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I bust out the kids' favorite independent reading activities for a minimum stress, maximum fun phonics time. These can be used one on one, as kindergarten reading station activities, or be done with a whole classroom of kids.

All 3 of these independent reading activities have many ways to differentiate to meet the needs of all your young learners and build their phonics skills. So whether you're working on beginning and ending sounds, letters, CVC word reading, or digraphs like "sh" and "ch," I've got something for you.

Without further ado, the 3 most begged for independent reading activities are...

  1. Beginning and Ending Sound Parking Lots
  2. Phonics Dominoes
  3. CVC Words and Digraph Cup Stacking Challenge

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3 Top Rated Independent Reading Activities

Get ready to sit back and watch kids get excited to practice reading all on their own. You might even have time to sit down and drink coffee while it's still hot. The best part? It's all hands-on!

Beginning and Ending Sound Parking Lots

sound parking lot beginning independent reading activity

Kids dream of the day they'll get to drive, so bring that dream to life with phonics parking lots. It's so simple, you'll need 10 plastic cars, hot wheels, or trains you have lying around the house.

If you don't have ten little cars you can usually pick them up from the dollar store or here on Amazon.

Print out the 3 beginning sound parking lots or the 3 ending sounds parking lots and you're almost ready to play. Just label the cars with the 10 necessary letters using a dry erase or sharpie.

Independent beginning sound reading activity

All the beginning sound parking lots use the same letters, and the ending sounds have the same letters on each of their mats too! This makes it so you only would need to change the letters on the cars when you're ready to move from beginning to ending sounds.

I love this game because kids are SO psyched to play and can do so independently. So they're working on their phonemic isolation (isolating sounds in words), while I can step back and beam with pride.

Phonics Dominoes

Kids can play this independent reading activity with a partner or on their own. You don't need anything but a sharpie, crayon, and popsicle sticks.

independent reading center with phonics dominoes

I played this game with my kindergartners using CVC words, but you can also play it with the alphabet, shapes, numbers, sight words, spelling words, etc.

Prep this quick independent reading activity in 5 steps:

  1. Line up an even number of jumbo popsicle sticks.
  2. Add a color to every other one.
  3. Write a number, word, shape, or letter on both sides.
  4. Whatever you wrote on the right sight of the first popsicle stick, write the same thing on the left side of the next stick.
  5. Continue till the phonics dominoes all have two words each.
independent reading activities popsicle word phonics dominoes

Once you teach this game to your kids or students, they'll know how to play forever. This makes it the easiest independent reading center. They see the popsicle sticks, and you barely have to say a word!

Cup Stacking Challenge - CVC words and Digraphs Sh and Ch

Just print and play. Kids freak out when you share they'll be reading and building based on the words they have on their cups.

independent reading challenge stacking cups

The Cup Stacking Challenge bundle comes with 4 building challenges per vowel and digraph. So you get stacking cards that focus on CVC words and digraphs ch and sh. The set comes with 7 sheets of challenges, focusing on each of the vowels in CVC words and the two digraphs.

independent reading a stack reading activity

Each challenge requires only 6 cups. Use either plastic or paper to write the words listed at the bottom of that challenge's sheet. Below is an example with the "i" words using paper cups and the "sh" words using plastic cups.

reading challenge with cup stacking

Download your bundle now to start playing these independent reading activities that kids beg for!

Worried your kids are not ready to play these independent reading activities?

Most kids begin reading in kindergarten at the age of 5 or 6. What does "reading" look like at this age? Well, in kindergarten kids by sounding out simple 3 letter words using their knowledge of letters and sounds. They also read words they have explicitly memorized aka sight words.

Everyone learns at different paces, so don't be worried if your child is not yet doing this. However, if you want to progress their learning through fun, hands-on games such as the ones you just read about, check out our signature program, The Fun Club.

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Kids in The Fun Club can read this to you!

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The AN word family words are perfect for practicing with your kindergartner as they begin to sound out words.

What are word families?

Word Families are sets of words that have the same ending and rhyme. The ending of words in a word family is commonly referred to as the "root."

Children have more success when reading words that are familiar, so by having kids reads words that have the same end, they can decode the sounds with increased speed. Studies have shown that learning to read word families develops vocabulary, as well as children's ability to recognize patterns in words, ultimately leading them to read with greater understanding and speed.

To grab your list of AN words, click the list below or continue reading for more AN words printable worksheets.

an word family list of words

AN Word Family Worksheets

It's no secret that I'm not a fan of worksheets, but I also know that teachers often use worksheets as homework to reinforce skills learned in the classroom. Here are some printable worksheets that would help strengthen reading skills, followed by some hands-on ways to teach the AN family words.

