I can’t take full credit for this activity idea . Word searches in bottles of rice, popcorn kernels etc.. have been around for as long as I have been teaching and probably much much longer. I was reminded of the simple genius of these last night when searching Pinterest for sight word ideas for a reader who was looking for more activities for her son. I pinned this activity onto my early literacy pinterest board but felt like I needed to make my own version using Halloween words. Here is what we did.
- Gather your materials. You will need some filler ( we used our Halloween Sensory tub filler ) like black beans , orange lentils and creepy toys! You will also need some stiff paper ( we used paint chips but card stock will work too), a clip board, markers and a permanent marker. You will also need a large plastic jar, water bottles work too but you may want to take the larger spooky toys out of the mix.
- Write out the words your child is searching for I had my son help me think of Halloween words.
- Write them on the paint chips or card stock. I wrote some words out multiple times and some like Boo! only once. Just to make it successful but challenging.
- Cut and pop them in the jar with the filler.
- Search !
- Cross the words out when you find them.
- We challenged each other to find words. I like this game because it gets kids reading, searching and can be adapted to any level. For younger kids use plain letters, older ones cut the letters of the words out and have them search and spell!
My Favorite Halloween Book For Little Ones
Ghosts in the House! by Kazuno Kohara is on my must buy list! A little girl moves into house and soon finds out it is haunted. Luckily she is a witch and knows just what to do. The ghosts in the story seem mischievous but never scary and even when she washes them in the washing machine, they are still smiling! My son loved this book, the text was the perfect length for a 3 year old, short but still descriptive. I loved the simple black and orange colors and had to look at the copyright twice because I was certain this was written sometime in the 30s, nope 2008. The simplicity of the book and colors is balanced so well with the little details like the litt;e girl’s constant companion , a white cat that puts on a black costume when the little witch pops on her hat. This detail had my son in stitches, “Cats don’t wear clothes , silly cat!” . Absolutely a perfect Halloween book for children not yet ready to be scared for fun!
My son is all about games and challenges and this rhyming tree was just the right amount of learning ( and fun) after a long day at preschool. Whether you homeschool or just add little bits of learning into a day full of errands and play remember that lessons don’t have to be long, they just need to be targeted. This morning as I nursed my daughter my son and I played with rhymes so when he got home I had this tree prepped for him to revisit the rhymes and some new ones too.
- Gather your materials. You will need some sticky back foam( I used up lots of scrap pieces finally), construction paper ( I also used part of a paper bag… I love reusing things), markers , scissor and a glue stick.
- Start by drawing a tree without leaves.
- Write one word on each branch.
- Cut out and glue on the construction paper.
- Write rhyming words on the foam and cut out in the shape of leaves.
- Glue the tree on the paper.
- Add one rhyming fool . Peel and stick the words onto the rhyming branches. This isn’t a quiet time activity because I added some words to spark discussion like pair and pear as well as said which he recognizes in books but I suspected ( correctly) that out of context he doesn’t recognize. So even a little lesson( or game as my son calls it) like this can let me talk about homonyms and check on his sight words stress free.
- He loved it and laughed hysterically at me when I asked if I could add one becuase I was SURE that chair and bee rhymed. Another reason to stay and play… giggles! When we were done he counted up all the words on each branch to see which branch won. Yay a little math too !
The best part about learning to read are these games and play that becomes possible so don’t forget to make words a game…even if there is a lesson or two hidden inside.
If an I-Spy book and a sensory bin had a baby this is what they would wake up at 2am to feed. My son’s interests are geared mostly to games and pretend play these days and while most of our time is spent doing funny accents I like doing these fun games that work on a bunch of skills in a short amount of time. This works on handwriting , reading and observation skills.
- Gather your materials. You can use almost anything , easy right? You need toys, and other small objects that your child can read but that aren’t too easy or it’s not going to be a 5 minute sparkler , it will be done in 30 seconds. So go around your house and trust me you’ll find things pretty fast. If your child is not a reader use colors or just the first letter. You will also need a bin, marker, sheet of card stock , and a crayon.
- Write out the words of all the objects on the card stock with marker.
- Pop the toys in the bin, hand your child the list. Stick around so if words are tricky you can help them try different strategies like using the objects for clues, sounding out the word or passing on to the next to return to it after.
