Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead book cover

By Laila Weir

Little kids love crafts, and they love dressing up. That’s probably why making beaded jewelry is so popular with the preschool and kindergarten sets. It also builds important fine motor skills, but guess what–with a simple adaptation, you can also use this fun activity to teach early reading and spelling.

The seeds to literacy are planted long before kids start school, so it’s crucial for parents to introduce key knowledge to kids early on. And the best way to do it is to weave learning into everyday activities and fun with your kids. In that spirit, this simple game leverages the fun of beading to teach children early reading and spelling, helping turn practice into play. 


  • Alphabet beads (plus other beads if desired)
  • String 
  • Scissors

Cost: Under $10

Step 1: Write out a list of words you want to practice spelling and reading with your child. Then identify which letters you’ll need to form those words. Ideally, you’ll want to think of several words that can be spelled with the same letters.

For a simple start, plan on CVC words — consonant, vowel, consonant — which are easy to sound out. For example, you could make the words top, mop, cat, hat, mat, pat, pot, sat, and sap using the letters T, P, M, C, H, S, O, and A. As your child advances in skill, you can use these same letters to make words with consonant blends, like stop, past, shop, post, etc.

Step 2: Cut the same number of pieces of string as the number of letters you’ll be using. For the example above, cut eight pieces. Make the pieces long enough to fit around your child’s finger, leaving plenty of excess to tie them securely. (Note: If you want to spell words that need to repeat letters, you should make two of the letters that repeat.)

scissors next to three pieces of string

Step 3: Help your child put one of your target letters on each piece of string. You and your child can add other beads in any pattern you like to beautify your creations. Then tie the pieces together to make rings.

three rings made out of string and beads

Step 4: Help your child sound out one of your target words and line up the letter rings they need to spell it. Then slide those rings onto their finger and help them read their word! Repeat with as many words as they can find with the letters you’ve used.

child wearing three bead rings that spells out 'Top'

When your child runs out of steam, don’t push them to keep spelling. Kids tire (and get frustrated) quickly, and forcing the matter takes the fun out of it fast. Instead, stash your letter rings to pull out again for brief sessions in the future. They’ll make a great addition to an arsenal of practice-through-play teaching materials. They’re also small enough to keep in your bag for some quick entertainment on the go.

Tip: Start a drawer or shelf with a variety of fun crafts and games that reinforce key skills. Do some of our other literacy crafts with your little one and add them to your stash, as well. Here are some to get you started: a personalized ABC board game, DIY storytelling cards, rhyming Go Fish, literacy Game of War, a conversation hearts spelling game, and a creative sound slider reading tool

How else are you seeding reading in your household? Let us know in the comments, or connect with us on social media!