Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead book cover

By Penny Leigh Sebring

One of the big stumbling blocks for kids learning to read is the multitude of spelling variations in the English language. Take the letter combinations IGH and IGHT. No child attempting to sound these out would guess that they indicate a long i sound (or, in combination with E or A, a long a sound), yet they do. 

While thankfully these spelling patterns only feature in a relatively small selection of words, they’re found in some very common ones—and some very festive ones. This holiday lights craft and reading game takes advantage of seasonal words from light and bright to neigh and sleigh to highlight these unusual letter combinations. 

Use this tutorial to craft a colorful, creative activity that offers a playful way to practice words spelled with IGH and IGHT. Because, from fishing for alphabet magnets to layering spelling s’mores, kids learn through playing.

Yarn, scissors, tape, glue stick, Sharpie, construction paper, wooden clothespins


  • Wooden clothespins (6)
  • Construction paper (multiple colors)
  • Yarn
  • Glue
  • Tape
  • Scissors
  • Pen or marker

Cost: $5-10

Set the Scene (Optional)

Set the mood for your crafting session by settling in and reading a book about the holiday season. New approaches to classic Christmas tales, such as Silent Night by Lara Hawthorne, and ‘Twas the Night B’Fore Christmas: An African-American Version by Melodye Rosales, will delight your child and give them plenty of opportunities to see IGH and IGHT words in action. 

While assembling the game pieces, you can further enhance your child’s mastery by referring to words that you read in the book. Discussing what the words mean, how they fit into the story, and how they relate to your child’s life can increase their vocabulary, as well as improving their reading skills. 

Step 1: Choose a piece of construction paper for your base. Then, using a different color than your base, cut out two three-inch by three-inch squares. Apply glue to the squares on three sides, then stick them to the lower corners of your base sheet of paper. Leave the top of the square open, creating two pockets.

Step 2: Thread the yarn through the metal loop in the clothespin to create a stable line. Thread together a total of six clothespins.

Step 3: Lay the threaded clothespins on the construction paper. Position them above the pockets, close to the top of the paper. Wrap the ends of the yarn around the edges of the paper and tape them to the back, about half an inch from the top. 

Add a thin layer of glue to the back of each clothespin and press it into place. Keep the clothespins as evenly spaced as possible.

Step 4: Cut out around 25 to 35 one-inch circles in two or more holiday colors. Cut out an equal number of small rectangles, approximately half an inch long and a quarter-inch wide. 

Write the letters IGH and IGHT on two or three circles of each color. Adorn each of the remaining circles with the other letters that make up IGH and IGHT words. Select words from the lists below, or use them all.

Tip: For beginners, start with the words that make a long i sound, then add in the long a sound words later for an extra challenge.

List of simple IGH and IGHT vocabulary words:

Words that make a long i sound: bright, fight, flight, fright, height, high, knight, light, might, night, right, sigh, sight, slight, tight

Words that make a long a sound: eight, neigh, sleigh, straight, weigh, weight

Step 5: Glue a yellow tab to each circle, transforming it into a Christmas light bulb, and allow to dry. 

Step 6: Tuck the paper Christmas lights into the pockets.

How to Play: Introduce the IGH and IGHT letter combinations to your child, or review if they’re already familiar with them. Go over the concept that words with the long i sound can be spelled several ways. The letters and letter combinations I, Y, IE, IG, and IGH can all make a long i sound. Explain that words with the IGH letter combination are often followed with a T, creating words like sight and, of course, light

Hang the game on the refrigerator with magnets, on a door with tape, or on a cork board with pins, and start playing! Show your little one how to hang their Christmas lights by clipping the yellow tabs into the clothespins. Explain that choosing different bulbs or switching up the order will result in new words, and then help them read the words that they create. 

Extra challenge: For kids who are ready, explain that adding an E or A before these letter combinations can form a long a sound instead. Introducing words such as eight or straight will keep this game challenging for more advanced readers and spellers. 

We hope this simple, DIY holiday lights craft and game will delight your child and make learning to read and spell these unusual words a lot more fun. 

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