Using Starfall Games With Kids

Jennifer L. Betts
Contributor: Beth Asaff
girl playing game on digital tablet

Starfall is a reading program developed in 2002 by Stephen Schutz, Ph.D. As a child, Schutz was a struggling reader, and his personal experience led him to create this free, online resource for children who are learning how to read English. The program focuses on phonics as a primary tool for learning how to read.

Learn With Starfall Games for Kids

Though most of the products offered by Starfall are reading materials, the organization recognizes that children learn through play as well. Starfall reading games provide opportunities for children to develop reading skills while enjoying fun activities. Parents can visit Starfall for games that kids can play online at no cost. Online activities include many educational pastimes.

  • Learn shapes while making your very own gingerbread man.
  • Create a calendar.
  • Help Zac the mouse write a letter for Grandparent's Day.
  • Pick a pumpkin and learn about faces and shapes.
  • Change the colors, hats, and books with the Silly Turkey.
  • Learn about the senses and numbers 1 through 10 with the snowman game.
  • Count the 100 days of school.
  • Learn rhymes while hunting for four-leaf clovers.
  • Learn about connecting words with valentines.
  • Hunt for adjectives and verbs that make characters act.
  • Sort and pick up trash for Earth Day.
  • Learn how to follow directions and sequence while growing flowers.
  • Play educational holiday games that change with the seasons.

Reading Activities

The interactive games are just a small sampling of the educational activities offered by Starfall. The organization of the programs on the reading website makes choosing games simple; just move through the games one step at a time.

Level 1: ABCs

Pre-reading activities help children learn the alphabet while building phonemic awareness. Activities teach kids to scan from left to right, and they present the foundation for sounding out letters to make words. Children who already know their alphabet and basic phonics can benefit from moving quickly through the pre-reading activities to reinforce the reading skills. Additionally, Starfall offers activities for colors and motion songs.

Screenshot of Starfall - Level 1

Level 2: Learn to Read

The process of learning to read can be great fun once the phonetic building blocks are in place. Starfall uses a systematic approach to learning how to blend sounds to create words. The activities are well-organized introducing one skill at a time. Kids move from one reading game to the next, mastering one step before moving on. Skills learned and reinforced through the reading activities include:

  • Alphabet
  • Scanning left to right
  • Vowels
    • Silent E
    • Two vowels
    • Lonely vowels
  • The letter Y
  • Blends (sh, ch, th, wh)
  • Chunking

Mastering each step gradually leads budding readers to develop a love of reading.

Screenshot of Starfall - Level 2

Level 3: It's Fun to Read

The advanced games build on previously mastered reading skills while introducing children to reading activities that are more complex. Kids have a variety of options to enjoy, starting with an "All About Me" interactive game. Other fun reading games include:

  • Music
  • Poetry
  • Art
  • Tongue twisters
  • Riddles
Screenshot of Starfall - Level 3

Level 4: I'm Reading

After playing with this series of games, kids can transition into the next level of reading books and activities:

  • Plays
  • Comics
  • Fiction
  • Nonfiction
  • Folktales
  • Chinese fables
  • Greek mythology
Screenshot of Starfall - Level 4

Beyond Reading

In addition to reading, Starfall offers games in math that teach math concepts and number knowledge. These games include songs for learning numbers like 5 Little Bears and addition and subtraction. There are also games in division and multiplication. These games are colorful and easy to follow for kids. Kids also get help to answer questions if they need to.

Free vs Subscription

Starfall has dozens of games available for free. However, getting a subscription can open up two-thirds more games. For example, in geometry and measurement, there are 16 games available with a subscription but only three available for free. In Backpack Bear's Rhymes, you'll have access to 30 games with a subscription but only three for free. Additionally, a subscription will allow you to track your child's progress and work through their progression.

Getting a Subscription

Subscriptions are available for parents, teachers and whole schools. The cost will vary based on who is getting the membership. For example, a home or parent membership is $35 while a whole school membership is $270. Teachers can get a single membership for up to 6 students for $70 or a classroom membership for $150. Signing up for a subscription requires your email address, payment information, name, and address. Once the membership is paid for, you'll receive further instructions for setting up at home or in the classroom. Memberships are also tax deductible. In addition, the organization has created a Kindergarten Reading and Language Arts Curriculum that includes products, lesson plans, downloads and many other resources for budding readers.

Changes for 2019

In 2019, Starfall is making changes to the layout of the website and mobile viewing. Not only will they be adding expanded games for 2nd and 3rd graders but the way they structure the site will be slightly different. In addition to structuring by grade level, the upgrade will allow the website to be viewed on tablets and phones through a web browser.

Reading Is Fun

One of the most valuable lessons that Starfall reading games for children teaches is that learning how to read can be fun and teaching reading can be fun, too. The Starfall website provides teachers, parents and children with many educational activities that can be supplemented with educational products sold in the Starfall store.

Using Starfall Games With Kids