These multiplayer word games pit you not only against the clock but also against real live opponents. They are fun and educational - a perfect use of the communication power of the Internet. But all these games include chat, so please supervise your children, and be sure to teach them appropriate safety rules.
How many words can you make in three minutes out of letters in the name "John Lennon"? Play "What's in a Name?" in one of the Free-For-All rooms and you'll get points for all words you make, or in the Speedster rooms where only the first player to propose a word gets the point. I really liked "Word Know-It-All": a timed vocabulary game that can be played at a variety of speeds. All these Java-free games include chat, so appropriate parental supervision is advised.
Mind Fun brings us two Java word games with chat. Word Web is a timed scrambled word game, with twenty-five letters connected with web-like strands. To form words you can either type them into the text box or drag your mouse over the letters. You'll immediately see your word and its value (one point for four-letter words, two points for five-letter words, and so on) on the scoreboard. Cerebral Vortex is a trivia game ("Cultivated for its long edible root, it's the pale unpopular cousin to the carrot"), with letters appearing hangman style (_ _ _ S _ I_) as the timer counts down.
The Java scrambled word game Tangleword is fast and addictive, and an all-time favorite at our house. You can play as a guest, but registered users (registration is free) can participate in chat during game play, and get a rating that increases or decreases with play. The Tangleword board is a five-by-five square of letters. Words are formed by either typing or dragging your mouse. If you run dry, try the "Rotate" button - possible letter combinations won't change, but your view of the board will.
Word Zap (create as many words from a combination of letters as possible) requires a software download (and isn't always free), but rewards you with a wide range of playing options (some of which are free). This is a game you can play without an Internet connection, or you can play against live opponents via ICQ or Igames.com. When is Word Zap free? Always on Sundays, and always if you play on ICQ or Igames.com. When do you need to pay the $25 registration fee? If you plan to play off-line or over a local area network on days other than Sundays. Whew!