When to teach sight words

Is your little one getting ready to enter preschool or kindergarten? Then this is a great age to try teaching them sight words!

Sight words are most commonly introduced at the preschool level when children are approximately four years old. A preschooler’s first 40 sight words generally include small numbers (one, two, three), primary colors (red, blue, yellow), and basic pronouns (me, we, you). By Kindergarten, at approximately five years old, many kids are expanding their sight word recognition to words for higher digits, more colors, more pronouns, some prepositions, and common adjectives.

Wondering exactly when to introduce your child to high frequency words? Keep reading!

when to teach sight words to kids

What Are Sight Words?

Sight words are the words that you will find on almost every page of a book. These sight words – or “High Frequency Words” are the ones that your child will come across when they read almost any text. From books to worksheets and letters to Santa, these words are found everywhere. So, if your little one has a head start on learning how to read them, they will be set up for success as they enter kindergarten!

Words like a, I, me, my, see, and, you, and the are examples from the Pre-K level.

A great resource to check out is Dolch Sight Words, which lists the words by age, group, or alphabetical order. They’ve also got lessons, games, and flashcards, too!

Why Are They Important?

According to Dolch, sight words from the Pre-K level to 3rd grade make up 80% of the words that you will find in most children’s books. This tells us that in order for your child to successfully read children’s books, they’ve got to have a solid understanding of sight words.

Another bonus is that once your child has mastered reading sight words, they can focus on learning the other words in their books. By not having to focus on every single word, their reading becomes more fluid and natural.

When to start teaching sight words to kids

When To Start Teaching Sight Words

I want to stress one thing first: If your child doesn’t pick up on reading sight words right away, that is okay. Literacy is a huge part of Kindergarten and they aren’t going to fall behind if they start the year not knowing some (or any) of these words! Their teachers are equipped with the skills and resources to teach them.

But, if your child expresses an interest in books and a desire to read, why not try teaching them sight words? By learning these with you, you are promoting a love of literacy that will stick with them for a long time to come.


A good time to start introducing your child to these words is at the age of around 4. I say around because some may show an earlier interest in reading and others later. Since this is the age where they are introduced to learning, and will soon be entering the school system, now is a good time to give it a try!

Here’s a list of the sight words to expect at preschool level:

a, and, away, big, blue, can, come, down, find, for, funny, go, help, here, I, in, is, it, jump, little, look, make, me, my, not, one, play, red, run, said, see, the, three, to, two, up, we, where, yellow, you

The list above is directly from Dolch’s list, but if you click this link there’s a PDF with all 40!

If you are interested in starting now, but aren’t quite sure how, then check out my other post “How to Teach Sight Words”!


If your child is already at kindergarten age and you haven’t yet started sight words, don’t fret! You can always start now!

At Kindergarten age, you can expect sight words such as:

all, am, are, at, ate, be, black, brown, but, came, did, do, eat, four, get, good, have, he, into, like, must, new, no, now, on, our, out, please, pretty, ran, ride, saw, say, she, so, soon, that, there, they, this, too, under, want, was, well, went, what, white, who, will, with, yes

Again, those are from Dolch’s list! If you want to see the full 52, use this PDF.

When To Teach Sight Words

How to Teach Sight Words

I’ve got a whole post on this, so I won’t get into deep detail here. What I will say, though, is that keeping reading a low stress and highly enjoyable activity will promote a deep love of reading in your children. Don’t focus too much on how many words they know or how well they read, especially at such a young age!

The best thing you can do for your emergent readers is to teach them that reading is not only important to learn, but that it’s fun too. By using a variety of resources and a range of book types, you’ll surely find something that will get them excited about reading while letting them explore topics they’re interested in!

Elke Crosson

Elke Crosson has her BA in International Relations with a minor in Spanish at UBC (Okanagan). She is currently in her second year of the Master of Teaching program at the University of Toronto, with dreams of becoming an elementary-level teacher.

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