Recently I had a relative drill me on what kinds of educational toys we give our kids. She has been trying to get her four year old to play independently and to read. So I went through a lot of what we had, and I thought I’d post some lists out here just for fun. Here’s the reading/spelling list—maybe it will spur your own imagination.
It’s a blend of visual, auditory, and kinesthetic activities since we’ve had one of each =)
- Boggle Jr. (spells three and four letter words)
- Melissa and Doug wood word spellers
- Letter tiles (or you can use Scrabble tiles)
- Build a Word or other Phonics tiles
- Letter beads or blocks (string a word or stack your name)
- Sight word magnets or word blocks for building sentences
- Leap Pad sound magnets for the refrigerator
- “The Talking Letter Factory” (Leappad DVD)
- “The Talking Word Factory” (Leappad DVD)
- “The Storybook Factory” (Leappad DVD)
- Rock N Learn “Phonics” DVD, “Letter Sounds” DVD
- Sesame Street “Sing the Alphabet” CD
- Readers: All our kids learned to read with the “Dick & Jane” series first, then Dr. Seuss (“Hop on Pop” first). We’ve used other readers intermittently, but these were the tried and true.
- Phonic matching cards (“Q” with a picture of a queen)
- Uppercase/lowercase matching puzzles
- Phonics flashcards (Panda on one side, P on the other)
- Spelling flashcards (B + U + S makes a picture of a bus)
- Alphabet puzzles of different kinds (wood, foam–try a floor puzzle for gross motor types)
- Create-your-own puzzles with kids names on them (cardboard puzzle templates found at art/craft stores)
- prelined paper practice (kindergarten spaced) tracing or freehand
- wipe-off markerboard or placemat with letters, numbers, and words
- Chalkboard or whiteboard (kids love the different mediums! or try driveway chalk for even more fun)
- Magnet letters/phonics/words, or building rods
- Salt tray (for tracing letters and numbers in)
- make letters/words out of playdoh or legos (kinesthetic learners love this)
- signs or placemats in plain view
At different points we had alphabet toys from Leappad and other brands, but we ended up giving them away because they got old too quickly or we couldn’t stand the noises/songs anymore.
- Explode the Code workbook series (A, B, C; 1, 1.5; secular). These help teach phonics and reading three to four-letter words. It is the best for thinking skills that I’ve seen.
- Kumon workbook series (i.e Writing Words, Rhyming Words). These help teach writing and spelling small words. Reading the words occurs in the process.
- BJU Beginnings Worktext for K5 workbook (Christian). This one taught two of my boys to read when we started before the fifth birthday and used it for several months. However, you can’t use it with a child that does not write at all. Some minor handwriting skills are needed. So if you have a fine-motor challenged child, stick with readers or kinesthetic activities for another year.
Some kids aren’t the workbook type, but if you give them one-on-one time with yourself at their elbow, it is pretty easy to get most kids to do a couple pages a day. Start with just one, around age 3 or 3.5, and work up.
Also, lots of workbooks are out there which you can pick up at the Walmart, Costco, Barnes and Noble, or grocery store (Schaeffer, Modern Curriculum Press, Comprehensive Curriculum, Educational Teaching Press…). Those are obviously fine. The workbooks I listed above are actually academically approved ones which I used with multiple children because they were so good.