Mini Word Search

circle the AN word
This simple word search only goes vertically, making it a fun and totally doable activity for the earliest readers.

AN Word Match and Write

AN words match and write

AN Word Family Read and Circle

next to each picture read the two words and circle the one that matches

AN Words With Pictures Flashcards


How do you teach word families in hands-on ways?

If you've read my blog before, you know that I would never share worksheets without sharing ACTIVITIES that make learning these words even more fun.

Got a child who cringes when you show them a worksheet? That's okay! Try any of these activities to make practicing reading AN words more hands-on and exciting for young learners. You can use these games with any word families!

Games to teach AN words:

word family ladder
How to teach CVC words to wiggly kids

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The AT word family is one of the first sets of words young children learn to read, usually in kindergarten. These words are practiced as part of a word family.

What is a word family?

A word family is a set of words with the same ending. The words in a word family always rhyme.

Here is a downloadable list of words from the AT word family. Just click to download and read on for some great printable worksheets and activities to teach the words in the AT word family.

The first words kids usually read...

When kids are first starting to read, they usually begin reading CVC words. CVC stands for consonant vowel consonant words.

The AT word family is one of the first, if not THE first, family of words children practice reading in school. Since “a” is the first letter of the alphabet, children are usually most familiar with its sound out of the vowels: a, e, i, o, and u. “T” is also another sound kids more easily remember.

*As an Amazon affiliate, I may get a small commission for purchases made through links in this post.

AT Word Family Worksheets Packet

These FREE downloadable worksheets will help your child build fluency with the words in the AT family.

When working with the list and flashcards in the printable packet, I recommend using the 3 letter CVC words for beginning readers. The 4 letter words (CCVC words) are only for a challenge.

There are so many hands-on ways to use the AT word family flashcards for activities and games that your kid will love. I find that just going through the flashcards can be boring, so check out the activities we played with them below!

flashcards for AT word family

Page 1 of 2 Flashcards

Picture flashcards that match the word flashcards above
Match and Write. Children connect the picture to the word and then trace the word
Beginning sound worksheet where students determine which of two words matches the picture

Hands-On Activities Using AT Words

AT Word Family SPLAT!

Okay so I usually call this game, SWAT it, but it didn't rhyme, SPLAT the AT word it is!

Use those flashcards you just printed out and call out a word. Kids love getting permission to make something go SPLAT! Make sure to use blue painters tape so you don't ruin your walls!

2 kids using fly swatters to hit AT words on a white wall and smiling

Muffin Pan Spelling with the AT word family

Kids absolutely love muffin pan spelling so if you're looking to try this with other word families you can find more picture cards there. We use any muffin pan and these soft and magnetic Coogam letters.

Try this game with one of two ways:

  1. Beginning sounds version- match the initial sound to the word from the picture card
  2. CVC spelling full version- spell the AT word that matches the picture in it's entirety
muffin pan next to pictures of bat, rat, mat, and hat. in left veresion the muffin pan includes only the -at ending of each word and the beginning letters are under the pan. The second picture on the left has all the words spelled to match the AT words on the right

Word Ladder for the AT Family

Create a word ladder listing all the words you can think of that rhyme with at! Display them with Post-its, flashcards, or these cute paint chip cards.

word family ladder

Memory Matching Game- Pictures + Words

Using the picture and word flashcards from the AT word packet, play a classic game of memory. Take turns flipping two cards and if they match, you keep them. Continue flipping them over till all are gone.

AT Family Word Sort

This is pretty intuitive, but a simple sorting game can be great practice. Read the word and match it with the picture.

As kids sound out the words, they're practicing their phonics letter/sound association, but they also need to be able to BLEND those three sounds together to make the word, which is a very important phonemic awareness skill that lots of people don't know to practice.

each word flashcard is matched with its picture. words/pictures are: bat, cat, fat, hat, mat, pat, rat, sat

The AT Word Family House

Let's really lean in to that family part of "word family." All these words live together! So let's give them a house.

a paper craft house with AT on the room and paint chips with different rhyming at words on the bottom

The Cat and the Rat Book, A First Reader

I created this printer friendly (black and white) decodable book to help kids practice reading words in the -at family. It’s FREE to print and use with your child. They can even color it in. Maybe it’ll be the very first book they read!

Parents often ask...

When are kids supposed to be able to read the words in the AT word family?

