Sight Words Digging Sensory Tray


Sight words digging sensory tray is designed to promote reading fluency in preschoolers and kindergarteners through fun hands-on sensory small world play.

Sight words digging play tray kids activity is a fun way to introduce your preschooler to β€œsight words” which are words that appear most frequently in reading texts. Also referred to as Dolch Words, sight words are lists of specifically chosen high-frequency words. As such, a child must learn these words by SIGHT rather than by sounding out, blending or segmenting. Besides, many of these sight words defy standard phonetic conventions, meaning that they are practically impossible to sound out. Most importantly, teaching sight words early on will help your preschooler to become an efficient reader. Therefore, frequent practice through fun hands-on invitations to learn and play, such as Sight Words Digging Sensory play, will help little learners memorize these words, many of which are hard to decode using conventional strategies.

You’ll need for this sight words sensory play:

  • sight words (download a 3 Level SIGHT-WORDS PDF here)
  • large tray or a bin (we are using this metal tray)
  • sensory filler (we are using pebbles from the beach and cloud dough)
  • rocks
  • diggers, tractors or other transportation vehicles

HOW TO make this sight words kids activity:

This Sight Words Digging Sensory Tray is perfect for little ones who love transportation. First, decide what you would like to use as your sensory filler. For example, you can use real or kinetic sand, small pebbles, or even expired cereal or grains. Here, we are using pebbles and small stones found at the beach, and, in the middle, we have cloud dough to resemble dirt. (To make cloud dough, combine one cup of flour plus 1 oz of oil.) Next, with a permanent marker write letters on little rocks (one letter per rock). Make sure to have enough rock letters to cover the words included so that each set is complete.


 Lastly, arrange printed and laminated sight words in your sensory bin along with letter-rocks. Offer your child to pick a word-card, read it and then spell it out by moving little rocks with a digger to make the sight word chosen.


You may download for your personal use the SIGHT-WORDS PDF here. Print the PDF, laminate all the pages and then cut out each word along the dotted line. You will notice that each page is color-coded according to its level. Level 1 is blue, Level 2 is green and Level 3 is red. To determine which level your child should use, you can do either of the two:

  • have your child read Level 1: if s/he makes more than three mistakes, start with this level; otherwise proceed to the next level. Adrian (five-year-old), made five mistakes in Level 3, so it is the level I will be using today
  • you can also have your child read all three levels, and choose only the words the child read incorrectly, so you will end up with various words from all three levels

For this activity, I am using one column of words, which is eight words at a time. With smaller children, you might want to start with just three words.


Ways to adopt:

If you have a toddler who is learning his/her name, simply substitute the sight word cards with a name card on it.

Sight Words Golf Tee Hammering

Another way to use your sight words is to play sound out each letter and hammer it with golf tees! We love upcycling our egg cartons, and this is a fun way to practicing spelling sight words by hammering each letter! First, choose a few words at a time and spell them out on dot stickers. Then, place dot stickers on the egg carton. Once the child chooses a sight word, offer to sound each letter and hammer it out. You can also offer your child to spell out the sight word without referring to the card. You can also modify this activity for a wide age-range:

  • 1.5 Y – placing NO stickers and offer your child to simply hammer the golf tees
  • 2 YO – place colorful dot stickers and play a game: β€œcan you hammer ___ color?”
  • 2.5 Y – place numbers or letters and play the same game
  • 3 Y – balance pom poms on golf tees once hammered
  • 4 Y – spell your child’s name and offer to hammer each letter – aka name recognition activity
  • 5 Y- hammer sight words

Did you know that SIGHT WORDS account for 50 to 75 percent of the words that appear in print, so it is important for children to learn the correct spelling and to recognize the words instantly by SIGHT in order to achieve reading fluency! This allows the child to concentrate on reading comprehension without having to stop and decode each word.

FUN FACT according to Fry’s research:

  • 12 sight words make up 25% of words your little one would encounter while reading
  • 25 words make up approximately one-third of all published text
  • 100 sight words make up 50% of the words we read and write
  • 300 words make up approximately 65 percent of all written material

Want more?

Sight Words Games:

  • Sight-Word Bingo
  • Sight-Words Hide and Seek: hide word cards around the house and offer your child to find as many as s/he can in a given time. At the end, offer your child to read the words found. A child gets a point for each word read correctly. Challenge your little reader to break the record the next time!
  • Sight-Words Memory Game: you will need to print 2 copies of sight words, mix them up and place them face down on the flat surface. Take turns flipping over two cards at a time and reading the words. (Most importantly, you should try to memorize where the cards are positioned so that you can match a pair.) If you make a match, you keep the cards. The person with the most cards when they are all turned over wins.
  • Lastly, Salt-Tracing: till a tray with salt, sugar or flour. Then, pick a card and sound and trace each letter.  

Adult supervision is required.

β™‘ Enriching the Mind one Heart at a time β™‘

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1 Comment

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    […] β€œdirt” I am up-cycling cloud dough from SIGHT WORDS DIGGER […]


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