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Children need to learn letter sounds and combinations in order to be able to decode new words as they read. They also need to have an ever-increasing store of "sight words" which they can recognise quickly, so that their reading can be fluent and meaningful.

Sight words can be regular, "decodable" words such as has, went, play, or irregular, such as have, come, was.

Daily reading practice of a "reader" or other suitable book will naturally help to develop a child's sight vocabulary. You may find that there are words which need extra practice. Your child's school may also send home a weekly list of words to learn to read and/or spell.

If you introduce varied activities and games for learning the words or letters, you will find that your child will not only learn more easily, but you'll both enjoy the process. if you can rope in other family members to the games, so much the better. (It doesn't hurt for older children to re-visit the basics, either).

See my Reading Games to Print page for lots of games to help children practise sight words.


Here are some ideas to help children learn their alphabet sounds and “sight words”-


- writing them:

Writing letters and “sight” words helps a child to learn them.

Use different media to involve as many different senses and experiences as possible:

Different looks:

·        Coloured pencils, crayons, felt pens, gel pens, gold or silver pens, glitter pens, fluorescent markers, paints, chalk...

·        Different thicknesses and sizes of pencils, pens etc

·        Writing on different surfaces: paper, coloured paper, giftwrap, foil, card, blackboard, whiteboard, bark, wood, concrete, old tiles

·        Using various media to make words look different: letter stamps/alphabet stickers/magnets

·        Writing words/letters onto different background formats- ladder shape, flower with petals, tree with leaves, train with carriages, hedgehog with word bristles


Different textures: make words or letters with

·        chenille sticks/pipe cleaners,

·        icy pole sticks, twigs, matchsticks, toothpicks, straws,

·        glue and glitter/confetti/rice/wheat/

·        glue and wool or string

·        corks, buttons, shells, Lego, wooden blocks,toy cars

·        cut-out sandpaper/textured card/wallpaper/bubble wrap letters

·        cut-out letters from magazines or newspapers

·        felt cut-out letters (use a felt background)


- making them in different ways:

Use different feels/actions to make your words or letters: 

·        use alphabet magnets (on oven tray/fridge/washer etc – or on a large lid from a coffee tin, e.g)

·        “read” or make words with alphabet noodles (uncooked or in soup)

·        play with alphabet jigsaw letters

·        use alphabet stamps

·        use letter stamps cut from sponge

·        printing letters with corks/sponge bits/cut potato and paint

·        trace letters with a pencil/crayon etc (dotted letters or with tracing paper)

·        trace letters/words with finger (as small or large as you like, on different surfaces, including your arm or leg etc!)

·        trace with finger in a container (e.g.)deep oven tray)of rice, wheat, glitter, sand

·        trace over written letters/words with a marble/feather

·        write with thin paint/food dye/ink, using a small brush/feather (trimmed end)/ cotton buds/twig...

·        write with a stick outside in dirt or sand

·        make 3-dimensional letters with sand, clay, playdough 

·        paint with large brush and water outside on a fence or concrete path etc,

·        “fingerpaint” (use fingerpaint or shaving cream) on a table or window (outside!)

·        write on a steamy mirror in the bathroom or in soap on the side of the bath

·        sew letters with wool on coarse material

·        use a feltboard with letters cut from card etc: glue strips of sandpaper or hook tape on the back)

·        write letters using a stencil

·        type words on a computer (or an old typewriter)

·        play Word hopscotch: draw a “ladder” pattern with chalk on a path, and write in your words. Hop onto each space, reading each word as you go. See how many words you can read before you make a mistake or lose your balance (or you can time how fast you go).

·        write big letters on bits of card/paper and spread them on the floor (or write with chalk on a path) then jump from letter to letter in alphabet order or to spell out words

·        make letters with straws or matchsticks, stuck together with bits of clay/ blu-tack/plasticine etc

·        play charades with your sight words


-saying and hearing them:

Use sound to help children remember letters and words

·        Chant or sing the letter name and sound or the spelling of a word

·        Make up a silly sentence, poem or tongue twister with your letter or word/s

·        Spell the words out loud; record different voices spelling and saying them,

·        Say your words or letter sounds with as many different accents and “silly voices” as you can; try to find a different voice for each letter or word

Play “what’s this sound?” game for letters - see how many common sounds you can make with the letters- e.g. m = tastes good; r = engine sound; s= snake noise; t = “don’t believe you”; u = “don’t do that!” p= blow out a candle; v= vacuum cleaner working; z= snoring x = cat hissing; h= amused;  long o (oh)= surprised; long e (ee)=  scared; long a (ay) = “what did you say?”... see what  you come up with. Then write the letters on one set of cards and the “clues” on another set. Match the cards or play a game such as memory with them.

-smelling and eating them:

 Use smell to help remember letters/words – smell is a very strong memory prompt: 

·        Write on scented notepaper

·        Use scented drawer liners to make letters or write words on

·        Put different perfumes/ oils/ food essences on your letter or word cards (match one smell per letter/word – peppermint for p, floral scent for f/flower, rose for r/red, eucalyptus for tree/koala, coffee for c...

·        Make words or letters with petals of scented flowers or smelly leaves

·        Burn scented oils during “learning time” to relax and help recall

·        Use scented soap to write on a mirror or the side of the bath

·        Add scented oil to playdough and use to make letters/words


Use taste to help remember letters/words (playing with food can be learning, too!)- 

·        Make a word with coloured fruit loops

·        Write a word in your jelly/custard etc

·        Make a word with the peas, carrots, beans etc on your plate

·        Make letters with biscuit dough- then cook them to eat!


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