21 Best Toys for Learning to Read (Pre-K to Grade 2)

chrisAbout the Author: Hi, I’m Chris Drew and I am a child development expert. I’m a former teacher with a PhD in Education. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

My Top Pick

My pick for the best toy for learning to read is the ‘Learning Resources’ Swat a Sight Word Game. It’s a fun, engaging game for ages 3 – 7.

Hi! I’m Chris, a former elementary school teacher. In this post, I want to share with you some of the best toys I use for teaching my students to read.

The best toys for learning to read are:

Best Toys for Learning to Read

1. ‘Learning Resources’ Swat a Sight Word Game

Quick Review: A really fun fast-paced game you can play with your kids. It doesn’t even feel like learning!

Benefits of this Learn to Read Game:

  • Fun, fast-paced and physical. Great for children who like to learn by doing something (we call these children kinesthetic learners).
  • Gets harder as your child gets better at reading. There are sight words for beginners right up to 3rd grade (sorted by color).
  • Targeted words! It uses the 220 most common words in the English language (we call these the Dolch Sight Words). These are the words children need to be able to read from sight (rather than phonetically).

How to Play:

Simply lay out the sight words on a table and provide your child (or children!) with a fly swat (included in the pack). Call out a sight word and your child has to try to swat it when they see it. Race against your child (or have them race together) to find the word and swat it first.

2. Boxiki Kids ‘Touch and Learn Toddler Tablet’

Quick Review: Get this for children who are drawn to phones and iPads. Use the built-in games to learn letters, numbers and finally words!

Benefits of this Learn to Read Game:

  • A surprisingly affordable children’s tablet that simply runs off just 3x AA batteries.
  • Your child will be so excited that they have their own tablet!
  • Children can start from 18 months and up.
  • You can start with simple games like learning the alphabet and build up to learning words.
  • Play with your child or let them play alone (and ask them to show you the progress they have made).
  • Built-in music and songs to bring all the senses into the learning experience.

How to Play:

Boot it up and select a game from the list on startup. You and your child will be walked through how to play each game. Your child can use their fingers or a stylus to press responsive buttons on the screen.

Read Also: Best Toys for Learning Spelling & Writing

3. Sight Words Bingo

Quick Review: Play bingo against your child while teaching them to read. Turn reading into a game with this simple & fun board game.

Benefits of this Learn to Read Game:

  • A fun way to a child to learn their first words and memorize them by sight.
  • Covers the simplest, easiest words. It has 46 ‘Level 1’ (starter) sight words.
  • Turns learning into a competitive game. Kids love it when they beat you at the game and they don’t even realize they are learning!
  • Children can become addicted to this game, helping them learn the 46 sight words – fast!

Something to Note:

While the game is really fun and certainly should help your child learn to read, note that it could have a slightly better build quality. The cards are not laminated and the bingo chips feel a little cheap.

4. SpriteGru Word Spelling Puzzles

Quick Review: Lean to read and spell through a jigsaw puzzle! 72 puzzles included.

Benefits of this Learn to Read Game:

  • Start young. You can start on this game from as young as 2 to 5 years old. For younger children, they will get exposure. As they get older they will make more and more connections between letters and the words.
  • Great for learning ‘words that start with’, e.g. ‘Car starts with C’. ‘Baby starts with B’.
  • Entertaining. It will entertain your child for a long time. Make a game out of getting your child to complete all 72 different word puzzles.
  • As a jigsaw puzzle, children are also working on matching and fine motor skills.

How to Play:

Children construct their jigsaw and then spell out the word. Sit with your child and help them to spell out the word letter by letter. The image helps a child to make contextualized connections between the words and the objects.

5. ‘Trend Enterprises’ Rhyming Fun-to-Know Puzzle

Quick Review: This game helps children match words that rhyme. It uses a very high quality educational approach known as ‘phonics’ to teach reading.

Benefits of this Learn to Read Game:

  • Uses the phonics method to familiarize children with word parts like ‘at’, ‘uck’, and ‘ox’. This helps children to learn to read a range of words by making associations between similar words.
  • Also teaches children how to rhyme and the concept of rhyming words.
  • Comes with 48 total puzzles and 96 total words.
  • Uses images to help children learn to read through making connections between images and their associated sight words.

How to Play:

Set your child down with the whole kit and connect similar words while modelling the language: ‘at’ for ‘cat’ and ‘hat’. Focus hard on speaking out the words when connecting them. As your child builds competence, confidence and understanding, let them play alone. Continue to encourage them to speak the words as they make the connections.

6. See and Spell Learning Toy

Quick Review: Best for children right at the start of their reading journey. Great if you have a 3-to-5 year old who is just starting to get interested in words.

