Make Learning to Read Fun: Teacher's 5 Favorite Toys & Games

Posted by Habbi Habbi Guest Contributor on

In this post: Learning to read can and should be fun! As a former Kindergarten teacher with a specialization in literacy development - and now a mom with my own preschooler, I am always on the lookout for screen-free educational games and toys that focus on literacy development. Here are five of my family’s favorite tools that have been helping me teach my daughter how to read.

Table of Contents:

  1. Alphabet Memory
  2. Rooby’s ABCs
  3. Tibbar’s Big Box of Words
  4. Lily Pond
  5. Habbi Habbi Reading Wand system 

Did you know? The Habbi Habbi Reading Wand works with not only books - but also their puzzles and flashcards - and can help children with both English and a second language!

1. Alphabet Memory

Goal: Match uppercase letters to lowercase letters and collect the most pairs to win

Great for: Working on letter identification (both lowercase and uppercase), letter sounds

How to play: Flip all the letter tiles face down in a grid and take turns flipping over two at a time to try to find matches.

Memory is a classic game that is simple, yet effective when it comes to learning to identify letters. This particular card set includes both uppercase and lowercase letters, which is really helpful for your little one to learn how to distinguish each letter and match them to their partner letter. It also has an accompanying image to represent the sound the letter makes. Learning to identify letters and their sounds is an absolutely crucial early step in reading, so it’s great that this game covers that all in one!

Teacher’s Tip: When I play with my daughter, I add the rule that in order to keep the matching pairs we find, we need to name the letters and the object on the card. For example, if she matches S and s, she must say “S” and “snail”, since that is the picture. As she gets older and we have more practice, I will add in the letter sound as well (S, snail, “sss”). This helps her get the extra practice of verbalizing words and sounds, not just visually recognizing them.

2. Rooby’s ABCs

Goal: Match letters (and sounds) while trying to earn the most Rooby Roo tokens to win

Great for: Working on letter identification (both lowercase and uppercase), letter sounds

How to play: This game can be played in so many different ways! Both the tokens and the boards are reversible so you can work on matching uppercase to uppercase, lowercase to lowercase, uppercase to lowercase. And - with the blank tokens to cover up the letters - you can even match either lowercase or uppercase letters to the images that represent their letter sounds.

Designed for one to four players, the goal is to end with the most Rooby Roo tokens. Each person takes turns drawing letter tokens from the bag, naming them, and then matching them to the corresponding letters on the boards. When the last letter on a particular board is placed, the player that placed the letter receives the Rooby Roo token that matches that board. When all letters have been placed and all Rooby Roo tokens claimed, the game is over.

Teacher’s Tip: One thing I appreciate is that the letter tokens have a self-checking design (the bottom is flat). This helps my preschooler better recognize which way is upright without me always needing to step in.

3. Tibbar’s Big Box of Words

Goal: Spelling words (by copying or from memory) using the letter blocks

Great for: Working on letter identification, letter sounds, early spelling skills

How to play: The picture word cards are double-sided and come in three different levels. They slide out of the storage space below and into the top slot where children can see and try spelling the words by placing the blocks above. If your child is ready for a challenge, there’s a “you spell it” stick that you can place to prevent the word card from pushing completely in; this leaves the word covered so they need to spell it independently.

Teacher’s Tip: My daughter is not ready to spell independently, but I love that this toy can grow with her. We also like to mix it up by playing with just the letter blocks. We roll them and name the letters that we see. You could also play a fun spelling variation on that and see if you or your child can spell any words using the letters that you roll!

4. Lily Pond

Goal: Be the first person to spell out all the words; roll the die and hop through each letter in order

Great for: Working on letter identification, letter sounds, early spelling skills

How to play: A spelling game that puts a more interactive spin on more traditional letter tile spelling games, Lily Pond is a really fun way to learn how to spell and read many common words. It breaks down each step from letter recognition by searching for the correct letter on the board to actively spelling and reading out loud. With three different level picture word cards to vary the difficulty, this is another game that can grow with your child.

Two to four players choose a frog pawn and draw three cards (all the same difficulty level or all different), placing their frog pawns on the center rock and laying their cards face up in front of themselves. Players take turns rolling the die and hopping through or landing on the letters in their word cards in order to spell out each word. When a player has completed a word, they spell and then read the word out loud. The first player to spell all three of their words and then hop back to the center rock wins.

Teacher’s Tip: We are a competitive family so we love that this game adds a little bit of strategy. It’s not about simply finding the letters, but mapping out how to get there while racing others to finish your words first. Frogs aren’t allowed to occupy the same letter space, so if your child is ok with competition and challenge, you can try to land your own frog on the letter they need next. Now what is their plan? While not directly related to learning to read or spell, problem-solving skills and overcoming setbacks are crucial to reading and learning in general!

5. Habbi Habbi Reading Wand system

Goal: Learn through play & have fun while learning and exploring  

Great for: Word identification, early reading, bilingual exposure 

How to play: However you want! Just turn on the Reading Wand - and tap. That’s it. Tap away on any of their books, puzzles, or flashcards - and the Wand will read aloud. You will hear words, phrases, sentences, and stories; plus, there is a lot of “hidden” content beyond the printed text that my daughter loves to explore since every inch is tappable! You can play everything in 3 modes:

  • Bilingual mode 
  • Target language only mode (for more immersion)
  • English only mode (when we focus on English learning and reading) 
  • Languages available: Spanish-English, French-English, Mandarin Chinese-English, Korean-English, and French-English 

Teacher’s Tip: We do lots of games and activities together with our books since they’re open-ended. For example, you can pause the Wand while it’s reading by tapping the middle button. I like to pause while it is reading and my daughter can “fill in the blank” of the sentence, using the book as support. Then we tap the middle button again to continue playing the wand to check if we read the phrase or sentence correctly!

For us, a “magic” Reading Wand makes reading more engaging and fun, and it also allows children to use Habbi Habbi independently and still reap the benefits from the audio output. I use our Habbi Habbi books together with my preschooler often, but I also love when she chooses to use them on her own. She has an opportunity to play and explore and grow on her own terms and I get a few minutes to clean up all the other games we have played that day!

If you liked this, you may also appreciate the following articles about books and early reading:

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Check out more bilingual resources from Habbi Habbi 

We have lots more (fun stuff!) here at Habbi Habbi. You can explore our free resources such as bilingual printables, resource blog, and audiobooks. Of course, we also have our much loved magical Reading Wand, bilingual books, puzzles & flashcards. Our tools are currently available in Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, French, Korean, and Hindi.

About our lovely guest contributor 

Kelly is an English-Spanish bilingual parent raising an English-Spanish-Mandarin trilingual child with her English-Mandarin bilingual spouse. She has a passion for education and literacy and language development, with a Master’s Degree in Reading Development and experience as both an English-only and Spanish-English dual language Kindergarten teacher. Nowadays, she stays home with her daughter and enjoys playing video games when there’s a bit of spare time.


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