Want access to our VIP Vault?

Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead book cover

By Amy Williams

“Won’t my child learn to read in kindergarten?” 

That’s the question on many parents’ lips when faced with advice to teach reading skills to their small children. Sure, children will develop their reading ability in kindergarten and throughout the rest of their education, but the truth is that most of the underlying skills they need for full literacy develop way before then. And, sadly, reading instruction in the U.S. fails most kids.

So don’t wait until they go to kindergarten or even preschool to intentionally impart key early literacy skills your children will need to thrive in formal schooling. The great news is that, with the right information, you don’t need lots of time to teach what they need to know—and it can and should be fun! Even some of the simplest things can help your child develop reading skills early on. (For example, see How to Maximize the Benefits of Reading Aloud to Your Kids for some easy tweaks that will make a big difference.)

This is where educational games come in! There are many fun board games that help teach reading skills—without hours of instruction or practice. We’ve narrowed down the list for you to our top five best literacy-building board games for children five and under. So go ahead and get in some laughs and quality time connecting with your little one (or ones), and help them get kindergarten-ready at the same time! Then consider leaving the games available for your child even when you aren’t: More often than not, kids can play with these titles independently or with another child and still benefit from them. 

Teach Reading Skills with these Fun Board Games

Tall Tales
Tall Tales is a storytelling game recommended for ages three and up. There’s no reading required in this game, but it helps kids build early literacy skills by fostering imagination and important oral language skills. From a young age, most children understand the wonder of hearing a story and love to make up their own. This game allows them to do so. (Related: See our post on How to Use Storytelling to Build Joy, Connection, and Literacy with Kids.)

Sequence Letters
Sequence Letters is a letter matching game for kids ages four to seven. One letter of the alphabet is on each card in both uppercase and lowercase, and the child playing matches the letter with the beginning sound of a picture. This is a great way for kids to practice sounding out letters and making connections between images and words.

Boggle Jr.
Boggle is already a well-loved game, and now your young kids under five can join the fun by playing Boggle Jr. This is a great game for kids age three and up, and it grows with your child by allowing them to practice with two different skill levels. Younger children can play with the letter cubes and practice matching them with the pictures. When your little one is ready for more of a challenge, they can practice their memorization skills by matching and memorizing the game pieces. 

Happy Hats Beginning Reading Game
This game is designed for beginning readers ages four and up, and is made by the creators of Bob Books, a series featuring sparse illustrations and simple, decodable words. In our household, we’re currently using Bob Books to teach our preschooler early literacy skills—and they’re the same books I learned to read with when I was a preschooler, as well! This game is highly rated by parents and allows the player to create more than 16o words. 

Zingo Word Builder
Zingo Word Builder is perfect for kids about five years old, or younger children who have already developed early literacy skills and are ready to learn more. This game allows the player to build vocabulary and reading skills by challenging them to create three-letter words. There are two levels of play for this game, which makes it perfect for beginning readers and more skilled readers, as well. 

No matter what stage your child is in when it comes to reading skills, using games as a way to help develop early literacy can be really successful for many children (and lots of fun!). 

Are there any board games to teach reading that you love that didn’t make the list? Let us know in the comments below! 

Amy Williams is a mother, teacher, and freelance writer who believes in the life-giving power of the written word.