How to Set Your Child Up for Success with Sight Words

So we’ve gone over how to begin writing and reading phonetically with your child, but what about those words that your child will encounter early on that won’t fit with the phonetic rules she’s learned yet? Sight words can be tricky for some kids, or they can pick them up naturally. Once you get started, you’ll be able to determine if your child is going to take the natural approach or if she will need some extra practice — no worries, I have some suggestions for both!

The best way to start is with the sight words that your child is already encountering in the wild — maybe they’re in some phrase cards she’s working on, or on signs you pass by regularly, or in a beginning reader book. Point it out: “This is a word that doesn’t follow the rules we’ve talked about yet. This word is ‘the.’ Every time you see it, it will be ‘the.'” Repeat it each time you see it. If you’ve been working on that one for a while, prompt her a bit: “Oh, this is that word I told you about. Do you remember what it is?” She might be able to figure it out just from that! If not, just repeat it and keep going.

That might be enough for your child! She might take it from there and her reading journey will just take off. But don’t despair if she doesn’t — many children need extra practice with sight words. Here are some fun ways to get some repetition in so you child can start to memorize those tricky words that pop up all over the place!

  • Choose one sight word (especially if there’s one that your child just can’t remember) and hang it up all over your house. I have some free printable sight words cards that you can use for this, or just write the word on post-it notes and put them EVERYWHERE. I’m talking on the walls, on tables, on mirrors, tucked into drawers — EVERYWHERE. Say it every time you see it. When your child has a good handle on that one, replace it with a new sight word.
  • Once your child has mastered a few (or is very close to mastering them), set up a scavenger hunt. Hang up those sight words around the house, then give your child a blank piece of paper to go record all of the ones she can find.
  • Play a game with them! My girls always loved Zingo, but you could easily make your own Bingo-style sight word game.
  • Practice reading a lot — even if it’s not a full chapter book. Read a picture book with your child and ask her to point to all of the “the”s in the text. Circle sight words found in magazines. The more reading practice your child gets, the quicker the recall will come to her when she encounters a sight word.

Sight words can be tricky at first, but with one day it will click and your child will be reading day and night!