How to start showing flash cards? Glenn Doman’s method

I love the explanation Laurie Tiemens, the great moderator of the TeachYourBabyToRead group posted on June 12, 2007:

“First off, let me recommend to you to do one set only the first week. That means showing one set of words three times a day. Get the feel of that and see how it fits in your life. Then add a second set if you feel you can handle it, get used to that, and see if you can handle another and so forth. Do that until you get to the point where you don’t think you can add any more sets without being stressed. Obviously, the more sets you can do the better it is for your child but only if it is done consistently and joyfully. Even one set done well can benefit your child immensely. I only did one or two sets (changing with my circumstances at the time) and my 4yo is reading beautifully.

The 3 sessions a day of showing the same set of words should be SEPARATED by at least 30 minutes.

Now, when you start here is what I recommend.

Day 1: Show Word 1 three times a day.
Day 2: Show Words 1 and 2 three times a day.
Day 3: Show Words 1, 2, and 3 three times a day.
Day 4: Show Words 1, 2, 3, and 4 three times a day.
Day 5: Show Words 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 three times a day.
Day 6: Retire Word 1. Show Words 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 three times a day.
Day 7: Retire Word 2. Show Words 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 three times a day.

At this point each word that you retire you have shown 15 times.

During the second week if you choose you may add another set of words. Just start it as you did your first set. Then you should have 2 completely different sets of words in which you add and retire one word per day. You keep adding sets as you feel you can. If you get up to 5 sets of cards then that is the 25 words to which Doman is referring. Each one of those words is shown to your child a total of 15 times before they are retired.

If you find that she’s interested in more than 5 words then you can add 2 words at a time. Just be sure to retire them after showing them 15 times total. I find it’s extremely helpful to write the date on the back of the card on which I start showing the word.

Now, that being said, please keep in mind that it is imperative to adjust the number of words to your child’s interest. The number five is just an average number that Glenn Doman used for use in communicating the method. But he does say to adjust it to your child. If your child starts looking away before you finish, stop immediately and make a note of how many she was interested in before turning away. Next time show her one or two LESS than that number. So you may end up showing your child 10 in each set. If you are showing 5 sets a day you would be showing 50 words total with each word being seen 15 times.

Clear as mud? LOL

It is confusing at first. That’s one reason why I recommend starting more slowly that the book recommends. Never fear, though. You’ll get the hang of it real quick.

– Laurie – homeschooling mom to 10 kiddos.”

  1. Well, I’ve heard that by introducing many languages at once the bi/multi/lingual kids often start speaking a little later then their single language friends. It doesn’t matter if the kid hears just two languages or twenty two. My own guess is that it takes the brains a little more time to process the amount of information.

    But once they do start talking… they have a luxury of many languages and they don’t experience any issues with it. So if you are in a rush to impress grandpas with early speaking skills, many languages might slow down that performance. Hey, once they get the languages, the show is going to be one of a kind!

  2. Hi,

    I’ve been doing the flashcards for severa weeks now. My question is this – last week I happen to introduce 5 new categories of 5 words each and retired them after showing 15x. Should I show 5 new words of the same category again and retire whole sets after showing 15x again this week? Or should I always start with the recommended below everytime I have new categories to show? Please advise. I’m a bit confused since retiring whole sets as you mentioned is not preferred or recommended.

    Day 1: Show Word 1 three times a day.
    Day 2: Show Words 1 and 2 three times a day.
    Day 3: Show Words 1, 2, and 3 three times a day.
    Day 4: Show Words 1, 2, 3, and 4 three times a day.
    Day 5: Show Words 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 three times a day.
    Day 6: Retire Word 1. Show Words 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 three times a day.
    Day 7: Retire Word 2. Show Words 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 three times a day


  3. 5 categories of 5 words each! You are truly fantastic. If you have more words for the same categories, you don’t need to retire the entire category. Instead, you retire just 1 word (card) from each category and add a new one. So, in each category, your child can see 4 old and familiar words and 1 new. Since you have 5 categories, it will be 20 old words, and 5 new altogether. Only once you run out of words for that category, you can retire the whole category. Otherwise, you continue adding one new word and retiring one old word for each category every day.

