In an age where so many children are getting their socialization online, it’s great to find an activity that can pull their attention away from their phones.
Riddles can be a great way to get them thinking about something other than social media.
Riddles can be a great thought exercise for the whole family. They can help you and your child think more critically and creatively—but we’ll get more into that later in the article.
So, continue reading if you’d like to learn about the power of riddles, how to make a riddle, and maybe even learn a few new riddles, too!
What is a Riddle?
A riddle is a verbal or written puzzle. Generally, riddles are a series of connected statements that can be interpreted in many ways. The key factor is that they always offer a problem that needs solving. Whether that’s guessing an object the riddle is cryptically describing or figuring out a location or some other trick, a riddle is made to make you think carefully to solve the mystery.
Riddles can be complicated mind-bending puzzles that leave you or your child frustrated and confused, and riddles can be hilarious with unexpected solutions.
The best ones are thought-provoking but not impossible. They make you feel clever for figuring it out despite the ingenious wordplay. This is the feeling you want to share with your children, the joy of figuring out a complex problem with creative and critical thinking.
Using Riddles in Your Family
Solving riddles can be a great activity to do as a family. For one, it gets everyone together, and the whole family can choose how they want to participate.
Having a time where you can get with your children and problem solve in a low-stakes situation can be beneficial for many reasons.
Your child may be having issues with their social skills, having a get-together like this can provide an excellent teaching opportunity for child and parent. The child is safe to make mistakes during the conversation without fearing ridicule.
You can then help guide them through better communication tactics and show them by example how to behave in a group discussion.
Along with the ability to get your family thinking and talking on the same page, sharing a few riddles around the kitchen table can also provide your children with many other benefits.
Reading Comprehension. While your child may be literate, they may or may not lag in the reading comprehension area. This is a common phenomenon. Often, it’s not just children that don’t have the highest reading comprehension level they could have.
Reading comprehension is as much of a skill you need to hone as learning to read is. The more you read and think critically, the better your perception gets.
Everyone needs to train to ensure that their reading comprehension remains high. Doing riddles with your child can help them better understand words and the intentions behind sentences.
This helps increase their critical thinking skills and their reading comprehension. And on top of that, you’ll also be helping yourself out by training your brain with riddles too.
Expanding Vocabulary. This benefit goes hand in hand with the first one. While you can help increase your child’s reading comprehension with riddles, you can also introduce them to new and complex words.
In the low-stakes situation of the riddle with you and the child trying to solve it together, this is a great time to ask questions. Teach your child that it’s alright to look up a word that they don’t know and show them how to figure out the meaning of a word through the context clues the rest of the sentence provides.
A child should not feel ashamed for not knowing something. Solving riddles can help them build a better mindset about learning while teaching them many new words.
Learning How to Problem Solve. Problem-solving and critical thinking are two of the most highly sought-after skills in the world. No matter what your child’s eventual field of expertise will be, these skills will make them better employees and leaders.
The earlier you start teaching a child how to think critically and solve problems, the better they can approach any academic or social situation.
Riddles offer an excellent opportunity for you to encourage creative thinking. Riddles help open your mind up to different perspectives and make you try and decipher meaning even from cryptic sentences.
This makes riddles a great training tool for honing creative problem-solving skills.
Introducing them to Complex Humor. Laughter and humor are essential to living a happier life. People who laugh a lot tend to deal with stress better and have an easier time in social situations.
Children are often naturally interested in humor, though to varying degrees. Children who are old enough to participate in a conversation about riddles are often more interested in slapstick or bathroom humor before they develop a taste for witty or sarcastic jokes.
Using riddles can introduce your child to more complex intellectual humor. They can be a great way to interest a child in joke-telling when they seem naturally inclined to intellectual pursuits.
However, you can also play to your child’s obsession with poop jokes to get them to critically think. Find or make riddles with bathroom humor as a theme to get them interested in work play and complex thinking.
Putting Some Power into Their Hands. Teaching your child about riddles and doing riddles with them can give them a lot of benefits that we’ve covered. But it also can offer them a unique icebreaker that they can use at school to make new friends.
Or, they can teach other children the same skills they have learned. This can make them more confident in their understanding of the riddle they learned, and confidence is what really helps develop those vital problem-solving skills.
Getting Creative: Make Up Your Own Riddles
Making a riddle can also be a great activity. You don’t need any paper, so you can make a riddle with your child anywhere. In a long car ride, or when waiting for somewhere where there’s not much to do, making riddles can keep you and your child occupied on something productive.
To make a riddle, you need to understand the parts and how these parts work together. We’ll tell you how to do this, then share a few examples of riddles with you to help you understand how these rules work in action.
Step-by-Step: How to Make a Riddle
Before you start making the riddle, think about what kind of riddle you want to make. There are two kinds. The first is an enigma. An enigma is most often a puzzle that requires careful thinking and problem-solving skills to unwrap and decipher.