Kids are expected to read most CVC (consonant vowel consonant words) at the end of kindergarten based on Kindergarten Common Core Standard CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RF.K.2.D. Since the AT family is usually the first set of words children learn to decode (sound out) independently, they are likely to begin reading these words around the middle of kindergarten.

But I want to make sure I say that everyone is different and that's okay! Not all kids will read these words in kindergarten.

According to, "Not all kids develop reading skills at the same rate. Taking longer doesn’t mean they’re not on track to become good readers." That's a very important reminder for parents in this world where we are constantly comparing ourselves and our kids.

What are other word families at the same reading level?

Other families to work on after the -at word family would be the -ag, -ad, -am, and -an families.

I've created these activities and printables for the -an word family just for you!

The letters in all these families use the usual phonetic sounds for each letter so they don’t confuse beginning readers (unlike the -ar and-as word families where there are letters making irregular sounds like the “a” in far and the “s” in has).

Hands on learning is my secret to teaching reading so kids are never bored!
I NEVER use workbooks or worksheets.

When I say "hands on learning," I mean any kind of learning where your child is actively participating in creating new knowledge or solving a problem. This is also called learning by doing. From your own childhood, did you ever really learn something from a worksheet? I remember the projects, the games, the activities that got me and my classmates up and moving, creating, and solving problems.

Hidden Object is a hands on learning game that combines reading skills with a fun, element of surprise.

How to Play Hidden Object- A hands on learning game:

What you'll need-

Version 1, Letters and Letter Sounds:

On the Post-its, write the letters your child is learning. If you're child is just starting to recognize letters, I recommend starting with the letters of their name.
In this version, children will either say the letter name or the letter sounds as they lift each bowl on the hunt for the hidden object.

Child lifting bowls with different letters on them

Version 2, Reading CVC Words:

If your child has moved into reading, try sight words or CVC words in a particular word family (on example is the AT word family with words like cat, rat, bat, sat, etc).

Another idea would be to include words that have a new sound they've just learning like digraphs: sh, wh, th, and ch.

Child picking up cups with words on them

Invite your child to play:

  1. Say, "I've hidden a special object under one of these containers. Before you check under the container you must read the letter or word on that container's note."
  2. Remind your child to read the letter or word before they can look under the container for the hidden object.
  3. Once they find the hidden object, have them close their eyes and start again!

Hands on Learning at all levels of literacy:

This simple hands on game can be used for so many different skills: letter sounds, letter identification, sight words, CVC words, digraphs, etc.
In this instance, Big Sis was practicing reading CVC words (consonant vowel consonant words) that had different vowels in the middle. If I notice her struggling with a specific vowel or letter sound, I would put more words with those sounds on the Post its.

Hands-On Learning Games + Reading Comprehension:

Whenever I discuss early literacy skills like reading CVC words and sight words, I want to reinforce that all the games and wonderful activities are only part of the reading puzzle. The biggest thing you can do for your child to have success with reading from an early age is read to them everyday.

Guiding questions as you read aloud with your child:

Like teaching your child through hands on learning games? Want to teach you 4-5 year old to read using hands on learning? Check out The Fun Club! Subscribe for a free week of activities right now!

Wondering how to teach CVC words to beginning readers? Let's do it with 11 fun games. CVC words are consonant-vowel-consonant words. These phonetically spelled words are the building blocks of kindergarten reading and writing.

*As an Amazon affiliate, I may get a small commission for purchases made through links in this post.

Top tips for teaching CVC words to kids 4-6:

  1. Start working with one vowel at a time, words with "a" in the middle are a good start
  2. Make it a game to encourage lots of repetition and practice
  3. Find CVC words in books as you're reading and give your child the opportunity to read a few of them.
  4. Practice blending sounds together in addition to sounding out letters
  5. Model how to sound out words, pointing to each letter and then blending the sounds

What's a CVC word?

CVC stands for consonant-vowel-consonant. These are the first words that kids read by decoding, otherwise known as sounding out. By the end of kindergarten all kids are expected to read all CVC words that use all vowels, except irregular ones like words that end in "r."

CVC words make sense to kindergarten readers, because they are phonetic (sound as they're spelled). Examples of CVC words include Bob, mat, kit, peg, fog, gum.

Which CVC Words should I teach first?

Most children learn "a" as their first vowel. For that reason I recommend teaching kids to sound out CVC words that have an "a" in the middle first. Stick with one word family like the -am, -an, -ad, or -at word family (you'll want these freebies).

11 Fabulously Fun Ways to Teach CVC Words:

The first 8 activities are best for how to teach CVC words to beginners. Activities 8-11 focus on how to teach CVC word families and are better for children who are sounding CVC words out with independence.

