Word Ladders

(for ages 4+)


  • Paper
  • Pencil

A word ladder is a sequence of words that each differ from the previous word by replacing some letter(s) in that word to make a new word.

Recipe for Playful Learning!

STEP 1: Choose a word to start with. For example, start with CAT. Replacing one letter at a time, the ladder for cat can become: cat – cot – dot – dog. This is a word ladder that starts at "cat" and ends at "dog."

STEP 2: Each week, increase the number of letters to replace and/or add. For example, the word ladder for CAT can become: cat – scat – slat – slit – flit. This is a word ladder that starts with “cat” and ends with “flit.”

There’s no limit to the number of words you can create.; see how many you can create given the time you spend on the ladder.


Depending on the age of your children, you can create your own guideline:

  • Substitute or change only one letter at a time, increasing to multiple letters at a time to see how long your word ladder can be.
  • Replace or add only at the beginning of the word, or only at the end of the word, to see the changes in your word ladder.
  • Set time limits for each word ladder to see how many words your child can create. Once time is up, have children compare their word ladders to see the new words they all created from one simple starting point.

Skills to Practice: Spelling, Language, Organization, Critical Thinking