Reading Games for Kids

Stage 1: Pre-Reading

The following games and activities are useful in teaching a young child his beginning letter sounds. After he has successfully completed these, he will be ready for a phonics program. The activities in the following stages are useful in reinforcing whatever reading program you are using with your child. The games progress from simple to more difficult in each stage of reading. Most of all, don’t rush your child, and spend lots of time at each level. If he has difficulty progressing from one stage to the next, go back to the previous stage for a month or so and play some more games for reinforcement.

1. Read, Read, Read, Read, Read to your child. And then read some more. :0)

2. Play rhyming games and read rhyming poetry and nursery rhymes. Ask “What word rhymes with pan?”

3. Play alphabet games: “B says /b/ as in b. . . b. . . ball”, while rolling a ball, etc. Ask “How many words can you think of that start with the /b/ sound? Read alphabet books.

4. Once he knows the letter sounds, write the letters on index cards – lay the cards (a few at a time) on the table and say a letter sound. Tell the child to pick out the appropriate card. If he gets it right, he gets the card. Continue until he holds all the cards.

5. Help your child make an alphabet book: Write each letter of the alphabet on a separate sheet of paper. Staple them all together, like a book. As you teach each new letter sound, let your child find pictures in old magazines (or cheap children’s books from a thrift store) that have that sound. Help him to cut them out and glue them in his book.

6. Bingo: When your child knows his letter sounds he is ready for this game. You will need a few pieces of heavy cardstock, index cards, pen, ruler, and bingo chips. Choose the letter sounds that your child is familiar with and make your own bingo boards with the cardstock, putting one letter in each space. Write each letter on an index card, shuffle them, and turn face down. Make sure each player as some bingo markers and a bingo board. The caller turns over one card at a time and says the letter sound. Each player checks their board for the word and puts a marker on it. The first player to get all their markers in a row wins the game.

7. Write upper and lowercase letters on index cards and have your child practice tracing them with his finger. Other ideas: fill a heavy-duty Ziploc freezer bag with hair gel, seal tightly, and lay bag on a flat surface. Have the child use his finger to make letters on the surface of the bag.

8. Upper and Lowercase letter recognition game: You will need index cards, scissors, and a pen. For each letter of the alphabet – write the upper and lower case letters on an index card with at least an inch of space in between them. Cut the card into two “puzzle” pieces. Do this with all the letters of the alphabet. Have the child match the puzzle pieces with the upper and lowercase letters written on them.

9. Play vowel games: Write the vowels on index cards and have your child practice the short vowel sounds and reinforce this – “A says a. . .a. . apple”. Once he knows them well – lay the vowel cards on the table and say a vowel sound. Tell the child to pick out the appropriate card. If he gets it right, he gets the card. Continue until he holds all the cards.

10. Play blending games: Start with a three letter world (CVC) and say it one sound at a time in a segmented fashion “r . . e. . d”. Have your child try to guess the word. If they have difficulty with this, say the words a bit faster, until they are able to guess the word.

11. Word Building: When your child knows his letter sounds, he is ready for this game. Use a magnet board and magnet letters. Put three letters on the board in random order (c, a, t). Ask the child, “What is the first sound you hear in cat?” saying the word slowly. Help her to listen for each sound and spell out the word. Do this with other short vowel, CVC words.

12. Short vowel sounds and word endings: Starting with the vowel “a”, make word ending cards – on an index card write “at”, on another card write “am”, etc. Help your child sound out and blend the sounds together. When the child can do this easily with the “a” word endings, he is ready to move on to a reading program.

13. If your child likes workbooks and is able to do some beginning writing, I suggest the Primer series from Explode the Code (Books A, B, and C) or Modern Curriculum Press Plaid Phonics K.

This covers the first stage of reading. The next post in this series will cover the second stage of reading - Blending.


Stage 2: Blending

Stage 2: Short Vowel Words (Blending)

This is the most difficult step for a child. If you have been working with him every day and he cannot sound out a word, then take a break and go back to stage one for a month or so, and then try again. For word family lists, see the downloads section of this site (Phonics Games and Activites).

The first step in blending is word families. An example of this is "at" words like cat, sat, bat, fat. The games in this section focus on learning these words.

1. Word family flip books: A child will be ready for this after he is sounding out word endings ("at", "am", etc.). You will need scissors, index cards, a marker, a stapler, and a piece of construction paper. Pick a word ending (ex:“at”) and list the letters you will need to make complete words (ex: b, c, f, etc.). Cut out 1 ½ inch squares of paper and write each beginning letter on a square. Now, put these squares in a pile and staple them to one side of the index card. Write the word ending beside the squares. Now the child can “flip” through his book and sound out his short vowel words. See the downloads section of this site (Phonics Games and Activities) to get started on the first flip-book.

