Inside and outside of the classroom, children just want to have fun! Sometimes it feels as if they are too busy exploring and imagining to stop and learn the serious skills they need in life. Schools and families alike used to rely on rote memorization and long sessions sitting still at a desk in order to pass on the necessary lessons but no longer. Now we know that children actually learn best when they are encouraged to have fun and play.
It makes perfect sense that the best way parents, caregivers, and teachers can support children’s learning is by choosing fun and educational activities. This is especially true with critical abilities such as reading that need a mastery of many different skills in order to be complete. Separate literacy components such as alphabet memorization, phonemic awareness, high frequency words, and spelling can be hard to disguise as fun. So how can emerging readers get the practice they need without it feeling like a forced lesson? Luckily there are plenty of reading board games creative, interactive, and funny enough to entertain everyone both in and outside of the classroom. Here are some of our favorite board games guaranteed to make young readers laugh while they learn:
Good for EARLY reading practice – letter learning, beginning sounds
This brightly colored board game is perfect for learners who are just discovering the alphabet. The game focuses on letter recognition, uppercase and lowercase matching skills, and beginning sounds. While hunting for alphabet treasures readers can collect letter cards with the help of picture words. There are multiple ways to play so each game can easily be tailored to different learning levels. The literacy skills in play here are the most basic but the game is fast-paced and features the most charming of hungry sharks. You can find more of our favorite games for younger kids here.
Good for emerging readers – sight words, increasing reading speed
Connecting pictures and words into an irresistible version of Bingo, this multiple award winner is a great game for emerging readers. The sturdy game tiles come ready to play and the ‘Zinger device’ delights every player while working on fine motor skills. Adults will love the clear instructions and simple rules that allow children to play independently. Instead of completing a line, extend play by expecting children to cover their entire card. The only con for this classic game is that children often skip over the words and look only at the pictures during faster play. Still, this is an excellent way to expose children to high frequency words in a fun and hands-on way.
Good for early readers up to beginning readers – a flexible game that can increase in difficulty
Most families have that moment when the alphabet has finally been mastered and everyone wonders ‘now what?’ The answer is this flexible and entertaining game. Fans of the popular cartoon series will adore the finger puppet versions of their favorite characters while the skills presented take children past the alphabet and into the exciting world of reading. Exploring Alphabet Power, Word Power, Spelling Power, and the Power to Read, this fun-filled game has playing cards that can easily be separated for different levels of learning. Children will jump into letter sounds, rhyming, capital letters, and alliteration alongside the Super WHY team. Together they even tackle reading words and correcting silly sentences. It does need an adult to help lead the game but it’s fun enough for everyone to enjoy.
Good for beginning readers – reading confidence, kinesthetic learning
If you have the time and space to set up a scavenger hunt then this award-winning game is a great way to encourage young readers. Made with beginning and reluctant readers as well as ADHD and autistic children in mind, this active and engaging game is a great way to practice reading skills. There are three levels of achievement as well as endless set-up possibilities. The Picture Helper poster is amazing and soon even the most hesitant reader is rushing to decipher the clues. Not only does it combine physical play with skills such as sentence structure, but the Treasure Hunt also builds confidence and promotes problem solving. Yes, set-up can be very involved but many children soon learn how to do it themselves and extend their own play time.
Under $10, this game has it all: alphabet practice, short & long vowel exploration, letter recognition, and phonics. Young readers even learn how to spell 3 and 4 letter words. It’s the “only patented game where letters get superpowers!” There’s even a colorful poster and power ring included in the box. Children will love creating superheroes while sounding out and spelling short words. The waterproof mix and match cards create 1700 combinations so game play is anything but boring. There are five ways to play, including matching, detective, and a math game, making this durable game a phenomenal deal for all readers.
Good for beginning readers –
This irresistible game helps young readers take the critical first step towards fluency by helping them memorize and internalize high frequency words. The sight words presented here appear many times in regular reading though many of the words don’t follow the regular rules of phonics. It is a crucial skill to recognize these sight words as they are often hard for young readers to sound out. Sight Words Pizza aids in retention of these tricky words through repetition while children are busy building their own deliciously cute slices of pizza. While the major drawback seems to be quality control, there is enough interest in this game that the manufacturers are expected to sort it out soon.
This game has been a favorite with my kids – enough so that they eventually asked for the regular version too. The game comes with a set of green cards that have descriptions on them (things like weird, funny, beautiful), and a set of red cards that have people places, things and events on them. Each round, a green description card is selected and players have to choose from one of the red cards in their hand what fits that description best. The judge for that round is handed these descriptions and chooses their favorite – whomever's card this was wins that round.
As you can see, this is a game best for kids who can read decently already. It will fine tune reading skills and can help increase vocabulary. The game also comes with some blank cards so you can add more words if you like.
Learning to read takes many different skills and beyond the alphabet it is very hard to know what to do next. How do children make that crucial jump from letter recognition to sounds and then spelling? Sometimes literacy seems like a magic almost impossible to capture, much less present in a fun and easy way. Forgive yourself if you don’t know the difference between phonics and phonemic awareness. The games listed above take the guess work out of supporting your child’s reading skills. They are each a perfect jumping-off point for young readers that the whole family can enjoy. So, forget about the serious reading lessons and get ready for the best learning experience – game night!