alternatives available, my opinion has changed. If I were back in a classroom, I would pick one of these alternatives to Hangman in the classroom. Bonus: They’re a whole lot more creative!
Is Hangman offensive?
There’s no doubt about it, this game definitely had dark beginnings. It is believed it was once played when a prisoner was facing the death penalty back in the 17th century. It was called the ‘Rite of Words and Life’. Without going into too much detail, you can kind of guess how it once played out. We asked some teachers if they found the term ‘hangman’ offensive and if they would play it in their classroom, and here’s what some of them said:
- “We’ve got significant childhood trauma that involves suicide. We do not play this game. Grow the flower is our game!” – Kristine
- “I don’t find it offensive and I play it with my own family – but tend to use alternatives when teaching because you never have a complete picture of all the kids’ backgrounds and I don’t want to trigger anything.” – Jennifer
- “No, I don’t. I think once you start diving down the rabbit hole of being overly PC all the time, you create a lot of unnecessary work and fuss over things that generally no one has an issue with. But, if someone I was educating had an issue with the name of the game I would definitely provide an alternative.” – Melissa
So, many teachers didn’t necessarily find the game offensive, but they were more concerned about the effect of playing the game with some students in their class and whether it triggers certain emotions. So, it really comes down to the kids in your class. But, before you stop reading this blog, why not check out these super engaging alternatives to Hangman. You never know, your kids may enjoy them a little more…
4 Alternatives to Hangman for Kids
You’ll notice with any of these alternatives to Hangman, the premise of the game is exactly the same: you’re picking a word and putting a dash for each letter in the word. Each time a player picks a letter that is not in the word, you either draw one part of a picture or click to make part of an image disappear (Interactive PowerPoints). If they choose the word without the image being completely drawn or completely disappearing, they win!
(1) Disappearing Ice Cream Sundae (Interactive PowerPoint)
Your students will adore this fantastic alternative to hangman – the Disappearing Ice Cream Sundae game. They’ll be ooo-ing and aah-ing as the delicious ice cream slowly disappears before their eyes! Words included in the initial download include:
- ice cream
Don’t forget to download the blank option so you can add in your own words that may be more suitable for the age of your students.
(2) Mouse and Cheese Game
The point of this game is that you want to save the cheese from the mouse. Draw a simple mouse at the bottom of some stairs and cheese at the top (the beauty of this is you can decide how many incorrect guesses you’ll allow your students to get). Each time the students miss a letter, draw a little loop to show the mouse going up a step.
Why not print out a mouse and piece of cheese to re-use time and time again!
(3) Rocket Blast Off
It’s time to blast off! Draw a simple rocket, adding parts to it as the students guess an incorrect letter. Make sure there is something final at the end like three lines drawn at the bottom of the rocket that symbolize the rocket blasting off into space!
(4) Spider in a Web
Another fun option is drawing a web and then a simple spider hanging from or in the spider web. You could either draw the spider (a body and eight legs) and then draw a length of spider silk as the last part. Alternatively, draw a simple spider web and the spider hanging from the spider web. All of this depends on the age of your students, the length of the words you are using, and how many incorrect guesses you are going to allow!