2. Word family card game: Using index cards, make a word ending card for a short vowel word. Then make beginning letter cards for all the letters to make the CVC words, by cutting index cards in half and writing each letter on a card. Turn over the letter cards so you can`t see the consonants. Have your child select one of the letter cards and put it next to the word ending card. If he reads correctly, he gets the card. If he doesn`t get it right, turn the card back over and add it back to the pile on the table. Continue playing until he has all the letter cards.

3. Word family spelling: You will need a magnet board and magnetic letters (ex: a, b, c, f, h, m, p, r, s, and t). Spell out a word for your child (ex: cat). Have him sound out the word. Now ask the child if they can spell another word (ex: pat). Continue this until the child has used all the letters and gone through all the words in the word family. Optional play: After the child has learned other word families, try two word families at once (ex: “ot” and “at” words). Start with a word (ex: cat) and ask the child if he can change the word to “cot”. (see word families at the end of this list)

4. Jumping Bean: After a child has learned all of the words in a word family, write those words on index cards. Place them face up on the floor. Say a word and see how fast your child can jump onto the card.

5. Bag of words: When a child has learned some short vowel words, he is ready for this game. You will need two Ziploc bags, index cards, scissors, and a pen. Cut ten index cards in half. On ten index cards write various word endings. On the other ten cards write letters to make words with the ending cards. Put the word endings in one bag and the letters in another. Have the child draw a card from each bag and make a word (even if it is a nonsense word, the sounding out and blending will be good practice). Another option is to play a two-player game: The first player takes a card from each bag, reads the word, and keeps it on the table in front of them. The next player does the same. Play continues in this fashion until all the cards are used up. Scoring: whoever has the most “real” words wins the game.

6. Mix and Match: You will need two sets of colored index cards. Pick one color for the vowels and write one vowel on each card. Use the other color to make consonant cards. Turn all the cards face down and spread them out a table. Have the child choose one vowel card, two consonant cards and try to make a word with them.

These games are a great way to supplement any phonics program you are using with your child.


Stage 3: Sight Words

It is best to wait on teaching sight words until the child has started blending words easily. After he has started to sound out words in simple, controlled readers, you can simply introduce the sight words as he encounters them in his reading. If he continually has trouble with a word, make a note of the word and write it on an index card for later practice. Have the child go through the cards periodically. If you would rather follow a more formal route, and introduce sight words before they are encountered you can find lists of sight words online or in the downloads section to the right in "Phonics Games and Activities".

1. Bingo: You will need a few pieces of heavy cardstock, index cards, pen, ruler, and bingo chips. Choose a list of words to work on and make your own bingo boards with the cardstock (see the grid on page 3 of "Phonics Games and Activities"). Write each word from the list on an index card, shuffle them, and turn face down. Make sure each player as some bingo markers and a bingo board. The caller turns over one card at a time and reads the word. Each player checks their board for the word and puts a marker on it. The first player to get all their markers in a row wins the game.

2. Concentration: Write each word from the list on two index cards. Shuffle and place all the cards face down on the table. Each person turns over two cards. If they match, he keeps them and plays again. If they don’t match, he turns them back over and play proceeds to the next person. The game ends when all the cards are used. The player with the most pairs wins the game.

3. Bang!: Pick a list of words and write each word on an index card. Write the word “Bang!” on three cards. Put the cards in a bag. The first player picks a card from the bag and reads the word out loud. If he is correct he can keep the card. If he is not correct, the card goes back in the bag and play proceeds to the next person. If his cards says “Bang!”, he must yell “Bang!” and put all his cards back into the bag. Whoever has the most cards at the end of the game wins.

4. Jumping Bean: After a child has learned all of the words in a list, write those words on index cards. Place them face up on the floor. Say a word and see how fast your child can jump onto the card.

5. Word Ladder: You will need a file folder, twenty index cards, a penny, a glue stick, an envelope and a pen. Choose a list of sight words and write them on the index cards. Open the file folder, turn it sideways and draw a ladder with 17 steps. This will be your game board. On the outside of the file folder, glue the envelope and store the penny and cards in it until you are ready to play the game. To play the game, shuffle the index cards and place face down beside the game board. Have the child turn over a card and read the word aloud. Whenever the child reads a word correctly, he moves up a step on the ladder. He wins the game when he gets to the top of the ladder.