Rhyming is an important component to learning to read, specifically phonological awareness ( or the knowledge of sounds letters in words make) and it’s also really fun! This game is designed to work with word families , working on reading ( decoding unfamiliar words) and rhyming. For children not yet at this level of learning to read this game can be adapted using pictures. That way they can still group and sort by rhyme without the frustration of trying to decode words they are not able to yet.
- Gather your materials. You will need some baby food jars or other containers, popsicle sticks, masking tape and markers.
- I started by writing the words to match to on the tape. I find it easiest to put the tape on the table , write then rip it off. You may want to use painters tape like I did if you do it this way. If all you have is regular old masking tape , write it on the roll, then rip off. Add it to your jar.
- Now write the words on the sticks. I started by doing it right onto the stick, and it ran weird. Learning to read is hard enough let’s not make it harder with weird writing… so instead…
- I wrote it on more tape and wrapped it on the end of a stick. I wrote some words starting with uppercase and some with lowercase. I did this deliberately because my son was asking if they make different sounds. I put them both in to show him that the word still sounds the same.
- Time to play. Games and activities like this should be marketed to your kids as that , play. If these tasks aren’t fun try to find some way to make it fun or find other tasks they like and adapt. When learning is attached to play , the lessons stick and learning is fun not a daunting task.
- Encourage them to say the words out loud to match up the sounds. Here he is saying the words out loud to see if they rhyme… these did not.
- Keep sounding them out and matching them up.
- Soon he could hear and see the patterns , which was super cool.
Even if your child iosn’t ready for this activity, take time to be silly and talk in rhyme with them and read books with rhyming texts. It’s such a fun part of language !
Books That Rhyme
How Big Is a Pig? by Claire Beaton has fast become a favorite in our house around bedtime. I love the felt illustrations, the detail amazes me and helps distract me from noticing that I have read it 20 times in as many minutes. The story itself is great too, it focuses on opposites in the farm yard with a zippy rhyming text.
Oh My Oh My Oh Dinosaurs! by Sandra Boynton is a cute little book about opposites with dinosaurs as it’s characters. This is a good book for little people who love dinosaurs but aren’t really ready to dive into facts about dinosaurs yet. The melodic rhyming text and adorable pictures appeals to younger toddlers, and on the page where the dinosaurs are called bad for painting on their friends made both me and my son laugh.
My Truck is Stuck! by Kevin Lewis is a fun book full of great rhymes and funny illustrations from Daniel Kirk. The story is simple a truck is stuck and even though other vehicles come to help, nothing budges until a tow truck arrives. The best part is the cargo of bones in the truck are slowly stolen by hungry gophers while the others work to free the truck. It’s got a great message about helping people and the illustrations make me giggle, especially the guy in the moving van who is blowing bubbles. I have never understood that but it makes me laugh.
Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin by Lloyd Moss is a big hit at our house and if you have a child into music or musical instruments this is a great book. You count the instruments as they come on stage for a performance and not only is this a great counting book, but it introduced musical instruments in it’s rhyming text and super fun pictures. I am biased though my little man is really really into instruments and loves this book. The day we bought it I had to sit in the back with him on the way home from the bookstore because he couldn’t wait to read it .
When children are learning to read playing games with their developing skills is a great way to practice while playing. This giant 3D word search can be used so many ways. For my almost 5 year old I put in simple words he could recognize or easily sound out. I also helped him by making all the words a consistent color and horizontal only. With younger children it can still be a fun game simply looking for specific colors or letters. With older ones you can make words multi colored, going every which way. The learning isn’t just in the searching either, using the dry erase marker to carefully circle the letters or words is fantastic writing practice and the foam letters are a sensory experience too.
- Gather your materials. You will need a sturdy backing like a inexpensive canvas or even some cardboard, contact paper ( which will make it wipe off) foam letter stickers ( two packs) and scissors. Also a dry erase marker to play with.
- Start by covering your canvas or card board with clear contact paper. This makes the surface friendly for dry erase . I found that a baby wipe worded the best to get the marker off after we played.
- Start making a column of letters.
- Decide on some words to pop in. Like I said in the preamble you can customize this to your child’s specific stage of learning.
- Add the words mixed with some random letters.
- Invite your child to play. I meant to make a list of the words I included but forgot and it turned out we didn’t need them. You may want one though.
- Oops he circled the o but it was no biggie because it’s dry erase!
I was fascinated by which words he knew by sight and which he sounded out. He loved this and I can see myself making a few more over the next few months for sure.