006 and a bit (spy messages for learning to read)

006-and-a-bitSo, Jumbles (nearly 5) started Reception¬†(first year of school) just over a month ago. He’s loving it, I don’t agree with homework at primary school, so was all set to refuse to do any. Except he keeps asking to do it. Well, I didn’t want to just sit and play with the flashcards he got sent home with, so we’ve been shaking it up a bit.

So today’s post is really a reminder to think outside the box if you’re given lists of words to practise or other similar homework:

balloon-sight-wordsWe are focusing on red “tricky words” this week (the ones you can’t sound out phonetically).

Game 1: Balloon Bash

(Unrelated to our chosen book)

Write pairs of words on balloons and play matching pairs. I matched colours as well as words (e.g. writing “said” on two yellow balloons) so that Bean could join in by matching colours. The only problem was, we had more words than colours, and it was annoying Jumbles when Bean matched balloons which weren’t word pairs.

You could also do this game with letters of the alphabet, or phonemes, start with just a few letters (pick the ones in your child’s name) and do 2 copies of each.

Game 2: Spieswax-resist

Read any spy book. 006 and a bit is a great, simple picture book about Daisy being a spy. Jumbles has loved it for a while.

Ideally pre-prepare some spy messages and hide them for your child to find. It adds to the spy game if they don’t see you creating the message. Plus, it can take a while to create the secret message, it’s best to do it when you aren’t being interrupted, yeah, you know, in that time when the kids leave you alone to get all of your jobs done (ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha..) I managed to do mine with Bean sat pulling at my arm (she’s actually in preschool for 6 hours a week now, but I tend to book in appointments, meetings etc in that time) but you know, if you can create mystery, do try. Jumbles was at school, so it was a surprise for him.


Obviously, there are many different ways to do secret messages, but one very simple way is to use cheap white candles (I have lots from a previous activity I ran years ago with church) to write your messages, then felt pen to reveal them. I used some of his practice words to write a sentence (“She said yes to the dog but no to the cat” this lead to questions about why she said no to the cat, so maybe think out your sentence better – now I’m sitting here writing it up I realised I missed a trick and could have had the message send him somewhere to find a prize e.g. “she said go to the red box” though that wouldn’t have been as many tricky words). For Bean (3) I just wrote her name for her to reveal (I’ve faked up one with her nickname, to avoid putting her real name on here).

Our secret messages led to a simple spy game, with Jumbles and Bean hiding the messages they’d made for me to find before I could colour and reveal them.


Basically, just have a play with candles, paper and pens, keep yourself and the kids entertained for ages. You can also use paint over the top, instead of pens, but I wanted a quick drying idea today.


Buy 006 and a bit from Wordery (affiliate link)




Carlo Likes Reading (Jessica Spanyol)

carloI wasn’t too sure about this book, but Jumbles really liked getting me to read all of the labels and then I thought the logical extension would be to label things in the house. Jumbles loves asking what things say and pointing out words when we see them. He’s not reading yet, but has a love of the written word, so it makes sense to surround him with words as much as possible.

So, I thought of simple words that would be good to make labels of, you could then just label everything yourself, but I think getting the kids to put the labels on the right things makes more sense. luggage tag page1luggage tag page2You can do as many labels as you like and might choose different things than we did.¬† I was thinking of every day items, some of his favourite toys etc. you could also do labels for children’s names and Mummy and Daddy.

luggage tag3If you just want to use the same ones as me, I did them as pictures so you can just print and cut them out (they are set to print 9 labels on an A4 page, I apologise if you’re in the US, I believe your paper size is slightly different, so you may have to adjust).

carlo 001Warning, if you ask your child what to label, you may find s/he suggests quite complicated things to be labelled, so I’d definitely recommend that you do a few simple ones first, all of Jumbles’s suggestions were specific lego models e.g “flying bad cop car” I managed to get him to choose single word items eventually, the third set of labels are his choices.

Once you’ve printed, simply cut them out, punch a hole in and thread string through, then run about the house with your kids, labelling things. I’m not sure how necessary the string is, with a 1 and 3 year old, they weren’t going to tie the string themselves, Bean mostly wanted to eat the labels. Jumbles just balanced them on things, or sometimes tucked the string in.

External links:
Borrow “Carlo likes reading”
Buy “Carlo likes reading”