Benefits of this Learn to Read Game:

  • Starts with very simple words. Contains 28 double-sided word cards.
  • Teaches how to combine letters to create words – a great strategy for teaching reading and spelling from scratch.
  • Provides very structured step-by-step guidance to children. Children see the words and seek out the letters that match.
  • The game combines images and text to triangulate learning and enhance memorization.

7. Gamenote Sight Words Fishing Game

Quick Review: A really fun way to learn sight words through game play. Fish out the fish, check the word, and see if you can say it to win a point!

Benefits of this Learn to Read Game:

  • Turn learning into fun through this fishing game that your child will love.
  • Great for active (kinesthetic) learning styles. If your child can’t sit still, this one might be great for them!
  • Turn competitiveness into learning. Your child will want to get more fish than you (or their friends).

How to Play:

Place the fish in the pond with the words facing down so your child can’t see them. Take turns to fish out the words using the magnetic fishing rods. When you fish out a words, try to say it. If you can say it you get to keep the fish! If you can’t set it free in the pond again. The person with the most fish at the end wins.

8. Sight Word Pizza

Quick Review: A really fun sight words game! Create your pizza – but you can only add a topping if you know the word. If you finish a slice, ‘eat it’ by completing the challenge on the flip side of the slide.

Benefits of this Learn to Read Game:

  • A really fun game that integrates competitive game play with learning to read.
  • Play with and against your kids while they learn.
  • includes Dolch and Fry reading words (common words to start learning to sight read) in a much more fun way than just using sight cards.

How to Play:

Spin the spinner when it’s your turn. The spinner will give you a topping to add to your pizza. Pick up the topping. If you can spell the word on the underside of the topping you can add it to your pizza. Once a pizza slice has 3 toppings you can ‘eat your pizza’. Flip the ‘eaten’ pizza upside down to uncover a special challenge. The challenge will ask you to complete a task like: “Use one topping word in a sentence to win +1 points.”

9. Little Champion Reader 1,000 Sight Fry Dolch Word-List Flashcards

Quick Review: Get this one if you want a HUGE range of sight words from beginners right up to Grade 3.

Benefits of this Learn to Read Game:

  • An enormous range of words to learn, following the Dolch word-list of most important words to learn in the early years.
  • 10 different packs fro beginner to advanced (ages 4 to 10). Start with the easy pack and work your way up with your child.
  • The cards are large and really easy to read.
  • Spend 10 to 15 minutes a night with your child working on a pack before bed. Make it a routine!

Things to Know:

  • Words only. No images.

How to Play:

These sight words aren’t linked to a specific game. You can simply sit with your child and try to read them, or create your own game out of them. I recommend working on 5 – 10 words a week. Weave in some revision words weekly so your child doesn’t forget older words. Spaced repetition is important for learning.

10. Teach My Baby Learning Kit

Quick Review: A good alternative to the above sight words list, if you’re looking for sight cards for younger children (approx. ages 2 – 4). Comes with images and words.

Benefits of this Learn to Read Game:

  • The use of image and word association here is useful for younger children. The focus is also on young children, with words like ‘nose’, ‘eyes’ and ‘cat’. You can start this out as a learn to talk set and re-purpose it later for learn to read.

11. LeapFrog ‘100-Words Interactive Book’

Quick Review: Great for learning nouns. Children touch the words and images and the words are spoken out loud for the child.

Benefits of this Learn to Read Game:

  • Learn words through themes like ‘animals’, ‘food’, ‘activities’ and ‘outside’.
  • Good if you’re sick of learning only the words on the Dolch word list. This provides many other common nouns.
  • The speaker also provides songs and sound effects to make learning fun.

Other things to Know:

  • Has an incredibly good average rating from people who have purchased it online.
  • Also switch to Spanish mode to hear the book say the words in Spanish for becoming a bilingual learner.

12. Educational Insights ‘Interactive Kindergarten Reader’

Quick Review: This toy is an interactive book with a connected stylus pen used to test comprehension.

Benefits of this Learn to Read Game:

  • Great for 4 and 5 year olds.
  • Children feel like they’re reading a real book – maybe their first! They work through the workbook and touch the book with the pen to answer questions and quizzes.
  • Touch words with the pen and the dog will read them out for you.
  • 100 Lessons that teach reading, spelling, and phonics.

How to Play:

Children use a smart pen named ‘Ace’ to read the book. As they read through the book they use the pen to press answers to quizzes. The dog will tell them if they’re right or wrong!

13. LeapFrog Learn to Read Interactive Books (10-Book Bundle)

Quick Review: Great if you’re looking for a lot of progress in your child’s reading skills. When you tap the pen on the words the book reads the words out for you.