The second kind of riddle is the conundrum, which is usually focused on a pun that’s either in the answer or hidden in the riddle itself.
Step 1: Figure Out the Answer
The first step to making a riddle is figuring out the answer. If you don’t know the answer, there is simply no way to make a riddle around it.
Step 2: How Long Will it Be?
You should determine early on how long you want your riddle to be. A long riddle might be too descriptive, making the answer too easy or the question confusing. On the other hand, a simple riddle could be too direct. This can also make the solution too obvious.
This is entirely up to you, just choose the length that makes the most sense for your answer and that you’ll have the most fun making.
Step 3: Create a List
Make a mental list that describes the tangible qualities of your answer.
If your answer is a skyscraper, your list might include tall, shiny, in a city, holds a lot of people, marks wealth, etc.
Step 4: Write the Riddle
Once you know what your answer will be, how long you want your riddle to be, and the aspects of your answer, you can start writing your brand-new riddle. When you’re making a riddle with kids in mind using overly complex language can make it difficult for them to understand, and they may become disinterested in the project. The best riddles will use direct language (though it can be a nice challenge throwing some big words in there) and a clever answer.
A classic riddle as an example would be:
Q: What gets wet the more it dries?
A: A towel!
Stem 5: Share and Edit if Necessary
Congratulations! You’ve made a riddle. Now you can share it with your child. Tell them the puzzle and see if they can get it. If you find out your language was a little clunky or that it turns out your riddle was too easy or hard, you can always try and figure out how to make it better. Or you can use your experience and make an altogether new riddle.
Riddles are best when they’re a little challenging, but the final answer makes you laugh. Plus, your child will be more interested in a riddle that has an element of humor to it. Think about that as you make your own and share your funniest creations with your family. Maybe even host a competition between you and your child to see who can make the funniest riddle!
Easy Riddles to Share with Your Children
Here are some great riddles you can use to kick off the riddle spinning in your household, or they can help you find inspiration to write your own!
Q: What has many eyes but can’t see?
A: A potato
Q: What has many needles but can’t sew?
A: A Christmas Tree
Q: What type of band never plays music?
A: A rubber band
Q: What has many words but never speaks?
A: A book
Q: What goes up and down but never moves?
A: The stairs
Q: What runs around the backyard but never moves?
A: The fence
Q: What stalks the country with ears that can’t hear?
Q: I’m an odd number, but if you take away one letter I am even. What number am I?
Q: There sits a man in a cabin in Wyoming. In less than a day, he’s still in that cabin, but now he’s in Kansas. How is that possible?
A: The man is a pilot and flies a plane; he’s sitting in the cabin.
Q: There’s always one word spelled wrong in every dictionary. Which word is it?
Q: What can your pocket have in it, yet it keeps it empty?
A: A hole.
Q: Imagine you’re watching an electric train that is traveling 60 MPH while going against the wind, and you see it go off past the horizon. Think back—which direction did the train’s smoke drift off to?
A: Nowhere! There can’t be smoke coming from an electric train.
Q: What runs but cannot walk, has a mouth but no teeth, has a bed but cannot sleep?
A: A river.
Q: What belongs to you that you rarely use, yet everyone else uses it all the time?
A: Your name.
Q: There’s a bunch of people living in an oval house. First, there were the parents, a chef, the nanny, a butler, and a young girl along with her brother. One afternoon the boy was found dead by the butler, and no one could explain how such a tragedy occurred. The chef insisted he was busy cooking dinner, while the nanny was busy with the young girl. The parents were at work, and the maid declared she was busy dusting corners all day. So, who could have killed the boy?
A: It had to be the maid; how could she be dusting corners in an oval home?
Q: What’s as large as an elephant, but weighs no more than air?
A: The elephant’s shadow.
Q: What has legs but cannot walk?
A: A table.
Q: I run but never walk. I’m often first in a room but hardly last. What am I?
A: A nose.
Q: I have one head and one tail, but I have no body to speak of. What am I?
A: A coin.
Q: I begin and end with e, yet only contain one letter. What am I?
Q: What has a head but no neck, and has two arms but not one hand?
A: Your shirt.
Q: What can be found at the end of a rainbow?
A: No gold here, just the letter W.
Sharing the Knowledge and Developing Those Critical Thinking Skills
When you teach, solve, create, and figure out puzzles and riddles with your child, you’re helping them develop critical thinking skills that will help them succeed in school and life.
Riddles can also be a great way to productively pass time if you’re waiting in a line somewhere. Plus, making riddles can be a great activity to do on the weekends or on a long road trip.
Whenever you choose to do or make some riddles with your child, making riddles is a great way to have fun while still encouraging learning.
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Valerie Mellema is a writer living on Lake Fork in East Texas with a crew of three border collies, goats, horses, and a whole bunch of chickens. When she’s not writing or riding, she enjoys knitting and needle felting, a hobby she picked up in Ireland.