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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!

What's a CVC word? CVC words are the building blocks of kindergarten reading and writing. CVC stands for consonant-vowel-consonant. These are the first words that kids read by decoding, otherwise known as sounding out.

CVC words make sense to kindergarten readers, because they are phonetic and don't have any tricky sounds or rules. Examples of CVC words include Bob, mat, kit, peg, fog. As you read these words you'll notice that each letter makes its phonetic sound; there are no long vowels or tricky digraphs like sh/ch/th. That's why CVC words are the words your child should be reading first.

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

When is my child ready to start reading CVC words?

Often parents come to me because their kids know all their letters and letter sounds but they are not reading yet. Though it is helpful to know all your letters before beginning to read CVC words, it isn't necessary. However there are some essential skills that your child must practice before reading that fall under the category of phonemic awareness -being able to manipulate sounds.

Here are the skills your child should be able to do in order to begin reading CVC words:

I also want to include that reading CVC words is a kindergarten skill, so kids are usually around 5-6 years old as they begin this skill. There is no rush in getting them there early! If kids show any early interest in literacy before this time, by all means, but there is no pressure for your child to be able to do these skills in preschool.

The Essential Prereading Skill- Blending!

Blending is a phonemic awareness activity. This means it gives children practice manipulating sounds, and it's absolutely essential your child do this before they begin reading CVC words.

The great news is that you can practice blending with your child very easily and without using the alphabet.

Blending is the ability to take sounds and put them together to form a word.

A quick game I play in the car with my kids helps them become natural blenders. It's called, "Guess the Animal."

Me: Guess the animal - /go/ /rilla/

Kids: Gorilla

Me: Guess the animal - /d/ /o/ /g/

Kids: Dog

Me: Guess the animal- /p/ /i/ /g/

Kids: pig

If you're just starting out with blending, I would start with the longer animal names before CVC animals because those are easier to pick out by hearing: turkey, alligator, gorilla, etc. You don't need to segment every single letter, you can even say "Guess my animal /a/ /ligator/" This gives kids practice blending the beginning sound onto the word.

As they get better, they can move onto the CVC words. Some animal CVC words are: pig, dog, cat, rat, bat, ram, fox, hen.

What CVC words do I start with?

Usually the first vowel sound kids learn is a, so any CVC words with A in the middle are usually the one's that kids will learn to read first. Here is a free word list for "CVC words a."

You can use this list of CVC a words to use in games and activities you do with your child where you pick the words they're working on. I call these "target words." The more exposure and repetition our little readers can get with these words, the more easily they'll recognize and read them in the future.

Need a more comprehensive list of CVC words with other vowels too? Check out https://funlearningresources.com/cvc-words-list/ and print out her giant list of CVC words. This is so helpful to have on hand so you never have to think of specific words for your little one to read.

Looking for CVC word printable picture cards? Look no further. These come with a CVC word list that corresponds to each picture and can be used for many hands-on activities like muffin pan spelling!

Books with 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. The first books in this set are all "CVC words a" books, meaning the first few books only have CVC words that have "a" in the middle. Of the hundred plus children I've taught to read, every single one read the book "Mat" as their first book, including my daughter.

I cannot recommend the BOB series enough because the books are simple, short, and not to many words on the page. For little kindergartners who get distracted easily or feel overwhelmed by many words on the page, this is the perfect choice. The simple, short stories allow them to actually finish reading a book by themselves, and it's a HUGE moment for any child to read their first book.

How do I practice CVC words without worksheets?

Coming right up! I know so many people end up here because they're searching for CVC worksheets, and though they have their place in the world, it's not on my site.

I am true believer in making learning fun through activities and games that let the learning jump off the page and into real life.

The worksheets can be for follow up, assessment, or maybe some busy work, but I know that learning through games and hands-on activities really make those new skills stick in our kids' brains!

6 NON-WORKSHEET CVC word activities for Kindergarten:

1. The Hidden Object Game

Where could it be? Read the word and lift the cup.

Find the Hidden Object: Reading CVC words

2. Silly or Real Word?: Making CVC words

This game had my little reader rolling in the aisles with laughter as we sounded out real and silly CVC words.

Reading CVC words: Real or silly word?

3. Post-it Search and Sort: CVC Word Families

Find out how this game gets your kindergartner moving, having fun, and reading all at once. For beginners try doing this with one word family at a time. Add on other CVC word families, as your child gets more comfortable sounding out words.

Use Post-its to match the CVC word to its word family

4. CVC Word Family Duplo Sort

Write CVC words in from 3 different word families on dot stickers, then place the stickers on the Duplos. 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.

