Children are like sponges. They absorb everything they see and hear like it’s their superpower. In fact, by the time a child is 5 years old, their brain will already be 90% developed. So it’s never too early to start learning.
But there are a lot of letters and words to learn, and phonics rules for these youngsters to wrap their heads around. This can be a daunting task for a child who would rather be playing.
The good news is you don’t have to choose between fun and learning. You can mask an intimidating phonics lesson with one of the many board games on the market that combine education and entertainment — edutainment!
Choosing any of the games on our list of best board games for learning to read is sure to help your young reader with their emerging reading skills.
Table of Contents
🏆 Our Top Picks for Best Board Games for Learning to Read
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Alphabet fun from A to Z! In Sequence Letters, your young learner will practice letter sounds by matching their letter cards to adorable, vibrant pictures of common items that begin with that letter. Choose the letter “G”? Look for the grapes or giraffe on the board and place one of your colored chips over it. The first player to get 4 chips in a row wins!
This game is ideal for those at the very beginning stages of learning to read. It is a great jumping-off game where they can practice letter recognition, letter sounds, and identify simple words with photos. Sequence Letter is the perfect option for your child’s first reading game.
Rory’s Story Cubes
Playing time: 20mins
Your child will be on their way to becoming the next Dr. Suess with Rory’s Story Cubes.
Let your storytellers’ imaginations run wild as they roll the picture dice to help them create a story. There are endless opportunities for your child’s creativity to shine through with 54 different pictures and millions of combinations to derive a plot. Use each die as part of your fable to earn points to create the best comedy, drama, fantasy, or imaginative story.
A great way to play this in the classroom is as a cooperative game with each player contributing part to the story. Just pick up where the last player left off and watch the plot twist in unexpected ways. Additionally, this is a fun game for teaching second languages as well.
Zingo! Word Builder
For young learners just starting to put letters together to form words, Zingo! Word Builder is an exciting game that will build vocabulary and improve spelling skills one three-letter word at a time! Through play, children will learn about various spelling patterns. Even misspelled and mispronounced words can turn an adorable mistake into an educational lesson.
The game is fast-paced and similar to the classic game, Bingo. Each round players need to scan their cards quickly to determine if the revealed letters can make a valid word on their card. Once a word is found, be the first to shout it out and take your letter tile. Once the yellow beginner cards have been mastered, children can move to the more advanced orange cards.
Zingo! Word Builder is the perfect game to have at home to give your child a head start with reading, or to have in the classroom as a reinforcement activity. However you choose to incorporate this game, your child will have a ton of F-U-N playing!
Apples to Apples Junior
Playing time: 30mins
Apples to Apples Junior is a party game that will expand your child’s vocabulary, introduce different parts of speech, and build literacy skills in a silly way. It plays almost exactly like the original, with simpler vocabulary and more age-appropriate references.
Each round players will choose which green card in their hand best fits with the red card the judge has placed in the center. With 576 cards to choose from, there are bound to be both fitting, sensible answers and absolutely hilarious, outlandish answers. Boredom isn’t an option during this game.
Because this game comes with blank cards also, this provides an excellent opportunity to use these for vocabulary words your child is currently learning. Apples to Apples Junior is a great game to have in the classroom as it allows for a large number of players and is sure to keep students engaged.
Playing time: 10mins
Designed to help little ones begin their reading journey, Boggle Jr. is a fun way to get kids to practice letter identification, reading, and spelling. Using colorful picture cards with 3 or 4 letter words on them, players use the letter cubes to spell out the word on each card. The pictures allow them to associate objects with how they are spelled.
This game grows with your child’s abilities so once they have mastered the easiest variation, continue to challenge them by covering up the word and allowing them to spell it completely on their own, or up the word length from 3 to 4 letter words. Before you know it, they’ll be ready for the original Boggle.
