Word Fun With an Old Friend: Whole-Camp Recycled Scrabble

Camp fun with words!

If you're searching for a simple game with a sentimental twist, here's one guaranteed to be a hit: Whole-Camp Recycled Scrabble. The materials, group size and mode of game play are quick and easy enough that you can have this game up and rolling in a matter of a few minutes. With a couple of creative twists on the game play, you can keep it going for an hour or an afternoon. Best of all, it's earth-friendly and almost free.

Ready for the details?

The materials of Recycled Scrabble are just that: Scrabble 'tiles', or even-sided squares of cardboard.  Broken-down cardboard boxes and even disassembled, standard-sized front and back panels from cereal boxes will work. Create as many tiles as you like by using large, permanent markers to write alphabet letters on the plain side of the cardboard tiles. You can include point values for each letter in the lower right corner of the tile, and if you want to be true to the spirit of the original Scrabble game, here’s a table of the distribution of the hundred standard tiles that come with the game:

Points & Tiles Per Letter

0 Points -- 2 Blank Tiles

1 Point -- LSU (4 Tiles), NRT (6 Tiles), O (8 Tiles), AI (9 Tiles), E (12 Tiles)

2 Points -- G (3 Tiles), D (4 Tiles)

3 Points -- B,C,M,P (2 Tiles)

4 Points -- F,H,V,W,Y (2 Tiles)

5 Points -- K (1 Tile)

8 Points -- J,X (1 Tile)

10 Points -- Q,Z (1 Tile)

Next, choose one of three pre-determined group sizes: whole-group, teams or partners.


In the whole-group game, the tiles are turned upside-down. Each individual draws their own tile to play with and intermixes randomly with the whole group.


Players on teams of 15 to 20 start by drawing an individual tile, then congregate and spell words with their team’s letters only (as a team) in an effort to beat other teams.


Partner games involve two people each drawing an indivdual tile, then remaining together so that both of the partners' letters are used in the same word as the partners intermingle with other partners in a whole-group game.

After the group type has been chosen, there are two modes of game-play.

In the first, the game is played traditionally by laying letter tiles into stationary groups of words that can intersect as long as all adjacent letters also form a word. The traditional goal is to use as many letters as possible to create a word. The game, therefore, is designed to be played in a very large, open space with plenty of room for movement and area for the teams to move around in. Consider the weather, too--windy and rainy days aren't much fun--but the game could be moved into a large, multi-purpose space such as a dining hall or other large, open center.

The second mode of game play is to have players carry their letters either individually (in the group game), with teams or with partners, and run in a large, open space to adjoin others to create the words as topics are called rather than the more ordered, traditional manner.

Once the group size and playing mode of Recycled Scrabble is established, the rest of the game is simple. Before starting, decide if scoring will be kept and how it will be communicated to players.

In the traditional mode, teams/groups must come up with their own words to play and lay out tiles in the game board fashion. Give a time limit if desired.

In the second mode, choose one central person to shout out topics that send campers running and scrambling for others who can complete a suitable word. For example, if the group type is whole-camp and "Movies" is chosen, everyone tries to find the right letters to create a movie-themed word within a 3-minute time frame. The words are scored/noted as long as they're related to the topic. If points are given, have them tallied and recorded by non-players.

As a bonus, twenty potential topics for the second mode of play are:

3-letter words

6-letter words





Scary things



Video games

Sports teams


Ugly things

Famous people



Winter activities

Cartoon characters


Song titles

Beth Morrow is an author, educator and word aficionado who refuses to consider Aa and Oe words, even though they count in Scrabble. Reach her at Beth@bethmorrow.com