How to make the drudgery of "practice" more fun

It is likely not surprising to you to hear that not all kids love to hear the word "practice." Whether it is an instrument, a sport, or academics, it is frustrating for kids to discover that improvement may require some effort. The funny thing is, the average kid actually loves to learn and improve - it is part of growing up! Unfortunately, us adults have managed to suck any bit of fun out of the process by requiring it and by insisting it be done in the way WE think is effective (which usually translates to boring and difficult). If you have a kid that runs for the hills when you suggest they need to practice reading or spelling, here are a few ways to make the task more enjoyable. What works for each kid will be different - use and adapt what works for your kid.


Word searches. It may seem like busywork, but a word search requires that we hold a word in our head, and keep the spelling in our head. Teach your kid good word search strategies: searching row by row for the first letter, then when you find the first letter search in a circle for the second, then the third, etc. The child has to hold that spelling in their head (or check the key) which is effectively the same as chanting the spelling over and over, but more fun!





  • Hangman - if your child is having trouble spelling some words, use them in hangman! You can even simplify this to tell the child the answer - but they have to spell it and get the letters in the right spot or they add a part to the unfortunate victim.

  • BOOM! Flash Card Game. I'm not sure if this has a proper name, but if you have a number of flashcards for sight words, add a sticky note or a sticker to some that says "BOOM" or has a poop emoji or any other "oh no" kind of situation. All the cards are shuffled and placed face down. The student can flip cards one at a time and read them. They get a point for each correctly read card and can continue to flip as many as they'd like until they choose to stop, get a "boom!" or read a word incorrectly. If they choose to stop, their points are safe and it's the next players turn. If they get a "Boom!" they lose all the points they acquired in that turn. If they read the word incorrectly, they keep their points but it is the next player's turn. There is an element of risk/gambling in this game that is particularly appealing to older students.

  • "Feed the ...." This is such a simple concept, but it delights younger kids. You can get as fancy or as simple as you want. Write or print some words on paper, you can use fun food shapes if you want to take it up a level - or use sticky notes with words stuck to play food. Find a stuffed animal, a puppet, or you can draw a big head or monster on a big piece of paper and cut out the mouth. The child must read the word and then feed the object to the ...(whatever). This tends to be particularly appealing if the creature thanks the child for the delicious word - and barfs out any incorrectly read words.

  • Write to ... If you have family or friends living far away, encourage your child to write to them. Or draw and label a picture. When my kids were young, I pre-printed a bunch of address labels for various family members and bought some "forever" stamps. The kids could make their letter, stamp, address, and seal the envelope completely independently.

  • BINGO! - A classic game that's easy to play and make. Create some BINGO cards with words your child needs to practice. Call them out and have the child find and mark them off. Small prizes make this even more special!

  • Anagrams - You can create these online or with paper. Just use all the letters of a word, separate them, mix them up and have the child try to guess and build the word.

  • Obstacle Course - If you have a number of flashcards for a child to practice challenging words, a younger or more active student may like to run through the house as an obstacle course, following the path of cards. Put them over chairs, under tables, etc. and have your student collect them and read them as they complete the course.

  • Practical Application - What does your child love to do? Play video games? Eat cookies? Learn about the ocean? Incorporate reading into something that draws their interest and requires them to read. Whether it is reading the storyline in a video game like Zelda or Pokemon, or following a recipe to bake their favourite cookies, you can find many reasons to read outside of the novel. Don't feel shy about helping your child with words beyond their current level.

  • Typing - There is something about typing on a keyboard that makes the most mundane tasks more interesting to some children. Have them type spelling words and then choose fun fonts. They could then use this activity to print, cut out and play with anagrams!


Not every activity will be a hit with every child, but I hope this will give you some ideas about how to level up your next practice session.

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