1. How to Teach CVC Words with A Muffin Pan

All you need are letters, a muffin pan, and these epic picture cards for 4 ways to play. You can grab the cvc words list with pictures here.

how to teach cvc words activity with a muffin pan

2. Stack and Read CVC Word Challenge

My most reluctant readers love this game so much, they don't even know I've tricked them into reading CVC words. Seriously, this is in my top 3 games I've ever made! Kids stack the CVC word paper cups in different configurations based on the pictures.

I've made 5 sets of challenges, one for CVC words of each vowel sound and 2 bonus sets for those readers who are ready for the /sh/ and /ch/ sounds.

Get stacking!

3. Magnetic Bingo Chip Reading with CVC Words

When I discovered magnetic bingo chips, I nearly lost my mind. This is one of the most engaging ways I have used for how to teach CVC words. Print out the FREE CVC words cards. Then place one magnetic bingo chip on each dot. Finally give your child their magnetic wand to touch each of the chips with as they sound out the word. Viola!

Two pages of Bingo Chip Wand CVC Word CardsDownload
teaching cvc words with bingo chips and wand

4. The Hidden Object CVC Words Game

Where could it be? Read the word and lift the cup. This hands on reading game is perfect for beginners, since you can play with as many or as few CVC words as you'd like, preventing visual overwhelm!

teaching cvc words with the hidden object game

5. Crack the Secret Code with CVC Words: brings this hands on game where kids have to find the beginning sound for each picture to crack the code. Once the pictures are complete, they reveal a CVC word at the bottom. How fun!

6. Real or Silly: Making CVC words

An important part of how to teach CVC words is not just blending the words but for children to understand the word they just read. In this magnetic letter game, kids will make their own CVC words and determine whether they're real words or silly words.

The Coogam magnet letters are perfect to use when teaching CVC words, because the vowels are red and the consonants are blue, making it really easy for children to make their own CVC words.

how to teach real and silly cvc words

For additional practice with nonsense CVC words, you have got to check out this video version of the Real or Silly word game by the extremely silly Mr. B's brain.

7. Splat the CVC Word Gross Motor Game

Got a wiggly kid in need of reading practice? They'll love this SPLAT the CVC word game as you call out CVC words and they make them go SPLAT! Use 5 words with beginners and increase as they build fluency (that means are able to read faster).

How to teach CVC words to wiggly kids

8. Match the Picture and CVC word game

Rather than matching CVCs on a worksheet, let's make it FUN! Grab your free CVC words with pictures HERE and play a classic game of memory or give each student one card and have them find their partner! There are so many ways to practice reading CVC words with these pictures and words.

cvc word and picture matching cards

9. Post-it Matching Game: How to Teach CVC Word Families

Kids love any kind of activity where they get to go on a "hunt," right? So if you've got an active kiddo, this is JUST how to teach CVC words so they'll be super into it. First hide the Post-its around the house or classroom; then have your child find them and return them to the home base.

how to teach cvc word families with post its

10. CVC Word Families Duplo Sort

Write CVC words in from 3 different word families on dot stickers, then place the stickers on the Duplos. Next, hide the Duplo bricks around the house and have your little one find them.

Then comes the reading part. Each brick must be sorted with the ones in its word family. Once all the bricks in the family are reunited, build a tower with them to complete the game.

using duplos for how to teach cvc word families

11. Word Family Snowball Toss by

This fun game is's take on how to teach CVC words, and it is ridiculously fun. You're going to need some ping pong balls and containers to try to match the words on the ping pong balls to the word family cups.

When is my child ready to start reading CVC words?

Children usually begin reading CVC words in kindergarten, when they are 4-6 years old. This can sometimes happen earlier or a little later. A lot of the "when" is based on when children are exposed to things such as letters and sounds, and also when they begin to master phonemic awareness skills (the ability to manipulate sounds like isolate the first sounds in words).

What are good books that teach CVC words?

My favorite book series for beginning readers that I recommend to every family are the Bob books. Their books are truly decodable, so there are no tricky words that make kids confused.

I cannot recommend the BOB series enough because the books are simple, short, and not too many words on the page. They combine CVC words and sight words to create fun and easy to follow stories kids enjoy.

I use these books for all my kindergarteners and my own child. Have you found a series of decodable readers you like to use for teaching CVC words?

Teachers begin teaching CVC words in kindergarten, once children have learned their letters and sounds.

CVC stands for consonant vowel consonant. These words are the simplest words to sound out aka decode.

