Why isn't 'phoenetic' spelled the way it sounds?
August 16, 2005 11:55 AM   Subscribe

What games and/or toys were most useful in helping your preschooler learn to read?

My daughter is 4 1/2 and in preschool. They do some good work there with teaching basic reading skills but I want to expand on it at home because the teachers are constantly telling me that she is ahead of the class and often bored.

She has a My First Leap Pad and likes it okay. I've walked the aisles at Toys R Us and googled for reading toys and games but the variety these days is so huge that I really could use some first-hand experience and advice.

She loves to play games with her daddy, and her favorite right now is Memory (where I have to truly play my best to have a chance at winning, and even then she usually beats me). She also really likes computer games and is a wizard with the mouse. Are any of the dozens of new electronic toys (InteracTV, Leap Pad, and the like) worth it? What products did/does your child enjoy the most, while also being sneaky educational?
posted by mike9322 to Education (12 answers total)
Not to sound snarky, but the best way I found to help preschoolers to read is not through electronics, but to use books.

Read to your daughter every day. Have her read to you.

Take her to the library. Get her a library card.

If you take your daughter to the grocery store, start at the book/magazine aisle, pick out an inexpensive book, and have her page through it while you shop. Buy it for her to take home.

Go to story hour at the library or local bookstore. Talk about the stories you heard afterwards.

Teaching a kid to read shouldn't be an exercise in sneakiness, but in fostering a lifelong love of reading.
posted by jazon at 12:01 PM on August 16, 2005

Sorry, should have noted that in my question; I do read to her everyday. She has a shelf full of books. What I'm looking for are games and toys that will supplement that.
posted by mike9322 at 12:04 PM on August 16, 2005

Serious question: If she's ahead of the class and often bored, why do you want to help her get further ahead of the class and even more bored?
posted by kindall at 12:04 PM on August 16, 2005

Our local library has several computers in the children's section that have interactive software games based around math and reading. My five-year-old loves those; his favorite is "Richard Scarry Busytown 2000". If they don't make that one anymore, there are there are other Richard Scarry software titles at Amazon.
Richard Scarry rocks for reading.
This is a very cool book of phonics games.
Also, our library has a whole series of books in the "Beginning to Read" section that are geared to specific phonic sounds and letters. One of the series I believe is called "Sandcastle 2" by Pam Scheunemann; they're usually titled something like "ST" or "TH". Ask your librarian for "blend" series books and they should be able to point you in the right direction.
posted by Dr. Zira at 12:37 PM on August 16, 2005

We have several of those "leap frog" things... all gifts. I know it sounds snobby, but I think they are absolutely horrible and counterproductive. They are loud, and more like TV/radio, than like reading. Game time spent with older kids and adults, or even play time alone, works wonders.

Our kids liked Memory too... also the "I Spy" games, lacing work, drawing, Uno, Connect four, checkers... candyland, monopoly jr... drawing, painting, writing and illustrating books ...

If you can find them, there are toy catalogs ( "Back to Basics" is one ) that sell toys that aren't dependent upon noise/electronics to keep a child's attention. There are also montessori resources that focus on just this period in your child's development. Montessori Method is not a bad place to start.
posted by R. Mutt at 1:07 PM on August 16, 2005

she is ahead of the class and often bored.

Then maybe the best toy you could get her is a promotion to the next grade.

Or, if that's not possible, get her out of preschool and into something more fun (camps, workshops, reform school, foreign legion) until she's old enough for realschool. The whole world is a toy if you're allowed to play with it.

And if that's not possible -- say, if preschool is mainly for watching her while you're at work -- maybe the preschool folk can be convinced to give her something else to do instead of sitting through dull lessons she doesn't need. Maybe give her real books that she gets to read and illustrate. You could photocopy text and staple together a book with blank spaces she gets to illustrate. Or she could write a book. Set high goals and see what she can do. Writing and reading are games if you make it fun.
posted by pracowity at 1:15 PM on August 16, 2005

Oh, okay. Glad to hear you are doing the book thing.

My kids enjoyed some of the Reader Rabbit CD-ROMs, and some of the Sesame Street CD-ROMs.

They also made and printed books using Kid Pix.
posted by jazon at 1:33 PM on August 16, 2005

Mine's 3. He appears to read some words out of context now. Obviously, this will be of limited usefulness to a 5 year old. What seems to help (in addition to reading to him, of course) is:

1. Videos. I cringe to admit it, but videos such as Sesame Street's letters and numbers videos have helped on the earlier letter identification front, and Letter Factory and Word Factory (not Sesame Street) have helped with "blends".

2. Toys like Leapfrog and similar have helped, but not as much. Definitely helpful, though.

3. Recently, he's taken to computer games. These actually are pretty amazing. After hovering a cursor over "start" a bunch of times and hearing the word spoken, he can pick it out quite easily.

I suspect that as in many things a variety of techniques are helpful. I personally can never remember learning phonics; I just learned the words. There is some phonics backlash out there essentially saying that this is the better way to learn, but clearly there's more than one way to do it.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 1:57 PM on August 16, 2005

You might want to expand her knowledge in addition to reading. My first daughter was an early reader (around the same age as your daughter) and she was bored until she hit 3rd grade. In 2nd grade I stopped teaching her ahead of her class and let them catch up. Third grade was quite a challenge for her and she was not used to having to try hard.

My 2nd daughter doesn't know how to read yet. She is 5 1/2 and starts kindergarten in Sept. She is as smart as #1 but I encouraged her to learn about science and math and history instead of reading. My kids love everything science.

That being said, if your daughter is desperate to learn to read then I second the Sesame Street CDs, plus: Richard Scary, Little Bill, Dr. Seuss, Pooh, Franklin. My older kids love the Magic Schoolbus CDs, too.
posted by sacre_bleu at 2:02 PM on August 16, 2005

Here's a fun website about phonics.
And here's an awesome DVD (my son's current favorite.) The magnetic alphabet sets are lots of fun too.
posted by maryh at 4:10 PM on August 16, 2005

What's the rush?

Sacre Bleu has a point. And as a former very bored child and early reader, learning to read faster does not help the boredom factor in school AT ALL.

Why not introduce her to writing and have her come up with her own stories? Or make puppets and do her own puppet shows? Or investigate doing art, maybe illustrating stories she comes up with?

Do supplement her interests but DO NOT PUSH unless you would like a burned out child in several years. I have seen it happen and it ain't pretty.
posted by konolia at 4:44 PM on August 16, 2005


Thanks to those that answered the question that I asked. I appreciate all the advice unrelated to the question, but most of you make big assumptions based on what I wrote, which was puposefully terse. I did not want to write a long essay about my child's education and her interests (besides reading) and everything else that I do with her (besides reading). I simply wanted to ask a quick and (what I thought was) easy question: if you guys have experience with some games and toys that, while being something fun that she and I can do together, have the added benefit of increasing her reading skills. My apologies if it was poorly worded or if I did a bad job of indicating what I was looking for.

Mixed in there, though, are some great suggestions. I'll be following up on several of those. Thanks!
posted by mike9322 at 7:24 PM on August 16, 2005

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