Benefits of this Learn to Read Game:

  • Huge value with a 10-pack of books that get increasingly more difficult as your child progresses.
  • The reader pen can help your child overcome tough words by pressing on the word to get some help.
  • Helps increase reading confidence.
  • Also has writing help activities with step-by-step, stroke-by-stroke instructions on how to write letters.

Things to Keep in Mind:

  • Required computer setup, download of ‘companion audio’, and Adobe Reader to function. Expect to spend 20 – 30 minutes setting it up before gifting it to your child.

14. Boxiki Kids ‘Penguin Power ABC Learning Toy’

Quick Review: A toy that talks to your child and asks them to touch the letter or image that matches its questions.

Benefits of this Learn to Read Game:

  • It’s very interactive. The toy talks to you and asks you to press buttons to guess the correct answers.
  • Many different games. I’ve listed this toy here for its ‘learn the words’ game. But, it has games for learning to spell and learning the alphabet, too.

How to Play:

The toy literally talks to you when you turn it on, so it’s pretty self-explanatory. The buttons in the middle help you choose a game format (‘letters’, ‘words’, ‘spelling’, ‘where is it?’). The buttons on the outside have images, words and letters on them. Children listen to the spoken prompt then press the correct button to answer the question posed by the penguin. If you click through the link to Amazon, there are several videos also demonstrating how it works.

15. Pop Corn Sight Words

Quick Review: A fun sight words game. The goal is to collect more sight words than your competitor, but avoid the popcorn that says ‘pop!’

Benefits of this Learn to Read Game:

  • A fun way to learn the basic Dolch sight words in a competitive and fast-paced learning environment.
  • Encourage your child to learn to read by playing together.

How to Play:

Spin the spinner to find out how many pieces of popcorn you should draw. Draw the amount you spin, but you only get to keep them if you can read out the words. If you draw a piece of popcorn that says ‘pop!’ you have to put all your words back in the popcorn container.

Read More: 7 Additional Toys for Learning to Read

Read More: 7 Best Toys for Learning Phonics

Phonics is widely regarded as the best way to teach reading and spelling.

It involves breaking up words into their word parts. This helps children understand the codes that underpin the English language. There are many different types of phonics, including the synthetic and analytic approaches.

I have a separate blog post on toys that help you to teach your children to read using the phonics method.

These toys emphasize the importance of a play-based approach to learning phonics. They’re great for Pre-K preparation as well as helping your child with their homework spelling lists during Kindergarten and Grade 1.

What to Look for in Toys for Learning to Read

a) Make Learning Fun Using Sight Word Games

Try to find games that make learning fun for your child. It’s an age for play-based learning. Learning through play will keep your child interested and engaged for longer than simply reading out sight cards every night. Try to find games that involve having children compete either with you or with each other. This competitiveness will give children an incentive to learn and remember the common sight words.

b) Dolch or Fry Sight Words

The Dolch and Fry sight word lists are lists of the most common words in the English language. These are the sorts of words that we start with when teaching children to read. If a child can master the Dolch sight words, they’re well on their way to reading and progressing.

c) Phonics Learning Styles

Phonics is widely respected as the best way to teach reading. There are two major types of phonics: analytic phonics and synthetic phonics. Phonics involves breaking words down into their phonetic components. These components include word sections like ‘ox’ in box and fox, or ‘uck’ in ‘duck’ and ‘truck’. A great phonics learning game on this list is the rhyming words jigsaw puzzle (see #5).

d) Games that Guide your Child and Get Increasingly Harder

Your child might need to start from scratch – knowing the alphabet! Or, your child might already know the alphabet and be ready to identify words that start with letters of the alphabet. Better yet, they may be ready to put words together by sticking together words and phonemes.

The best games will help guide a child from simpler to more difficult concepts in reading. For beginners, I like the SpriteGru Word Spelling Puzzles (#4). It will help children learn that alphabet letters go together to make words. The next step will be sight words and phonics games such as the Swat a Sight Word Game (#1). Then, go through to reading books such as the LeapFrog Learn to Read Interactive Books (#13).

Final Thoughts

Good luck teaching reading! It’s a fun and exciting time in a child’s life. Make sure you keep their love of learning up by making it fun through games. Not only will it encourage a love of learning, it’ll also keep them motivated to stay learning of longer so they learn faster.

Don’t forget that your child also needs to develop STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) skills. Check out my list of the best STEM toys for kids for some inspiration for STEM toys for younger children.

Related Article: 27 Best Toys and Gifts for Children with Autism
Related Article: 7 Best Toys for Nonverbal Autism

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Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]

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