Tips for Teaching Letters and Words

When it comes to teaching your child letters and reading, making learning fun and interesting is an invaluable way to boost his confidence and self-esteem. Next month, learn how to help your child with numbers and simple sums...

Tips for teaching your child letters and reading

  • Flash cards

    Flash cards are notes with letters or words written on them, which you show (or flash) to your child to see if he can guess the word/ letter correctly. When making flash cards, use lower case letters and talk about the letter sound rather than the name of the letter. Also, it is a good idea to include flashcards with familiar words or letters and introduce only one or two new flash cards at a pace you know your child will be able to pick them up.

  • Scrapbook

    Make a scrapbook of letter sounds. Collect pictures from magazines and packaging or have your child draw pictures for each letter sound. Look for the words you’re learning in magazines, packaging or newspapers, cut them out then get sticking together, so you can make a word collage.

  • Tracing letters

    Draw letters, words or patterns with a yellow pen or dotted lines and allow your child to trace over. Or write with a darker colour and get your child to trace over with a highlighter pen.

  • Squirty letters

    Write letters with shaving cream, squirt bottles, flashlights, with glue then cover in sand, glitter, pasta etc. Use paint or water and brushes, finger paint. Have a competition to see who can make the most letters in a day - make letters in dough, draw letters with squirty icing on biscuits, draw letters in the air, with sparklers or in the sand.*

  • Look/ cover/ write

    This is a technique teachers use for learning new words or letters, but you can make it fun to do at home, too. Draw out a word (in lower case), cut the word into individual letters then rearrange the letters and help your child to spell the word. Then cover the word up (or cover up each letter at a time for beginners) and see if your child can write the word on a separate sheet.

  • I spy

    Collect things around the house beginning with the same sound. ‘I spy’ can be played just about anywhere.

  • Kim’s Game

    Put objects on a tray (star with one or two for beginners), and ask your child to study them for a minute, then cover the tray. Ask him to try to remember all the objects, as well as make the sounds of letters they begin with. Older children may be able to write a list of the objects before checking.

  • Feely bag

    Make a feely box or bag. Hide objects of the same sound in the box. Guess by touching the object without looking. Individual letters or words could also be pulled from the box and read.

  • Treasure hunt

    Make a treasure hunt. Write very simple instructions, perhaps with drawings for younger children, one leading to another, ending up at a surprise. (e.g. on the stairs, look under the table).

  • Go fishing

    with a magnet on a string. Attach paperclips to word or letter cards. Your child must read the card to keep the ‘fish.’
  • Postman

    post letter or word cards into a home-made ‘post-box’. Your child must be able to say the sound or read the word to post it.

  • Hit the letter

    Throw a ball or beanbag on a letter or word card on the ground or taped to a wall. Your child must read the card to keep it.

  • Letter hopscotch

    Play hopscotch with letters or words instead of numbers. Children could read a word or letter before the jump on it.

  • Have fun!

    And last but not least, have fun! Play the game when your child isn’t tired or hungry, and just for as long as you can see you have his attention. If your child isn’t interested in the activity right now, then leave it for another day when he is more willing.

Next month, Sandy Fazio will write about helping your child with numbers and simple sums!

Want to know more?

  • Your child might be learning with the Jolly Phonics series from reception, and here's chance to get your 4-6 year old into their workbooks.
  • Flashcards are easy to and fun to make with your child, but there are plenty of options if you want to buy some instead.

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