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Montessori at home: 5 reading games to play with your child

Get young learners excited about reading with these early reading games. (Spoiler: They're so fun!)

Montessori reading games that make reading fun for early learners

If I had to choose one favorite part about teaching in a Montessori classroom, it would probably be seeing the spark in a child's eye when she first realizes she can read. Seeing a child's delight in decoding written language is like nothing else.

Early reading games can be a really fun way to build reading skills and share in the experience of learning to read with your child.

Here are five Montessori-inspired reading games to play at home:

Reading game 1: Sound scavenger hunt

Before your child can successfully read, he has to be able to isolate sounds. A scavenger hunt is a fun way to practice this skill, and you don't need any supplies—just you and your child!

Say to your child, “I wonder if you can find something in the house that starts with B." Say the phonetic sound of the letter, not the letter name. Repeat the sound a few times and then send him to search for something starting with that sound. Every child is different, but this is generally a good game for a 3 or 4 year old.

A fun and slightly easier variation is 'I Spy.' Gather 5-6 little objects on a rug or table. Each object should start with a different sound—for example, a toy pig, an apple and a ball. Then say “I spy something starting with 'P.'" Say the “P" sound, not the name of the letter, and let your child find the pig.

Reading game 2: Secret message game

This game is so simple, yet I have seen many Montessori children fall in love with it and play it daily!

Cut some blank slips of paper, get a pencil and tell your child you want to show her a game. Tell her you're going to write a secret message just for her. Write it on a slip of paper, give it to her, and ask her to read it silently. Then ask her to find the object with that name and place the label on it.

Start with easy words like box, cup, mug and doll before moving on to more challenging household objects like plant, drum and window. Here is a great list of phonetic words if you find yourself stuck.

Reading game 3: Commands

This is basically like charades. It's a fun rainy day game because it combines reading with movement. This can be played with you and your child, two children taking turns, or simply your child by himself.

Write different action words on small pieces of paper or cardstock. Make sure to start with phonetic actions like run, sit, hop, hug, jog, sob, jump, skip, stand, stomp and clap. Ask your child to choose a paper and perform the action while you guess what it is. Take turns!

As he masters the phonetic words, you can add more complicated words or even phrases like 'get a glass' or 'dance a jig.' If he likes, your child can also think of actions and add his own command cards to the box.

Reading game 4: Color labels

Apart from 'red,' most color names are not phonetic and can be tricky for children to learn, so playing a game is a great way for them to practice.

For this game, cut little slips of paper and write a color on each—use black ink for each label, as color coding them would make this too easy. Begin with just three labels and start with the easiest colors to sound-out—red, black and a third, perhaps your child's favorite color.

Practice sounding out each color name with your child. When she's familiar with the three labels, she's ready to begin to play.

Fold the labels in half and put them in a little basket or box. Ask your child to choose a label and find something in the room of that color. For example, if she chooses a label that reads 'red,' she places it on something red. When she's proficient with those colors, it's time to add another!

Reading game 5: Bingo

Bingo is one of the easiest board games for children to learn, so why not use it to practice reading?

You could make your own board, or use one of the many versions available online. You can say the word for your child to find, hold up a picture, or hold up the word for different variations.

If you try these games at home, the most important thing is to keep it fun!

If your child is getting frustrated, the game is likely too challenging for his current level. Start with easy sounds and words and do not correct your child if he gets it wrong. Just make a note to yourself that he might need more practice with a certain sound or word.

Reading games are a great way for children to get extra practice with their new skills, but their biggest purpose is to spark curiosity and wonder, and get young children excited about reading.

In This Article

    Ara Katz/Seed

    We spoke to Ara Katz, co-founder and co-CEO of Seed, who shared her journey to (and through) motherhood—and gave us the lowdown on how probiotics can benefit mamas and children alike.

    Chances are, you're aware that probiotics can help us digest the food we eat, keep inflammation at bay, synthesize essential vitamins and more. But here's the thing: When it comes to probiotics, there's a lot of misinformation… and because of that, it's hard to know what's actually a probiotic and which is the right one for you.

    That's why we chatted with Ara Katz, who is a mama to son Pax and the co-founder of Seed, a company disrupting the probiotics industry. The entrepreneur told us about her motherhood journey, what led her to start her company and what she wants other parents to know about probiotics.

    Q. What was life like for you before you became a mama?

    I was bi-coastal after co-founding a mobile tech company in New York City with a partner in LA. My life was, for as long as I can remember, consumed by creating and work. I was fairly nomadic, loved to travel, spent many hours reading and practicing yoga, being with friends [and] waking up at the crack of dawn. [I] was fairly sure I would never marry or have children. And then something shifted.

    Q. What were some pivotal moments that defined your journey to motherhood?

    Ha, that makes it sound like motherhood is a destination when at this very moment, more than ever, it evolves daily. I lost my mom when I was 17 and spent most of my life believing I didn't want to be a mother. I had a lot of wiring about its limitations and constraints—I'm sure relics of grief and the fear of loss.

