How to Teach a Child Early Sight Word Skills at Home

It is never too early to teach your child early sight word skills. Children begin learning information receptively from their environments much earlier than their ability to demonstrate it through their words and actions. Even if your child is showing early signs of learning disabilities, you can support your child's early literacy skills in ways that are appropriate for her developmental level.


Read, Re-Read, and Read Some More

Parents read to their young child.
Blend Images - Jose Luis Pelaez Inc/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images

Read to your child a few minutes every day. For infants, choose picture books that pair words with depictions of those words. There are many appropriate books to choose from that teach colors, numbers, sizes, animals and other concepts.

For toddlers, choose books with short sentences and colorful illustrations.

For both infants and toddlers, reading the same books over and over will build recognition of concepts and develop an awareness of language and sounds.


Increase Your Child's Visual and Language Recognition Skills

Whenever the opportunity presents itself, point out objects in pictures, and say the name of the object to your child. Use pictures of familiar objects, magazine photos and objects in catalogs. This activity helps your child develop vocabulary, verbal reasoning skills, visual processing, image recognition, and memory.


Label Objects in Your Home

On index cards, print names of common household objects. Attach the cards to the objects they represent. As your child uses these objects, point out and say the words on the cards.

You can also find catalog pictures of the objects, cut them out and glue them to the index cards for more reinforcement. When your child uses an object in the house, such as a chair, ask her to show you its name. If she needs help, show her the label and say, "This is a chair."

Be positive and smile. Making this fun for both of you is an important way to help your child enjoy learning. 


Make Sensory Labels for Household Objects

Try decorating the words on the flashcards. Allow your child to choose decorations to glue over the lines of the letters. Once dry, you will have cards with raised ridges of glue forming the letters.

Tactile learners can feel the letters as they learn. Preschoolers can make interesting letters by pasting on pasta, yarn or sequins to the letters. Your child can trace over the letters with her fingers as she learns them if she chooses to do so.

Place the cards on the matching objects. As always, cheer your child on for a job well done. When ready, have your child practice making sensory labels with blank cards.


Play the Name Game

This game also requires labels. Have the child choose which label matches which object. At first, pick two cards, one that matches an object, and one that does not match. Ask your child to choose which card matches the object. Help her if needed.

Stay positive, even if she chooses the wrong answer. Cheerfully give her the correct card to place on the object. As she develops her skills, you can allow her to choose from three, four, or more cards to identify the object.


Reading the Labels and Matching

Once your child recognizes words on the labels and can say the words aloud, it is time to begin having her read them aloud. Prompt her to read the cards. Wait for about five seconds to allow thinking time. If she misses the word, give her the answer and set the missed card aside.

Create a pile of the missed cards and go over them again with her, having her say the name ​along with you. Practice the missed cards by matching them to the objects and saying the names. Make the activity game-like and praise her efforts.


Make New Cards Without Pictures

Once your child has mastered the cards with pictures, create a new set of cards without pictures. Play the games listed above with the new cards. If your child has difficulty with the new cards, simply place them on objects beside the cards with pictures.

Go through the games listed above while pairing the cards with the cards already mastered. Gradually remove the cards with pictures as your child gains familiarity with the new cards without pictures.


Teach Sight Words With Pictured Flash Cards

Use a set of flashcards of common words to teach your child consonant-vowel-consonant words. Start with five cards. Read the words to your child and point to the picture. Have him find objects in your house matching the words. As your child becomes familiar with the game, say the word, and ask him to say it too.

Play with the cards for a few minutes two or three times a week. Begin with words and objects that your child can say and are readily available in your home. Over time, your child will begin to read the words independently, and you can add more cards, a few at a time. The important part is to keep it fun. If your child struggles or becomes frustrated, it is time to stop.

1 Source
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  1. Denton CA, Al Otaiba S. Teaching Word Identification to Students with Reading Difficulties and DisabilitiesFocus Except Child. 2011;2011:254245149.

By Ann Logsdon
Ann Logsdon is a school psychologist specializing in helping parents and teachers support students with a range of educational and developmental disabilities.