Here are four CVC word games for kindergarten from least to most difficult. All of them use a muffin pan and CVC words with pictures.

*As an Amazon affiliate, I may get a small commission for purchases made through links in this post.

Want a CVC words list with printable pictures?

Check out my shop to get my CVC words with pictures.pdf.

Printable CVC words with pictures pdf

Supplies you'll need...

  1. CVC words with pictures - get mine above
  2. 12 Cup Muffin Pan- we use this GoodCook one for all our CVC word building + baking needs
  3. Magnetic letters -Coogam makes our favorite soft foam letters that come with a white board and carrying case

Teaching CVC words: 1 Setup 4 ways to Play

1. Missing Beginning Sounds - Early Kindergarten Level

teaching cvc words with pictures

For this activity in particular, I recommend using words from the AT Word Family for the most beginning readers. The AT Word Family is one of the very first word families children are taught to read.

Not only do kids practice their beginning sound knowledge with this game, they also are building awareness of the other sounds in the word.

The beauty of the muffin pan is that it breaks down each word into 3 components: the CVC -consonant, vowel, consonant parts. Similarly to a story, each word has its beginning, middle, and end.

To play, place each CVC word's picture by the corresponding line on the muffin pan. Point out how the middle and ending sounds are there, but the beginning sound is missing.

First have your child choose a beginning sound matching the picture.. Then model how to sound out the word: /b/ /a/ /g/. Finally, blend the sounds together to make the whole CVC word.

It's okay if your child cannot yet blend the sounds together.

Having you model pointing to each letter from left to right while saying the sound will greatly enhance their understanding of the steps it takes to read a word.

2. Teaching CVC words with Missing Ending Sounds-Middle Kindergarten Level

In this version, everything is the same except the ending sounds missing from the CVC words.

It might seem we have gone a bit out of order by skipping the middle sounds. However, middle sounds are the most difficult to isolate since vowels are similar in sound.

Have your kindergartner isolate the ending sound of the word, then find the matching letter and complete the word. Don't stop just there! Point to each letter from left to right and sound out the word before blending the sounds together to make the complete CVC word.

Teaching CVC words in kindergarten is a snap when you break it down letter by letter.

In the example, kids are given the four letters that are the correct ending sounds. But, if you're child is ready for a challenge, you can include more letters (up to 10) for them to choose from!

If you're looking for more ending sounds activities that kids will love to get their hands on, try these.

3. Teaching CVC words with Middle Sounds- Middle to End Kindergarten Level

teaching cvc words middle sounds

Isolating middle sounds to complete the CVC words is a trickier skill to practice. This is because vowels have multiple sounds and often sound similar for young learners.

Accordingly, we stick to teaching CVC words with short vowel sounds: bat, rat, dog, fog first. Kids wait until first grade to practice words like car and for (where the vowels don't make their short vowel sound.)

In kindergarten we teach kids two ways to isolate and listen for the middle sounds in CVC words:

  1. Segment the word aka break the word into parts: /c/ /a/ /t/
  2. Lengthen the word by stretching it to hear what's in the middle: "CAAAAAAAAAT"

One of my favorite strategies for stretching out the word is to speak "Whale" like Dory in Finding Nemo. Certainly, if your child has seen that movie, they'll know just what to do. Really stretch out the CVC word and listen for the middle sound.

Like with ending sounds, you can offer just the 4 missing middles or give them a chance to pick out the right ones out of all the letters!

To learn more about isolating beginning, middle, and ending sounds, check out these sound isolation activities.

4. Independently Build CVC words

spelling cvc words independently using muffin pan

In my house, I'm known for sitting around with my Cup Of Noodles. So my kids' dubbed this version of the game: Cup of Wordles.

This activity is the culmination of teaching CVC words in kindergarten! The kids have to build the entire word themselves. It's still very simple since there are only 4 words to build at a time, and the kids have the letters to choose from.

In 4 cups, I put the letters needed to make each of the words. Then I place each cup in the beginning sound spot of the muffin pan.

Kids choose a cup and unscramble the letters in it to make the word on the matching CVC word picture card. Then, they check their work by sounding out the letters to read the CVC word.

The Cup of Wordles title is just another engaging way to engage the kids in play. They could be bakers, chefs, or home cooks in the kitchen using their letter ingredients to make delicious words.

Teaching CVC words in kindergarten is easy with these hands-on games...

Now that you have your CVC words with pictures, why not practice some more reading? Your kindergartener will thank you for playing these simple and fun CVC word games.

How to teach CVC words

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