    Honestly, I never retire an entire category. I just continue adding new words (and retiring old) on daily basis. Even if you decide to retire an entire category, you don’t have to start with just one card per day: you can safely grab five cards and show them. This pattern is described for a child who is new to cards. By adding cards slowly you can easily see how many he can watch at a time (not all kids are ready for 5 words per one session – some can watch 25 in one sitting, and others barely tolerate 2-3 – so by introducing the cards slowly it is easier for a parent to determine what is the right amount for her child).

    Categories are important for Encyclopedic Knowledge, not for words. When you teach Encyclopedic Knowledge, categories help kids see things that are related together: one category for Presidents, one for amphibians. It wouldn’t make sense showing 4 presidents and one salamander in the same sitting – it is confusing. But for words, I don’t think it is important to separate them into strict categories. With your rate, you’ll be running out of words very soon. So I’d just retire one in each category and add a new one daily without defining strict categories.

    On this site, I have separate presentations for foods, objects, actions, etc. But when I show those words to my son, I actually create a different grouping every day: I show just 5 words, 4 old, 1 new. Every night, I copy the words into separate files. It is a little more work, but this way my son has a surprise for him every morning – a new word, – and lots of familiar words, that occasionally he likes to name by himself.

    You had a terrific start and I wish you to have lots of fun with your words in the future! Please share in the future how it is going for you!

  4. Thank you so much for your prompt reply. Appreciate your inputs! I have been learning so much from your website. It’s very insightful. I must commend you for your passion and dedication in teaching your baby. It is truly encouraging and inspiring! Your baby is indeed fortunate to have you as a mother.

    By the way, I just have some more questions if you can help me clarify them. First, let me share what I’m doing this week: The 5 categories of 5 words each are as follows: fruits, vegetables, transportation, action words, feelings. I started on Monday (Nov. 10). I’m showing it 3x a day. Most of the time my baby is able to tolerate 25 words in one sitiing but sometimes he doesn’t so I take his cues. My questions are: After showing these 5 words 3x a day for 5 days (ends this Friday Nov. 14), then I would have to retire all words and replace with new words for next week’s lesson (in the same 5 categories assuming that I still have more words to replace them with otherwise I would retire a particular category)? Is retirig whole sets of words ok and replacing with a new set of 25 words since my baby would have seen the 25 words 15x? I’m not sure how I can retire daily as you mentioned since the 25 words will have to be seen first for 15x each this week? If I start to retire a word on the 6th day (after viewing for 15x) then the remaining 4 words in each category would be seen more than 15x already right? That’s where I’m a bit confused since I started with 25 words at the same time so I would need to retire whole 25 words by Friday after having viewed 15x.

    Thanks in advance for your help once again.

  5. Thank you for your kind words! They really mean a lot to me!!!

    After showing your 25 words for 5 days you don’t have to retire all 25. You retire just five words and add five new ones. Daily. Here is an example: I have a set of five words for my baby
    – apple
    – milk
    – bread
    – carrot
    – banana
    I am showing these words for 5 days, 3x a day. At the beginning of the next week, I retire just one word (let’s say, a word “banana”), and add a new one, so the set looks like this:
    – apple
    – milk
    – bread
    – carrot
    NEW: soup
    My baby is happy to see old words (someone just recently mentioned that her baby loved old words so much, this mom ended up with two piles – the baby got very upset when any old words would disappear) and even happier – for a surprise: a new word (“soup”)!

    I show these words 3x on Monday. On Tuesday I retire another old word (“carrot”) and add another new one, so my set looks like this:
    – apple
    – milk
    – bread
    – soup
    NEW: butter

    So, similarly, on Wednesday my set will look like this:
    – apple
    – milk
    – soup
    – butter
    NEW: cereal

    By the end of the week, all the words from week 1 would be replaced and the baby will start getting familiar with the 5 new words! So you just continue like this adding one/removing one from each set and adjusting your sets according to your baby’s interest.

    Wishing you the best of luck!