5. Muffin Pan CVC Words

All you need are letters, a muffin pan, and these epic picture cards for 4 ways to play. Find out how to get the picture cards instantly from this post.

Teach kids how to read cvc words with a muffin pan and magnetic letters

Make CVC reading fun with muffin pan spelling!

6. Crack the Secret Code with CVC Words:

Kindergartenworksheetsandgames.com 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!

Letter sounds come right after learning letter names in reading. While some kids are naturally inclined to learn letters from a young age, others take longer and that's okay.

My mission is to making learning how to read (and that definitely includes learning letter sounds) fun and hands on. So if you're looking for a letter sounds worksheet or some alphabet flashcards, this isn't the place.

Instead I'm going to show you my most favorite, hands-on learning games to teach your child letter sounds so that they're just as excited about the alphabet as I am (that's super excited...ahem...kindergarten teacher).

10 Hands-on Games to Teach Letters and Letter Sounds:

The Letter Sounds Swat:

All you need are some Post-its, a fly swatter (or a hand), and you're ready to go. Call out letter names or letter sounds and have your little one jump and swat the letters. You can use numbers too!

Child swatting letters on a wall

Find the letter by its sound

Letter Sounds Toy Rescue!

Hide toys around the house or even just on a door with blue tape. Invite your child to play by telling them that the Toy Thief has stolen their precious toys and they, and they alone must rescue them.

At the rescue station, toys must be matched with their beginning sound, reinforcing the letter sounds while also working on phonemic awareness!

Toys taped to a white door

Match the letters to their sounds

Rescue the Letters:

Got salad tongs? Blue tape? Any container? Combine with letters for this fun challenge!

It's simple, really...call out the letter sound and have your child pluck the corresponding letter from the container below, maneuvering through the blue tape.

It's a wonderful chance to practice fine motor skills as well!

Letter Sounds Stomp!

Active kids don't like to sit to learn. Try Letter Sounds Stomp to get your child smashing their way to all their letters and sounds.

Two children jumping on letters

Letter Sounds Stomp

Hidden Object with Letter Sounds:

Got some tricky letters that continue to confuse your child? Pick out those 5 or so letters and place them on Post-its for this surprising little game that kids love!

Bowls with letters on them, child's hand on the bowl

Practice letter sounds and reveal a surprise

Pom Pom Toss for Letter Sound Recognition:

Much like my very viral Pinterest post for teaching Sight Words, you can place letters on Post-its, lining them up with a muffin pan.

Throw the poms poms at the muffin pan and yell the letter name and sound! Kids and adults love this hands-on learning game that happens to also improve your aim.

Loving letter sounds yet?

Letter Sounds Post-it Hunt:

Pick out those target letters your child is working on and write them separately on a piece of construction paper. Hide 4 Post-it notes of the same letter around your home and have your child seek out those Post-its.

As your child matches the Post-it letter to the matching construction paper letter, they say the matching letter sounds!

Bear's Bag:

Surprise, your favorite stuffed animal is going on a trip, but you need to pack some intriguing objects for it!

Place different letters in a bag. Take turns pulling out different letters and searching around the house that you can pack that begin with that letter sound.

Place the item with the letter and pack them for Bear's trip! Bon Voyage!

Bear with a bag, letter D with Dog, letter R with ring, letter C with candle

Learn letter sounds as Bear packs for a trip!

Zig-Zag Letter Sounds Balance:

Got some blue painters tape? Create some zig zags for your child to traverse. Along the way, place some Post-it notes with letters on it.

Give your child a way they must cross the path: tip toe, jump, hop on one leg, walk, skip.

Each time they come to a letter, they need to stop, name it, and say it's letter sound.

Do your kids love trains and cars? They can even use their vehicles to traverse the zig zag path encountering letters as train stations or stop lights.

child walking across a zig zag path with letters on it

Letter Sounds Movement Game

Alphabet Basketball:

I love this letter sounds game with a fine motor twist from School Time Snippets.

Alphabet Basketball Letter Sounds Game

Noisy Letter Jump Phonics Game:

Take the fun outside with some chalk and play this silly, active hands-on learning game from The Imagination Tree, a super awesome UK mama!

Noisy Letter Sounds Jump!

What's a CVC word and why do we begin teaching CVC words in kindergarten?

CVC stands for consonant vowel consonant and in kindergarten, kids are expected to have learned all their letters and sounds, usually around winter of that year. Once they have built up their phonics skills they're ready to begin reading the simplest decodable words: CVC words with short vowels.

These words when sounded out make sense because each letter makes the sound that children are taught matches with that letter.

