Going Bananas for Bananagrams: a word game with special RI a-peel

When Rhode Islanders think of a local game company, they think of Hasbro. But there are other Providence-based game companies that have ripened to international stature. That’s right, we are talking Bananagrams. 

“Bananagrams stemmed from my family’s passion for games,” said Rena Nathanson, CEO & Co-Inventor. “At the time we developed it, in the mid-2000s, we were a proud Rhode Island-based family of three generations, spanning in age from 7 to 75 years, and we were craving a word game that we could all play together.” Bananagrams was developed at their Narragansett family beach house in a successful attempt to create a game that was fast, portable and had universal age appeal. 

“After marathon sessions experimenting with various permutations of word games (and subjecting our extended family and friends to hours of testing!), we finally came up with Bananagrams,” Nathanson shared. “The name originated from my dad, Abe, declaring, ‘This anagram game is driving me bananas!’ Hence, Bananagrams!” 

Abe’s wife Sandy designed the iconic banana-yellow pouch, and today their daughter Rena leads the business. From humble beginnings, Bananagrams was recognized as the Game of the Year at the New York Toy Fair in 2009, and has sold over 13 million games as of 2020.

Nathanson describes the game as both “addictively simple, and simply addictive.” Players and their opponents are given letter tiles – think Scrabble – and have to create a grid of words out of them. Once a player uses all of their letters, they shout “peel!” and everyone takes an additional tile. Grids can be rearranged at any point to handle the problem letters (think Q, Z, J), so quick-thinking has saved many a Bananagram player. The first player to have no more tiles to play after the draw pile is empty wins! 

And, if Bananagrams is already in your collection, there are lots of twists on the original game. The company sells a Party Edition where players can blow up other player’s grids, a WildTile edition with tiles that can be substituted for any letter, and a Duel edition in which two players can face off, plus a plethora of other games that we can only assume are just as awesome. 

“It’s a great gift for friends, family, teachers, kids, co-workers, your dentist, your vet…I could go on and on!  And it’s packaged in a simple banana-shaped small cloth pouch making it an ideal stocking stuffer.” Nathanson said. 

Bananagrams is the perfect gift for the competitive, fast-thinking logophiles in your life. 

While you can buy Bananagrams at Walmart, Target, or on Amazon, Motif suggests shopping at a local toy store, like Henry Bear’s Park, 736 Hope Street, PVD.