I am currently teaching my third son to read, and one thing that I have noticed about beginning readers is that they are WIGGLY! When my oldest son was learning to read, he would put the book on the floor and balance on his hands while he kicked his legs out behind him over and over while figuring out the words. It was not the cozy cuddling on the couch experience that I envisioned! He eventually started sitting still while reading, but in those early days when his brain was working SO hard to sound out the words, his body had to be constantly moving. My second son is a more low-key kind of guy, but he still went through a wiggly reading phase.

Owen (almost 6) has always been extremely high energy, and (no surprise!) he absolutely cannot sit still while reading either! He does sit at the table and do some phonics work each school day, but it helps to mix in some active games.

Here are some ideas that have worked for us to keep things active in the reading department!

10+ Activities for Beginning Readers Who Can't Sit Still!

1. Build a Sentence with Word Cards

I made a set of index cards with words that Owen knows. We build sentences on the table, and Owen can walk around the table and read the words. We make all kinds of silly sentences like, “The man has a fat cat in his car,” or “Owen will run and fall!”

Hint: Kids love to read sentences about themselves! 🙂

Activities for Wiggly Beginning Readers

2. Playdough Letters and Words

It’s fun to roll out the dough and form letters, or stamp letters and words with our Melissa and Doug Alphabet Stamp set.

Reading Activities for Wiggly Readers

It’s fun to roll out the dough and spell words or stamp them with our Melissa and Doug Alphabet Stamp Set.

Activities for Beginning Readers Who Can't Sit Still!

3. Clothespin Spelling

I created the cards for this simple game by cutting up Owen’s (used) Explode the Code phonics book. It’s a great way to review the words that he already knows! I wrote the letters needed on clothespins, and he pins on the correct letters for each picture card. There are not enough clothespins to cover every card at the same time – he has to take them down after he builds them.

busy readers 2

busy readers 1

4. Twister Spell and Read

Owen was starting to work on blends by the time we did this activity, so I covered our Twister game with single letters and a few blends. Then I called out words for him to spell by covering the letters with his hands and feet. This was a favorite game!

Activities for Wiggly Beginning Readers

The crazy poses cracked us up!

Activities for Wiggly Beginning Readers

5. Simple Word Family Puzzles

Activities for Wiggle Beginning Readers

6. Paper Plate Word Family Wheel

7. Letter Sound Slap – This was was also a favorite!

8. Free Printable Books for New Readers – “Cats” and “Bugs”

Need More Ideas?

Here are 30 Hands-on Word Family Activities from I Can Teach My Child

Shoot the Sight Word from 1plus1plus1equals 1.net

30 Kinesthetic Activities for Teaching Reading from This Reading Mama


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  1. Allison Ward Mar 14, 2015

    i came across your website on accident and was glad I did. The activities for reader who can not sit still are great. I have three boys as well and will incorporate some of these into their learning activities. Thank you.

  2. Lisa @ Fern Creek Cottage Mar 15, 2015

    I am thankful for the reading activities, but I am even MORE happy that you talked about how wiggly your sons are/have been while learning to read. My five year old son drives me crazy moving all over the place when I'm trying to do school work with him. Now I feel like I can take a deep breath and be more patient because I now know he is not the only one.

  3. Jodie @ Growing Book by Book Mar 17, 2015

    Great ideas for literacy learning! The Twister game looks so fun!

  4. Jackie Mar 20, 2015

    Your articles are great but do you have any ideas for older boys? My grandson is 9 and never stops moving! He loves to read too!

  5. lauren Nov 8, 2015

    I absolutely love the Twister board idea! I want to try this with my class. Can you please send me a list of all the letter / letter blends you used?! Thanks !

    1. Sarah Nov 9, 2015

      You know, I don't still have this game put together and I can't remember exactly what I used! I would make a list of the words that you want your class to practice and then work backwards from there to figure out which letters and letter blends you want to use.

  6. Dominic Adams Jan 2, 2017

    Thanks for the great ideas! Plan on trying the play dough (which our kids love) and you also got me thinking that some letters would work with Legos....highly motivating to our children. You and your children may also enjoy our website at www.discoversuccess.info which recommends good books that can be searched by habit, child's name, etc. Hope you enjoy & thanks for all your helpful ideas.

  7. Adissa Abaaba Sep 26, 2017

    Wow, this is list is really hands on for any homeschooler. I imagine your boys will never feel boredom while learning to read unlike when they are in class with some other children with maybe a half-interested teacher. Surely, this is the way to go.


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