Kids don't magically begin reading though, once they know all their letters and sounds. To learn more about the other skills kids need to be able to read check out everything you need to know about CVC words. If your child is already familiar with listening for beginning, middle, and ending sounds along with blending sounds together, they're ready to read CVC words.

Using a muffin pan, I'll explore 4 CVC word games for kindergarten from least to most difficult.

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

Muffin pan used for spelling the words cat, six, and pin next to pictures of those things

Simple CVC words games for kindergarten

3 Simple Supplies you'll use again and again

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

Want a CVC words list with printable pictures?

Check out my shop to get my CVC picture cards:

Purchase CVC word pictures sorted by vowel sound, 30 in all

Teaching CVC words: 1 Setup 4 ways to Play

1. Teaching CVC words with Missing Beginning Sounds - Early Kindergarten Level

  When kids are first learning letters they often associate words with their beginning sound, so at the end of pre-k and the beginning of kindergarten, they'll be able to place the matching letter to the beginning sound of the word.

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

The beauty of the muffin pan is that it breaks down each word into 3 components: the CVC -consonant, vowel, consonant parts. Just like a story, each word is shown to have a beginning, middle, and end so the CVC words are not intimidating to young children.

Place each printable 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.

Once your child chooses a beginning sound from the 4 options, model how to sound out the word: /b/ /a/ /g/ and then blend the sounds together to make the whole CVC word.

Though your student or child might not be ready to blend sounds together yet, having you model 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 it's not the beginning sounds missing from the CVC words, but the end. It might seem we have gone a bit out of order by skipping the middle sounds, but actually middle sounds are the most difficult to isolate since vowels are similar in sound.

This is why kindergarteners are expected to practice ending sounds next.

Have your kindergartner isolate the ending sound of the word, 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.

As kids get stronger isolating the sounds, I might not have only the 4 missing sounds to choose from. Sometimes I include 10 or more to challenge them a bit when discerning which letter matches the missing sound.

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

Muffin pan words missing the middle sounds

CVC word games for kindergarten

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

This is why we stick to using CVC words with short vowel sounds: bat, rat, dog, fog and NOT words like car and for where the vowel doesn't make its 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. If your child has seen that movie, they'll know just what to do to really stretch out the CVC word and listen for the middle sound.

Just like with ending sounds, you can offer just the 4 missing middles at a time or include the letters for all the CVC words list with printable pictures.

4. Independently Build CVC words

Cups have letters for kids to make CVC words in the muffin pan

Reading CVC words in Kindergarten

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 because the kids have to build the entire word themselves. It's still very simple because they can see there are not endless words to make, only 4 at a time and they have the letters to choose from.

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

One at a time, kids take the "Cup of Wordles" and place each of the 3 letters into their correct spot to match the picture of the CVC word.

Kids check their work by sounding out the letters and blending them together to see if the CVC word they made matches the picture!

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

Why don't we just teach CVC words with worksheets?

Do you remember having any "Aha!" moments from a worksheet? Me neither.

My mission is to bring hands-on learning games to others to keep that magic of kindergarten alive. Earlier and earlier kids are expected to sit at a desk with a piece of paper and a pencil, and kids lose out on the magic of playing to learn.

In this game, the CVC words that could be made and spelled on a worksheet are much less intimidating because kids are playing to learn. Kindergarteners are more likely to take risks and be open to making mistakes when they're playing as opposed to doing a sit down task, especially for a new skill.

By using the muffin pan, the missing letters do not have endless possibilities, they are clearly broken down into 3 letters each and kids are given choices as to a few options they could be, instead of having to think of all the letters on their own.

Bigger picture: what's more fun? A worksheet or a muffin pan? As a teacher, I couldn't always get my hands on every supply I needed to make hands-on learning happen for a whole class, but as a parent, I thought, "Wow, I can definitely do a simple game instead of trying to wrangle my kids to sit down and focus for another worksheet."

Are you like me? Does your kid not sit?

I want to tell you that that's OK. No not okay, it's PERFECT. Kids are meant to play and explore and be kids. That's why I created The Fun Club where I guide parents of kids ages 4-5 in teaching their children the most important foundational skills with hands-on games in 20 minutes a day!

Each week I send out 5 activities that based in play - no worksheets and the games are FUN, easy to prep, and simple to do. Best of all, kids are developing a love of learning. My child learned to read at age 4 and 2 months just through playing games with me.

Want to learn more about The Fun Club?

Check it out.

Child holding die with CVC word on it: fun, The Fun Club advertisement

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.

teal paint chips with words that rhyme with at on each one: bat, cat, fat, hat, mat, pat, rat, sat

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, Focus - AT Word Family words

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 understood.org, "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 word families.

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).

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