There are huge numbers of fun games and activities you can do with your child that also practise reading and language skills and help to build confidence. Show your child how reading and writing plays an important part in the real world; reading the instructions for a board game, finding out about a place to visit, researching a new family pet and planning a party are examples. Most children learn best when they are doing something for a real purpose and because they want to, so playing games is an easy way to support their learning. Unpack those ideas and encourage them.
Take a look below for general top tips for younger readers 3-7 years or 7-11 years, or select from the panel for age specific ideas for 3-11 year olds.
Younger readers 3–7 year olds
Check out these top ten game types:
Children enjoy exploring and experimenting with language and it helps them to learn new words and their meanings and also to listen to the sounds that make those words. So sing, rhyme, shout, whisper, rap and dance to the beat!
There are about 44 sounds (made up from the 26 letters of the alphabet) that children learn in order to read and spell, so finding fun ways to help your child develop an ear for sounds is a good idea! There are lots of phonic games that can be bought in high street shops, but playing games such as ‘I spy’ are equally as good.
See our phonics made easy page for more information, including how to pronounce the sounds correctly.
Memory is really helpful for learning to read; remembering letter sounds, common and tricky words that don’t fit a pattern, important bits of a story, character names, etc. Card games such as letter or word flashcards, snap, find the pairs, and remember the objects on a tray are fun ways to get that memory switched on and working quickly!
Developing good listening skills helps to improve your child’s reading skills too. Noting sounds in the home (a ticking clock, the microwave ping) or on a walk (bird song, the whoosh of a train), as well as more sophisticated letter sound games like sound lotto, will help your child to hear the sounds that words make.
Learning is often more powerful when it’s physical and hands-on so make learning active when you can! Many children – especially young boys – have lots of energy and find it hard to sit still and concentrate for long periods and have lots of energy, so use it to good effect. Try action rhymes as well as outdoor quizzes like treasure hunts.
Most children love to touch objects. Think about how hard it is to stop your child from touching things in shops! But they also love to see, smell, taste and hear. Get them to discover and explore letters and words by using the five senses; it’s not only fun but very effective.
TV, computer and phone games can be an effective way to support your child’s reading and some children who struggle with words on a page find words on a screen more exciting and easier! Read instructions, rules, scores, listen and talk about TV programmes; it’s all about balance and moderation!
Portable DVD players and computer game consoles are useful on long journeys, but car journeys are also an ideal opportunity to chat with your child, make up stories, sing and tell jokes! Practising reading skills in ‘real life’ helps to understand the role of reading in real life!
Practise reading in real life situations such as shopping, reading food labels, lists, instructions, posters and special offers to find information. It’s a great idea to make good use of everyday situations – you’ve got to get the jobs done so you may as well get the whole family involved!
Make sure you keep a balance between encouraging your child with learning to read and having fun reading together. Don’t give up on telling stories and reading of all kinds to your child to help them to develop an understanding and love of reading. If you do that, you are more likely to keep them reading later!
Older readers 7–11 years
Top five game types:
Your child will probably be starting to enjoy word puzzles, word searches and simple crosswords in these junior years at school. They are fun to do together and help build vocabulary. Cheap word puzzle books are a good buy before a holiday or long journey for hours of fun, or try making your own.
Many board games need good general knowledge, logic and planning. These are also great for developing language skills. There are lots of commercially available board games to buy but sometimes the old ones are the best like Scrabble and Trivial Pursuit as well as some of the newer ones too like the describing game, Articulate, or What’s in the Bag?
Older readers are probably going to be increasingly interested in on-screen games so of course you’ll want to make the most of this interest. There are many excellent interactive eBooks, games and activities available for home PCs as well as for mobile devices and many develop speed of response, memory, powers of reason and logic as well as comprehension and creativity.
Children at this age are learning to become more independent and getting organised is an important part of this stage so why not make a game of it! Suggest activities such as starting a club, planning a party or a doorstep sale. These might be for real or make-believe but either way the activity will help your child’s communication, language and organisational skills.
Don’t forget that reading and writing activities can be fun, enjoyable and game-like too. As soon as children realise that reading and writing is part of everyday life then they will start to use and enjoy these skills in all sorts of ways.