family names: reading and writing the ones we love

read and write family names cover.png

Homework time is still a really important part of our day, especially now that Owen’s in Kindergarten and Maddy’s second grade work is picking up.

And I really try my best to find something fun and focused for Cora to do while Maddy and Owen are doing their work.  Lately, she’s been really into learning how to spell our family names, so I’ve tried to ride that wave a bit.

I brought out our Family Playing Cards, and we all agreed that they needed to be updated.  Since I made these cards two years ago, we’ve seen some pets come and go, and we’ve added two new cousins to the mix–lucky us!  But those babies need cards!!

(Shhhhhh! Family Playing Cards 2.0 are in the works for cousins on both sides and for Maddy, Owen, and Cora–I can’t wait!)

Until then, though, we’ve pulled them out more often than not during work time and Cora’s played with them in various ways.

Here’s the skinny:

  • Family Names–Reading and Writing the Ones We Love:  Over the past two years our Family Playing Cards have seen a lot of action.  We’ve used them to play Go Fish!, Memory, Old Maid, you name it. Some days we’d just play with the males, and other days, we’d play with the females. Sometimes we’d break them up into families.  Some days we’d play with kids and other days we’d use adults.


read and write family names | teach mamaThe Family Playing Cards are in the basket, ready to go!


Though they took some time to initially create, the kids love them. I’d definitely recommend having a set and including family, close friends, playgroup buddies, and pets.

The family memory cards 2011 blank is here to download if you’d like.  All you need to do is print them out on cardstock, write family names (make two for each person!), and add photos. I used clear contact paper to keep them safe, but you don’t need to go that route.


read and write family names | teach mamaCora ‘reads’ the names of her family cards before she begins.

read and write family names | teach mamaEven Golden and Guinea have cards (even though they now have new owners!).

read and write family names | teach mamaUsually she digs for her own card and writes her name first, but today, she was third.

read and write family names | teach mama

For Cora, since she’s been into learning how to spell our family members’ names, I put all of the cards into a basket or box, and I’d say, Okay my friend, pull out three cards and put them on the table. Then in any order you choose, I want you to write the names of the people on the cards; you decide who you want to write first, second, and third. 

When you’re finished with one, let me know, because I want to see your awesome job, and then when you’re finished, you can erase it with this fancy sock. Ready?

Usually by that time I remind her of the directions, she’s started choosing cards, and it’s fine with me. I just try to remind her to show me the name when she’s finished so together we can compare letters and I can support her if she needs it.


And that was it–Cora really loves doing it, and we try to mix it up a bit.  Some days she

  • writes the names on the dry erase board (with a fancy missing-pair sock as the eraser)
  • paints the names with watercolor
  • writes them in rainbow markers
  • uses magnetic letters
  • stamps out the names
  • uses her finger in Jell-O.

It’s cool. And slowly but surely, she’s learning how to spell her family’s names.

I love playing with names with emerging readers because names are so important to our little guys. Usually names are the first words kiddos recognize, and family members’ names aren’t too far behind their own.   And I try to throw in a little bit o’ math vocabulary when I ask her which name she’ll write first, second, third, etc because why not throw in what we can, when we can.

Happy Family Name Card creating!!




  1. says

    What a great idea! I especially love the family playing cards thing. I think I might know what to do for my nieces for the holidays now thanks to you! I just hope I can be organized enough to pull it off. Thanks so much for the great tip.


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