Playing time: 60mins
In this hilarious game, everyone will know what you are except you! It’s a game of 20 questions, and with your card strapped to your headband, you’ll need to ask the other players for hints to guess what you are. If you need help getting the ball rolling, simply read the sample question cards for some inspiration that will help you ask your way to victory!
By allowing kids to recognize words with a picture for context, Hedbanz is excellent for increasing word recognition, vocabulary, and spelling abilities. Plus, it is an absolute blast to play! Whether you’re playing with your family or in an early childhood classroom, there will be tons of laughs to go along with all that learning.
Quiddler or Quiddler Jr.
Playing time: 30mins
Spelling skills will be put to the test in this game as you rack up points by combining your letter cards to create one or more words. Each round, an additional card will be added to your hand, allowing you to create longer, and higher-scoring words. Bonus points are awarded at the end of each round to the player who constructs the longest word.
For more advanced readers, go ahead and use the original Quiddler for a bit more of a challenge. This game is easy to learn and fun for people of all ages, so even after your child is a confident reader, there are plenty of opportunities to come back and show off their newly learned vocabulary words.
Snap It Up!
Playing time: 20mins
You’ll need to be quick if you want to win this game. Everyone has an eye on that center card, and each player wants to be the first to yell “snap!” to claim it. Using the 3 consonant cards in your hand, you’ll need to quickly form words using the center word family card. The first player to have snapped up 3 matches is the winner.
Playing this game builds and reinforces phonics skills, spelling skills, and vocabulary that are necessary for literacy. Feel free to start at a slower pace to begin, and work your way up to making it a speed game. Once kids get the hang of it, they’ll want to “snap it up” over and over again!
Spot It! Basic English
Playing time: 15mins
This game will not only strengthen your child’s reading abilities, but it will also put their reflexes to the test. Through the use of pattern recognition, players make lightning-fast decisions, trying to find matching symbols between two cards. Use those sharp eyes and keen observation skills to spot the match! With only one matching symbol between any two cards, you’ll need to pay close attention.
This version has been adapted for educational purposes and includes both pictures and sight words — the most common English words. Matches can be between two pictures, two words, or even a picture to a word. So, if you see the word “eye”, it can also match the picture of the eye. This is great for readers who still need that visual component to practice reading.
The more you play, the better — and faster — you’ll be able to recognize the words. Plus, there’s also an option for advanced play, so the fun doesn’t have to stop once you’ve got a speed reader on your hand.
This game is a blast for the whole family. It’s a small, portable game that’s easy to transport between home and the classroom or bring on a trip for some educational family fun!
If you love Spot It! Basic English, be sure to check out the other versions available!
Playing time: 30mins
Another age-appropriate version of a classic, Scrabble is probably one of the first games that come to mind when you think about learning to read. It is the ultimate word game, after all. In the junior version, kids practice recognizing the different letters of the alphabet as well as practice reading and spelling various words.
In this simplified crossword-style version, the words are already spelled out, and your little gamer can use the pictures to help them identify the words. Players take turns using their tiles to try to complete a word on the board, which will earn them points. The reverse side is a blank grid, where you can get creative and use your own words.
Sure, your child may start with words like “eye, bus, sea” in this version, but with an early Scrabble start, it’s just a matter of time before they’re throwing words like “cothurni” and “whizbang” at you as you resort to the Scrabble dictionary to check if that’s even a valid word. This classic word game is a great way to begin their reading journey.
We hope you enjoyed our list of the best board games for learning to read! These games can help children of all ages to work on their vocabulary, spelling, and word-recognition skills, all while having fun! They’re great for home, the classroom, or a fun family outing!
Have you tried any of the games on this list? Which one is your favorite? Drop a comment below and let us know what you think! We’d love to hear from you.
Liz has no objections to being referred to as “nerdy.” Maybe it’s the educator in her — or her maturity level— but when it comes to board games, those best suited for children are the ones that spark her interest. When she’s not looking for the next game to incorporate into the classroom or play with her niece and nephew, you can find her trying out nature-themed games like Wildcraft or Trekking the National Parks.