By: Linda Wrobel

Elementary School Teacher

Southington, CT

Editor’s note: School is coming back into session and a lot of parents are looking into ways to help augment the learning their children are doing in school so I went and asked a teacher what kinds of DIY games she uses to help reinforce learning.

There are so many skill that go into reading. Your child needs to practice identifying their letters, learn the letter sounds, read sight words, and learn vocabulary as they grow. Teachers simply cannot do it alone. Parent involvement is essential. So… What can you do to practice these skills with your children?

We all want our children to have fun when they are learning. This will make them WANT to practice. Even better is when we can engage them without having to spend excessive amounts of money on pre-made products. In fact, simple games can be the best way to practice skills. Some of the simpler games and toys you can buy can be turned into literacy games easily (you might even have some of them lying around).

I have a collection of games for my students to use during “center time.” There is a component to the games that you do not get with a worksheet or workbook, and that is the discourse. We make sure to orally read the word or letter while playing. Naturally, this encourages conversation which has the potential to enhance the interaction,whether it is parent – child or child-peer, in immeasurable ways.

These simple literacy games are highly motivating. The children will be having so much fun playing the game and won’t even notice they are learning!

Here are three of my favorite. I have different sets that I have made or purchased.

Re-Purposed Candy Land

The Candy Land game board ( or any “path” game board really) is simple to turn into a customized learning game. You have two options for customization: you can change the deck of cards or alter the board. You can change the deck by using white out tape to add sight words. Perhaps your players might need to read the letter or word to be able to move the correct number of spaces? Alternately, you can use white out tap (or stickers) to change the board to add the same. When they land on a space, each player has to read the word or letter or be sent back.


You could also use notecards and write two words on each card to make a set of dominoes. Just like in the Candy Land game above each word needs to be read/defined when they are played.

Another way I use dominoes is with rhyming words. The words must rhyme to make a match. The same concept can be used for vocabulary, synonyms and even antonyms.


(Note: This link is for a new copy of Memory, but virtually everyone you know owns one. Just ask on Facebook and someone will have a used copy to give you.)

Memory is a game which can be used with a wide range of ages. It is so simple that you can start using letters with 3-year-olds. Once they know their letters you can use the same cards to work on letter sounds. Just like dominoes you can use them for sight words, rhyming words, synonyms, antonyms, and vocabulary words.

The greatest challenge making memory cards is to be sure you can’t see through the paper. To minimize it you have a few options. First, you can use a thicker paper like card stock. Second, if you print the words on labels and stick them to the notecards that my help as well. Third, a dark colored paper is harder to see through.

These games give you a wide range of options to practice skills with your child in a fun engaging way.

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