How to Make Kids' Crossword Puzzles

Written by marie mulrooney
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How to Make Kids' Crossword Puzzles
You can make your own crossword by hand, using graph paper. (pen in hand and crossword image by Nikolai Sorokin from

Crossword puzzles are stimulating educational tools, challenging students of almost any age to create intuitive links between the clues you devise and the word or words each clue represents. If you are working with children who are old enough to comfortably write and spell on their own, they are old enough to do a very simple crossword. It's up to you to make sure that the puzzle's size and difficulty level are tailored to the children's abilities.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Notebook paper
  • Graph paper
  • Pencil or pen
  • Marker

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  1. 1

    Write a list of words you'd like to include in the crossword. These may be related to an educational topic--say, vocabulary words for a foreign language or a science or history lesson--or they may have to do with one of the child's favourite topics, like horses, baseball or perhaps vocabulary drawn from one of his favourite stories.

  2. 2

    Read through your list of words. Eliminate any that you believe are too complicated for the child's reading and cognitive ability. Add more words, if necessary, to round the total out to about 20 clues for young puzzlers; you can use up to 60 clues for older puzzlers if you think they're up to the challenge. (You'd be challenging yourself, too, by making a puzzle that large).

  3. 3

    Devise a clue to help the child guess each of the words on your list. Again, this will have to be tailored to your perception of each child's individual ability. Some good types of clues include fill-in-the-blanks, "rhymes with..." identifying the source of a famous quotation, the author of a book, or translating simple words in a foreign language.

  4. 4

    Create a master list of clues and answers, then tuck this away somewhere safe as an answer sheet. Next, lay out your master "answer sheet" of the puzzle itself by writing each word down, one letter at a time, on a piece of graph paper. Make sure to follow the standard crossword rules: Each word must overlap at least one other word by one letter and no juxtaposed words should create any non-word combinations. Try to keep your words in as compact an area of the page as possible.

  5. 5

    Draw a square or rectangular border around the puzzle you just laid out and colour in any empty grid sections inside this border with the marker. This identifies the squares that your little puzzler won't need to worry about filling in. Draw a border of the same size on a blank sheet of graph paper. Colour in the same blackened squares on this new sheet.

  6. 6

    Assign a number and direction to each word, starting in the upper left corner of the puzzle. The direction is which way the word reads, either across or down, so you might have two words with the number 1 but one word will be designated as "1 across" and the other as "1 down." Write each word's number in the blank puzzle, in the square where the word begins. Also make a list of clues to match the numbers you're writing in the blank grid.

  7. 7

    Copy the blank puzzle and clue sheet as many times as necessary. Keep a master copy of the blank puzzle and clue sheet with your answer sheets just in case you need to make extra copies.

Tips and warnings

  • If you're not up to creating the puzzle on your own, you can have an online puzzlemaker program do it for you; see Resources for an example.

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