Literacy Games to
Develop Word Recognition

As your child begins to show an interest in the words she sees around her, you can encourage this curiosity with the following literacy games.

These games will start to make her familiar with special words which are important to her. This develops her word recognition ability which will eventually help her to become a fluent reader.

The purpose of these games is not that your child sounds out the words phonetically, but that she starts to recognise them as whole words. Since you are not limited to choosing phonetically simple words, you can choose those words which really mean something to your child. She is certain to be more motivated when she realises that the words you are showing her are really worth reading. Having said that, if you are looking for ideas for literacy games to help your child practice reading words phonetically, many of these games would also work well for this purpose.

Follow this link if you are more interested in phonics games. Or you could try these early literacy activities which focus on learning letters.

Learning individual words in isolation is one thing, however words become more meaningful to your child when she can read them in the context of a sentence. She will then start to read the words more intuitively. She will also start to learn how words come together to produce meaning. There is therefore also a section below on literacy games focused on building sentences using the special words your child is learning.

Keep an open mind when you are playing these literacy games. If your child does not seem interested, don’t push her. Try again in a few weeks. Your intention should be to give her the opportunity to explore written language when she is ready.

You could also buy one of these commercially available early reading games designed to practice skills such as sight-word recognition and rhyming and help to introduce new vocabulary.

Word Recognition

Literacy Games

The following literacy games focus on familiarising your child with special words which are important to her. She will learn to recognise these words and identify them by their appearance.

First introduce your child to new words using the Label Mania and Word Cards games. Keep track of the known words using the Word Box game. Then reinforce and practice the words using the other literacy games in this section.

  • Label Mania Create cards with clearly printed words and used them to label toy boxes, items at the breakfast table, favorite toys, rooms in the house, appliances, items of furniture, body parts etc. You can also use post-it notes. By the time the post-it note has fallen off your child has probably lost interest in that label anyway and so you can replace it with a new label for a new item.
  • Word Cards Choose some words which are important and special for your child, such as dinosaur, car, princess, chocolate and print them clearly on index cards. Look for relevant opportunities to introduce her to the first word. For example, when she is playing with her princess toy, show her the ‘princess’ word card and tell her what the word says while following under the word with your finger. Talk a little about the princess and then leave the card next to the toy. Review the same word card several times in the day. Repeat with the other special words, introducing them also at relevant opportunities. Continue introducing new words as long as your child is interested.
  • Word Box Create a word box for putting the learned Word Cards into. You could also make copies on index cards of the labels in the Label Mania game which your child is familiar with and add these to the box. Put your child’s name on the box and ask her to decorate it. Every few days ask your child to read you her cards and tell you about the words. As the collection of cards increases, help your child to sort the words alphabetically or into subject categories (eg food, toys, body parts), perhaps illustrating the subject dividers or the cards themselves.
  • Word Action Choose around eight of the Word Cards from the Word Box and spread them out on the floor. Give your child fun instructions to follow which involve the words. For example, “Jump to the word dinosaur. Put a toy car on car. Pretend to eat the chocolate. Put the hat on your head.” This is one of my children's favorite literacy games!
  • Word Set When you have several cards in two or more categories in the Word Box take these cards out, shuffle them up, and ask your child to sort them back into their appropriate categories.
  • Word Match Choose around eight Word Cards and gather together objects or pictures which represent the words. Spread out the Word Cards on the floor and ask your child to match the object or picture to the appropriate word.
  • Word Scrapbook Print a word on the top of a piece of paper and help your child to fill the rest of the sheet with things representing that word. She can cut and glue pictures and words from magazines, stick in pictures found on the internet (try a Google image search), make her own drawings or take a photo and then print it and stick it in. She could also include other words related to the main word (eg ‘dalmatian’ for the word dog, or ‘joy’ for the word happy). Keep the pieces of paper in a binder and add new pages regularly. When you have around 20 pages you can start to sort them with your child alphabetically or into subject categories.
  • Charades Write words which can be acted out, and which your child has already been introduced to, on index cards. Or use appropriate Word Cards from your Word Box. Put them in a bag and ask your child to pick one and act it out. You have to guess what the word is.
  • Make a Menu Cut out pictures of food from magazines or print them from the internet (try a Google image search). Write out the names of the foods on small pieces of paper. Ask your child, if she is able, to write the word ‘MENU’ at the top of a piece of paper, or else write it yourself. Then ask your child to stick the pictures of the food down the left hand side of the paper. Help her find the name of each food and stick it (or copy the name) next to the relevant picture. Pretend you are in a restaurant and order food using the menu.

Building Sentences

If words are read in the context of a sentence they can be easier to learn because they become more meaningful. Here are some literacy games to play with your child to help her start to make simple sentences with her special words.

  • Simple Sentences Write the beginning of a sentence on a piece of card and let your child choose words from her Word Box to complete the sentence. For example, “I love...”, “I eat...”, “I can...” ,“I see the...”. A variation of this is to just write “eat” or “can” on a piece of card, and let your child make sentences such as “dogs eat bones” or “Daddy can run”.
  • Simple Sentence Books Create a simple book made up of the sentences your child creates in the Simple Sentences game. For example, a book entitled “What I love to eat” could have on the first page “I eat strawberries” with a picture of strawberries, and on the second page “I eat chocolate” with an photo of your child eating chocolate etc. Ask your child to read the book aloud. Here are some more reading activities for making books.
  • Silly Sentences Ask your child to compose a silly sentence from the Word Cards in her Word Box by laying out the words in a line. Make new Word Cards as necessary for needed words. You can then make a silly sentence from the Word Cards for her to read.
  • Sentence Snipping Write a sentence using words your child is familiar with. Cut out the words and mix them up. Ask your child to put the words back in order.
  • Magnetic Words Buy a magnetic word kit, such as one of those from Magnetic Poetry, and encourage your child to make up silly sentences on the fridge.
  • Interactive Chart An interactive chart is a large piece of card or laminated paper which you hang on the wall with repetitive or predictable text written on it in large letters. Use from one or around six lines of text depending on the age of the child. Illustrate the chart using pictures, drawings or photos. The text has one or more gaps where different Word Cards can be attached to change the meaning of the sentence. Choose nouns which mean something to your child to put on the Word Cards. Your child can fix the Word Cards to the chart with blu-tack, changing the cards when she likes to make different sentences. Ideas for interactive charts include:
    • A recent trip to the zoo or a farm. “I went to the zoo and I saw a ...”. As well as putting the name of the animal in the gap, your child could also attach a picture of the animal below the text.
    • A chart of friends and relatives’ names. Draw an outline of a bus and write the following text inside “I looked inside the bus and who did I see? I saw ... looking back at me.” Your child can attach a name in the gap and also a picture of the person below the bus.
    • A food chart based on Eric Carle’s ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’. “One Sunday morning the warm sun came up and - pop! - out of the egg came a tiny and very hungry caterpillar. On [insert day of week] he ate through one [insert food]. But he was still hungry.”

Other Useful Resources

We hope you have fun playing these literacy games!

You may also like:

early reading games
Early Reading Games
Phonics Games
Phonics Games
Hide and Seek reading game
Hide and Seek Game
Word Family Chart
Teaching Word Families

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