Saturday, 21 September 2013

25+ multisensory activities for learning words with flashcards

Since we started home educating, we have done a wide range of multi-sensory activities that have helped my son learn new words to develop his reading and writing skills. So here are some of our learning activities. 

 Which flashcards I use
We use Fry 1000 Instant Words lists that have free already made flashcards and other free resources with it. There are also Dolch Sight Words (also with free resources) but we decided to go with Fry's list as he had used Dolch Sight Words and expanded on it.

How do we use them
We learn ten words at a time. My son lets me know when he is ready and confident enough to move onto the next set of ten words. We use the flashcards as a reference to how we spell the word and how they look while we engage in our learning activities. We do a mutli-sensory word activity everyday to help build reading and writing skills.

Outdoor Fun
The oldest trick in the book is shaving cream on a board. This can be done inside on a tray but it is also great for outside learning.

Chalk! We use jumbo size chalk to write on the trampoline, the path, the concrete patio and on the bricks. We use the flashcards as a reference as we write the words.This is an activity that all my children can do regardless of age.

We use our flashcards to spell the words onto small square cardboard pieces and make a backyard scrabble game. 

Writing in the dirt with a stick is fun but adding water to the dirt heightens the senses as you learn.

Painting is another multi-sensory activity that engages the both sight and touch. We use paint brushes or sticks (building fine motor skills) to write the words with different colours and using our flashcards as reference for spelling. 

Foam alphabet stamps used together with paint is another activity engaging the visual and touch sensory with the potential to have lots of fun.  

Play dough
Just like paint, play dough engages both sight and touch as well as taste (if your child is a play dough eater that is). Forming the letters with play dough helps build letter recognition as well as letter formation. 

Alphabet cookie cutters make for a great way to play with words. Working on fine motor skills as well as learning spelling and word recognition. 

Gross Motor
This is one of our favourite word activities. We stick our flashcards up on the wall (or the floor) and then use a ball to hit the word we have just read. This activity is also great for outside learning as it engages the whole body. Another way to do this same activity is to use a fly squatter to hit the word as you read them. 

With Twister, we use our flashcards to write the words onto the mat and then play the game. Instead of calling our colours, we call our words.

This is another favourite learning activity (or should I say game) in our home. We use our flashcards to write our words onto the balloons then throw them to each other. Once we have caught the balloon we read the word that one of our hands has landed on when we caught the balloon. 

Making words
Using lego to make words is not the easiest activity as it requires a lot of concentration and is visually challenging. But it still is another fun way to make words. 

I found this idea of making words with pipe cleaners. We use our flashcards to spell the word as well as helping us with letter formation. 

I found this idea awhile ago and we have used it many time. I spent ages cutting out individual letters from magazines and my children use these letters, together with the flashcards, to spell the words.

We trace over the letters using alphabet stencils which then print onto the page and use our flashcards as a reference.Or bury them in the sand and go exploring to find them before spelling our word.

Using flour on a tray to write words on however you can also use sand, salt, rice, spaghetti and sugar! We use our flashcards as a reference and write the word in the selected material using our fingers or anything else we want to use. Alphabet beads this makes for a fun fine motor and tactile activity. Flashcards can be used as a reference on how to spell the focused words.  Also using a chalk board or a white board or even just  cardboard to write down (using different forms of media) the focused words is defiantly more fun than writing them on paper.

We use a wooden alphabet puzzle to select the letters to make our word. If you don't have a wooden alphabet puzzle you can make your own bottle top alphabet matching board (with foam alphabet stickers). This is a great inexpensive way to explore letter and words. 

Magnetic alphabet letters are another great resource to learn how to spell new words and look at how words are similar (or word family) if you just change the first letter. Alphabet stamps, ink pad and our flashcards are a great way to learn how to new words and become familiar with known words.

Boards games such as Upwords, Scrabble or Banana Rama all have letters in them which means they have potential to become a learning resource for new words. We use our flashcards to spell the words and see how we can join them together as you would if you were playing the game. 

Make A Word (by the Learning Ladder) is another resource that we use to develop our word knowledge. The blocks have lower-case letters on them so there is no confusion with capital letters. Our flashcards are again used as a reference for spelling the word.

Find the word
My son loves crosswords so I made up our own crossword for each set of ten words we were learning. You can download a blank crossword template from here.

Another activity we do with our flashcards is search for the word. We spread them out in front of us and I will say the word and my son will find them. We will change rolls and my son will say the word and I will find it on the flashcards.

You can find more hands-on activity ideas for learning about words, sightwords and spelling on my pinterest board. 


  1. This is brilliant, Suzie! I skim read it when you first shared but have just read it properly ... you have so many wonderful ideas. I need to bring the fun back into our spelling times. We haven't done some of these activities for years, but I know my daughter will still enjoy them. Thanks for the reminder! :)

    1. You're most welcome! This is a good reminder for myself as well, to keep learning hands-on and fun.

  2. So great! Some of the activites we already do at home. But I would really love this "make a word" game. I just can't find it. Where can I order it online?

    1. Hi, the best place to find Make-a-Word would be on ebay as the company I brought it from (The Learning Ladder which changed it name to Creata Direct Learning) doesn't sell them anymore. I hope that helps!

  3. What a fantastic blog! I love the focus on child-directed and multi-sensory! I linked to your blog from my phonics post here; hope other parents enjoy the tips as much as I did!