Get Moving: 5 Kinesthetic Reading Games for Kids

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When writing this post I debated whether or not to use the phrase “Kinesthetic Learning” because it comes with baggage. There is disagreement among factions regarding the benefits of applying a curriculum dedicated to kinesthetic learning for those students that are screened as having a “Kinesthetic Learning Style” by the VARK model. My view is that it does work as long as the teacher understands that kinesthetic learning is a tool in the tool box and not the tool box itself. In other words, using kinesthetic learning as the only method of teaching will likely not work for most people. However, these activities are great to break the monotony of the student sitting and being subjected to the day’s lecture.

Using kinesthetic learning intermittently as a review tool will help the student remain engaged and will even give the student practical examples of how the material can be used. There is plenty of research to support that students lose focus after about 15 minutes of sitting. Also, it is generally accepted that supplementing classroom education with experiential learning (i.e., learning by doing) strengthens the student’s understanding of the material, which is why many professions require practical application (e.g., doctoral residencies, law associates, professional internships, science/engineering laboratory courses, etc.).

Now on to the activities!

5 Kinesthetic Reading Games for Wiggle-Friendly Learning

Kidnap Mystery

 Ok, the title is a little weird, but stay with me. This is a great activity for kids just starting to read. First, use your phone to take a picture of their favorite toy that has been kidnapped by a bad guy toy. It is also important that the background of the picture be some place the child will recognize, so they can go to the rescue! Show the picture to the child and say “The toy is in trouble. You need to rescue them!”

The child will run to the location seen in the background of the picture only to find a note instead of their toy. The note will give a clue to another location. Depending on the reading level of the child, the clue may just say the location (e.g., “tub”) or for the more advanced student the clue will have a sentence (e.g., Where do you take a bath?). The child will then read the clue (yah reading!) and run to the next location (e.g., bathtub) where they will find the next clue. Several locations and clues later, the child finds their toy and defeats the bad guy!

Sight Word Lava Jump

 True sight words can be difficult because the student cannot read these words phonetically. For example, “was” does not follow the rules of phonics because the “a” sound is “aw” instead of the “a” sound in “apple” and the “s” in “was” makes a “z” sound instead of an “s” sound. Note that some learning curricula recommend teaching students many commonly used words as sight words to avoid the student having to use phonics on all common words. I’m not going to argue here on the merits of each method. Instead, on to the game!

Write sight words on many sheets of paper and then tape the papers on the floor from one end to the other. Then yell out sight words. The student will have to jump to the yelled sight word and (hopefully) make it to the other side without falling in the lava. Be sure to arrange the sheets of paper in such a way so the student has several choices when making each jump. This is critical because it forces the student to read the sheets around them before jumping to the appropriate “stepping stone.” Want to move it outdoors? Check out Megan’s Sight Word Stomp! post for a fun variation.

Word Matching in Motion

 Students spend a lot of time doing worksheets. One common worksheet is matching words and pictures by drawing lines. This activity is the same idea, but with the added fun of running around the room! First, use tape to adhere several pictures of objects to the wall. Add some two-sided tape to the bottom of the front of each picture. Then, on a table on the other side of the room, put pieces of paper with words that correspond to the pictures. Now have the student match the words to the pictures! I recommend only allowing the student to carry one word across the room at a time, which will maximize the kinesthetic part of the activity. If you enjoy chaos, you can have several students do it together and make it a race!

Word Walking

Take a break for the classroom and go for a walk around the school, neighborhood, or a store. While enjoying the fresh air, point out the signage and ask the student to read the words. Discuss the meaning and importance of the signs. This is a great opportunity to show the student the practical use of reading.

Scavenger Hunt

This is an old classic. Give the student a sheet of paper with a numerically itemized list of words for items. The student will read the word for the first item and then go find it. Once the item is found, the student will check it off and read the next item. This activity can be spiced up by adding a prize for the student that finishes first or (for the more advanced readers) use riddles instead of a single word for each item.


I am happily married and have two boys. I am an engineer by trade. My passions are science, football, comedy, and spending time with my family. I am very excited about having a vehicle to tell people some fun and educational activities that you can do with your kids. It can be hard work sometimes, but seeing that look of wonder your in child's eyes makes it all worth it. Go outside! Get dirty! Imagine, create, try, fail, and try again! Be tenacious! This is your only life, so go live it!

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