As a parent, you may have heard the term “sight words” but might not really know what it means. We read sight words every day without thinking about it. They are words like “the,” “he,” and “where,” for example, that are very common but not easy to sound out.
Learning sight words can boost your child’s reading skills and confidence. When you give your little one the resources they need to recognize sight words, they’ll be on the path to mastering — and enjoying — their reading journey!
In this article, we’ll talk about what sight words are and share some fun ways to use them to help kids learn to read.
What Are Sight Words?
As we mentioned, sight words aren’t easy to sound out or decode, so we memorize them (or, in other words, recognize them by sight).
Once your child learns sight words, they won’t need to spend a lot of time trying to decipher these high-frequency words. This helps them improve their reading fluency and makes reading more fun.
After all, being able to quickly recognize sight words is one of the first steps to a lifetime of reading adventures!
Here are some examples of the simplest and most essential sight words:
As kids develop their reading skills, the list of words they recognize by sight will grow well beyond the one above. But giving them these words to start with can help boost their confidence and encourage them to learn more.
When Should Kids Learn Sight Words?
Most children — not all! — begin to master a few sight words (like is, it, my, me, and no) by the time they’re in Pre-K at four years old. Then during kindergarten, children are introduced to anywhere from 20 to 50 sight words, adding to that number each year.
However, it’s important to mention that while some kids are ready for sight words before they turn four, others may not be ready until they’re five or older.
How can you tell if your child is ready to start memorizing sight words? Here are a few easy signs to watch for in your little one. They:
- Show an interest in books
- Recognize some or all letters
- Can hear the sounds in words (such as knowing when words rhyme)
- Express an eagerness to learn how to read
If your child isn’t quite there yet, that’s OK! Give the process — and your little one — time and grace. And remember that every child learns in their own way!
If you get started but your child seems a bit discouraged, consider trying some simple, yet fun, approaches to introducing sight words. Sight words hopscotch, memory games, and other similar activities are great ways to engage different learning styles.
Finally, if your little one still seems to be struggling, that’s OK, too! Their teacher is available to help and can offer some advice in this area.
Age-Appropriate Sight Words
Some sight words are more difficult than others, meaning different levels of sight words are appropriate for different ages.
To help you easily keep them straight, there are two common lists that break down which words are best to introduce at which age: The Dolch Word List (also called The Dolch 220) and The Fry Word List.
We recommend starting with The Dolch 220. Made up of the most commonly used words in the English language, this list is ideal for helping your four to eight year old develop a love for reading!
The Dolch Sight Words List
Edward William Dolch was a professor who wrote several children’s books with his wife. In the 1930s, he researched and discovered the 220 words that were most frequently used in the English language.
These words were given the title “Sight Words” and the list was born. Later, he compiled a list of the 95 most common nouns in English, bringing the number of sight words in his lists to 315.
To make it easy to choose which words to introduce based on a child’s age, the Dolch list is broken up into five groups: Pre-K (Pre-Primer), Kindergarten (Primer), First Grade, Second Grade, and Third Grade.
You can choose which group to start introducing to your little one based on their grade level, or you can work with whichever one you feel they’re ready for. There are different ways to begin your child’s reading adventure!
For example, if your child is a kindergartner, according to the Dolch list, they might be ready to start learning some of these words:
The Dolch Sight Words are often used in schools, so your child’s teacher will most likely provide a list of sight words to help you get started.
But if your little one isn’t yet in school or you’re unsure where to start, our Learning Quiz is a great way to help identify your child’s reading stage! From there, the lessons and games in our HOMER Learn & Grow app can give you an idea of which sight words list to choose.
Fun And Easy Tips For Using Sight Words
1) Ease Into The Adventure
Our first tip is to start slow. When introducing sight words, begin with three to five words and build from there. If your little one seems a bit overwhelmed, you can always take it at their pace and reduce the number of words.
The goal is to help your child learn a handful of sight words at a time. Start with a few words and, once your child can recognize these words on sight, try adding more!
For example, if they have a list of five words and have mastered three of them, try including three new ones so they’re still working on no more than five at a time.
2) Involve The Senses
Next, get as many of their senses involved as you can!
Giving your little one the opportunity for fun, hands-on learning helps them connect their brain and body, which can reinforce what the word sounds and looks like.
When you introduce a word, write it on a bright note card and put it in a place where your child can see it throughout the day so that when you pass by the word with your child, you can point it out to them.
Say the word often in your everyday conversations so they can hear it out loud, and have them write the word in sand or flour using their fingers so they can touch it.
You can also use shaving cream to make involving their sense of touch even more fun! To try this activity, simply spread some shaving cream thinly over a cookie tray and let your child write the word in it.
3) Try Silly Spelling
Finally, say each word once, spell it, and then say it again. Then have your child repeat what you just said back to you while looking at the word.
To make sure your child is connecting the sound of the word with the written word, give them a notecard to look at while the two of you spell and repeat the word.
To amp up the fun, get creative with it and use silly voices each time, encouraging your child to copy you. Your little one will love having some fun, and you’ll love helping them learn sight words while going about your busy day!
4) Play A Word-Find Game
Finally, another great way to help your child become familiar with their sight words is by making a game of finding the words in a book.
To do this activity, choose one word to write on a card and let your child study it a bit. Once they’ve looked at it a while, challenge them to find it in a book. When they succeed, give them another book to find it in.
This is an easy, fun, and effective way to help your child with sight words while going about your day because you can send them on a word-hunt while you’re checking things off your to-do list!
Sight Words And Reading
Sight words are a great foundation for learning to read. As your child adds more sight words to their reading vocabulary, they’ll start to read with more speed and ease and, as a result, will begin to feel more confident.
Think of every sight word as a building block. When you stack the blocks, a firm foundation is set. Your child can then build on this base, adding more words, more skills in sounding out words, and more fluency. And their love of reading will grow along with their skills!
A Lifetime Of Reading
To sum up, sight words are common words recognized by sight rather than by sounding them out. You can start teaching sight words to your child as early as four years old, but the exact timing will depend on when your young learner is ready.
There are fun and simple ways to start working on sight words with your child at home. It doesn’t have to be boring! The sky’s the limit when it comes to how you can teach sight words to your beginning reader.
Learning sight words can even feel like play if you change things up every so often. If you’re looking for ideas, check out our kid-tested games and activities. And for more fun ideas on how to use sight words, take a look at 4 Highly Effective And Fun Sight Words Games To Help Your Kids Learn.
Whether your little one is just starting to learn their letters or is already recognizing some sight words, we can help make learning to read fun! To encourage your child’s love of reading, HOMER uses their interests to create stories just for them.
We have over 200 animated and interactive stories and songs for your child to choose from. They can read along or read on their own for an experience that’s both fun and educational!