    My journey started with a physiological wanting to be pregnant and have a baby. There was a kind of visceral sense that my body wanted to know what that was like and a strange curiosity that, at least for that period of time, usurped my ambivalence about motherhood.

    Then I had a miscarriage—a beautiful inflection point in my story. I resigned from my company, chose a coast, committed to be more committed to my (then) boyfriend, now husband, and tried again. I got pregnant shortly after that and found pregnancy to be a profound journey within, a reshaping of my life and the tiniest glimpse of how motherhood would unfold.

    In the 55 months since giving birth (and I like to use months because I have learned in the moments that I am most frustrated as a mom that he has only been on this planet for less than 14 fiscal quarters), I have realized and surrendered to a definition of motherhood that is a process. One of cultivating, creating, recreating, shapeshifting, learning, feeling, healing, hurting and experiencing the most potent form of presence I have ever experienced—and an aching, expansive love I didn't know possible—not just for my son, but for all living things.

    Q. How did motherhood change your approach to your career?

    Becoming a mother is certainly a persistent lens on all of my choices, but it was really my miscarriage that recalibrated my path. My pregnancy rekindled my love of biology and health and led me to my co-founder and the microbiome. My breastfeeding experience incepted our first product focus, and the newfound accountability for a human inspired our brand.

    Q. What inspired you to co-found Seed?

    I met my co-founder, Raja, during my pregnancy with Pax. [I] was immediately awestruck by his ability to both deeply understand science and to methodically break down a product, dietary question or piece of advice in a way that's educational (you actually learn something about your body), actionable (you understand what to do with the information) and foundational (you can build on that knowledge in the future to continue to make better choices).

    As we spent more time, our combined passion for microbes, their potential impact on both human health and the environment, and how to set up a child for a healthy life became increasingly clear. And through birth, seeding (the process by which we get our foundational microbes and the inspiration for the name of our company) Pax and my struggles with breastfeeding, my entrepreneurial spirit was lit to build something with Raja. His deep experience in translating science to product, and mine in consumer, community-building and translating through storytelling, culminated in a shared vision to set a new standard in health through bacteria.

    Q. Probiotics have been trending in recent years, but they're nothing new—can you talk a bit about the importance of probiotics?

    Interest in gut health and probiotics increases month by month. However, despite the quickly growing number of "probiotic" supplements, foods and beverages out there, there's still a lot of consumer confusion—particularly around what they are, how they work and why we should take them. Probiotics have been studied extensively across various life stages, body sites and for many benefits. Digestion is an obvious and immediate one (and the primary reason most people currently take probiotics). But other strains have also been studied for skin health, heart health and gut health (including gut immune function and gut barrier integrity). But this doesn't mean that any and all probiotics can do these things—this is the importance of 'strain specificity.' In other words, ensuring that the specific strains in your probiotic have been studied for the benefit you desire is critical.

    Seed Daily Synbiotic

    Seed

    Seed's Daily Synbiotic is a 24-strain probiotic + prebiotic formulated for whole-body benefits, including gut, skin and heart health.


    Q. How do probiotics play a role in your life?

    I mean, I take them, I develop them and I work with some of the leading scientists from around the world advancing the field—so they play a big role. As for my personal health, I take our Daily Synbiotic daily and my son also takes specific strains for gastrointestinal health and gut immune function. Beyond that, it's the re-orientation around my microbiome that guides many of my choices: how important fiber is, specific compounds like polyphenols found in berries, green tea and other foods, avoiding the use of NSAIDS like ibuprofen and antibiotics when not needed, exercise, sleep and time in nature [are] all aspects of our daily life that impact our microbiome and our health.

    Q. What are some misconceptions about probiotics that you would like to set straight?

    There's one main myth on from which all the other stem: that probiotics aren't considered a serious science. On the contrary, it's a field of inquiry that demands incredible rigor and extensive research. And when anything and everything from chocolate to ice cream to fermented food and kombucha to mattresses can call itself "probiotic" due to underregulation in the category, that grossly undermines the science and their potential.

    The term 'probiotic' has a globally-accepted scientific definition that was actually co-authored by our Chief Scientist, Dr. Gregor Reid ,for the United Nations/World Health Organization.

    At Seed, we work to reclaim the term for science, through the development of next-generation probiotics that include clinically validated strains and undergo the most rigorous safety, purity and efficacy testing procedures. Because why would you invite billions of unknown microbes into your body without asking "what's in here, is it the correct dosage that was studied, and has that strain in that amount been studied in human clinical trials to do something beneficial for my body"?

    Q. Can you tell us a little bit about what product you plan to launch next?

    We are developing a pipeline of consumer probiotics to target specific ecosystems of the body and life stages, including a synbiotic for children. Our next product will reflect a unique breakthrough in the field of pediatric probiotics, which we are excited to announce soon.

    This article was sponsored by Seed. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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