6. Silly Sentences: After your child has mastered words from the first list of sight words, he will be ready for this game. You will need two sets of colored index cards (10 cards of each color) and a pen. On one set of index cards write sentence beginnings using three letter words and words from the sight list(ex: My cup; Dad; Mom; The fat cat). On the other set write sentence endings (ex: is fun; loves me; sat in a pen) using more words that the child has learned. Shuffle and lay face down on the table. Let the child pick one card from each color and read the sentence. When his reading has progressed, add another (sentence middles) set of cards and have him draw three cards and make a sentence.

All of these games are also easily adaptable to any other words your child is working on. When your child is moving on to longer words, double consonants, etc., you can adapt these games to those skills. Make learning to read fun!

Right now my daughter and I are playing Bingo with the short vowel "a" words and she is having a blast!


Stage 4: Long Vowel, Silent-E Words

I've adapted a few of the games TJ and I played with short vowel words to work with long vowel, silent-E words. She loves to play games and I love that she is reinforcing her reading skills! :)

Word family flip books 1. Materials: scissors, index cards, a marker, a stapler, and a piece of construction paper 2. Set up: Pick a word ending (ex:“aste”) and list the letters you will need to make complete words (ex: w, p, b etc.). Cut out 1 ½ inch squares of paper and write each beginning letter (or blend) on a square. Now, put these squares in a pile and staple them to one side of the index card. Write the word ending beside the squares. 3. Instructions: The child can “flip” through his book and sound out the words. Word family card game1. Materials: index cards, scissors, marker or pen 2. Set up: Using the index cards make a word ending card for a word (ex: “ade”). Then make beginning letter cards by cutting index cards in half and writing each letter (or blend) on a card. Turn over the letter cards so you can't see them. 3. Instructions: Have your child select one of the letter cards and put it next to the word ending card. If he reads correctly, he gets the card. If he doesn't get it right, turn the card back over and add it back to the pile on the table. Continue playing until he has all the letter cards. Word family spelling1. Materials: a magnet board and magnetic letters 2. Instructions: Spell out a word for your child. Have him sound out the word. Now ask the child if they can spell another word by changing one letter in the current word. Continue this until the child has used gone through all the words in the word family. 3. Optional play: After the child has learned other word families, try two word families at once. Start with a word (ex: cat) and ask the child if he can change the word to “cot”. Silly Sentences 1. Materials: two sets of colored index cards (10 cards of each color) and a pen. 2. Set up: On one set of index cards write sentence beginnings using whatever words the child is able to read. On the other set write sentence endings using more words that the child has learned. 3. Instructions: Shuffle and lay each pile face down on the table. Let the child pick one card from each pile and read the sentence. When his reading has progressed add another (sentence middles) set of cards and have him draw three cards and make a sentence.


Setting up a Reading Box

In my quest for organization (and teaching my daughter to read), I created a reading box to keep all of our games and supplies in one place. My daughter is still very young, but eager to learn to read, so we play lots and lots of games to practice new words. She likes to do a reading lesson, but she LOVES to turn it into a new game. So, for awhile now I've been looking through different books and online resources and making new games for us to play. Most of these games require simple office supplies like paper, index cards, and a pen. I didn't plan on doing anything too fancy - we like to keep things simple.

So... on to the set-up. I've got the games listed in the green-box on the side of this blog, but I will give a quick overview of my plans here. Most of the games require decks of word cards. Instead of making a new set for each game, I split up the words I wanted my daughter to work on. We have sets of sight words, short vowel words, short vowel words with consonant blends, and short vowel words with consonant digraphs (and I’m sure this list will grow as we progress). I keep these decks of cards separated in an accordion coupon holder (pictured below). I also keep the different paper bags with the titles of the games and their extra cards in this file holder.

I then wrote the instructions for each game on an index card with the title on one side and instructions on another. When we have our game time I pull out the game cards and let my daughter choose one (either her choice or close her eyes and pick at random). When she has chosen card I get a set of word cards (see above) that I want her to practice and we play that game.

So, in my reading box I keep flashcards (from Ordinary Parent’s Guide) in a small index card box beside a box of poker chips (for bingo or counting). I keep a large sized accordion coupon holder behind that – this holds all of our decks of cards listed above, paper or Ziploc bags for word games (like Bang!, silly sentences, silly words, etc.), and any CDs we might need. Behind that is a phonics workbook, for those times my daughter wants to write. Then I keep a hanging file folder with game ideas, bingo boards, and beginning phonics readers books.

I'm sure the things in this box will change as she progresses, but for now, this is working really well for us.

Tonia L

Hey! I'm the owner of Happy Homeschool Nest - a website devoted to helping homeschool moms balance the needs of homeschooling with managing a healthy and happy home.