  6. Dear ANMB,

    Trying to figure out things in the very beginning can be very frustrating. But I am sure you’ll discover very soon, that it’s not Doman who will be dictating you how to show words, but only your own child. Mine never liked 5 sets of 5 words per one day – it was too much for him. Yet, I remember a parent whose child could see 100 words in one sitting. Doman’s suggestions are just that: suggestions, guidelines. You’ll see what works for you, what doesn’t. Doman says, that no matter how you show your words, your child will benefit, and if you keep up with the golden rules (stop before your baby wants to stop; don’t test unless your child really loves testing; stay consistent), you’ll succeed with whichever way you prefer to do it. Yet some kids do better with phonics. For some Montessori sand-paper letters work the best. Some thrive on Doman’s whole word systems. For some – it’s a combination of everything that brings the best results. As long as you both enjoy it.

    Now, as far as I understand, the logic behind retiring one word from each set is this: kids like to see familiar things. Yet, having the same words every day – they get bored. So having 4 old words and 1 new word every day makes sure that the kids see old words enough number of times to memorize them, and see a new word to keep them interested.

    That system definitely works for my own child. Every time we sit down for the presentations, he asks me if he’ll get a new word in the end. He is excited about the new words, he is a lot less interested in watching the words, if there is no “surprise” for him at the end – a new word.

    So, you’ll see for yourself!

  7. Dear Alenka,

    I posted my question on the wrong page. :/

    I wanted to know if I could do this instead:

    Day 1: Show Set 1 of 5 cards, three times a day.
    Day 2: Show Set 1 and add Set 2, show each set three times a day.
    Day 3: Show Sets 1 & 2; and add Set 3; show each set three times a day.
    Day 4: Show Sets 1, 2, & 3; and add Set 4; show each set three times a day.
    Day 5: Show Sets 1, 2, 3, & 4; and add Set 5; showing each set three times a day.
    Day 6: Retire Set 1. Show Sets 2, 3, 4, & 5; and add Set 6; showing each set three times a day.
    Day 7: Retire Set 2. Show Sets 3, 4, 5, & 6; and add Set 7; showing each set three times a day.

    Each word is still seen 15 times – yet, it seems easier than retiring a word from each set and introducing a new word into each set.

    What do you think?

  8. I am still new to this, but I thought it is a good idea to start slooooowly – see how comfortable you are with just one set a day (3 times). You are supposed to show those sets 30 minutes apart. Gee, showing some kind of words every 30 minutes is actually a lot more time consuming then it seems! πŸ™ I am still getting used to showing just one set. I say, if you can show one set of words consistently, then it’s time to add set 2, set 3, set… 10. Starting with more then you can handle in one day can make you even more frustrated… Cheers! πŸ˜‰

  9. THANK YOU so much for your explanations. I read the book and started yesterday with one set of 5 family words 3x, then today added a second set of 5 more familiar household words 3x, but was getting really confused about what to do after tomorrow’s addition of another set of household words…I liked your suggestions to previous posters and any light you can shine on doman’s method is greatly appreciated.

  10. Dear Alenka,

    I really want to thank you for this website! I have just recently begun researching teaching your baby to read, and honestly I have been feeling a little overwhelmed. Thanks to how you break down the information on this site, I am feeling much more confident and excited to begin teaching my son to read. Thanks so much!

  11. I think that this is a wonderful idea but my question is how do you start showing the cards , what I mean is if this is your first time showing the cards do you say the word first then show them and don’t tell them the word again.

  12. Doman book indicates that the first time that you do it, you sit the child in front of you and tell him in a joyous voice, that you are about to show him some fun cards/words. Then, hold a card and say: “This says MOMMY!” I love Laurie’s directions, so on a first day, do just that 3 times. On a second day, add another card and say again: “This says MOMMY! And this says DADDY!” And so on. After a few days, just pick up your cards and show them as quickly as you can (fraction of a second), and just name the word: Mommy, Daddy, baby, milk, cat… Extra explanations are not necessary further on.

  13. Hello! First of all let me thank you for this amazing site, I can’t stop reading it over and over again. It’s been a while since someone made a comment so I’ll look forward to your answer.

    I have a 5 months old girl and I’ve been showing her flashcards on the computer for about 2 weeks now. I’d like to share with you the method I’m using so you can tell if I need to change something.

    I started with 3 sets of words which means 15 words per day 2 times a day. I chose to do it this way because she didn’t get bored and pays a lot of attention to every word. The first lesson is in the morning and the last one before she’s going to bed because those are the moments when I can do it and when she is happier than any other time in the day.

    I want to teach her 3 languages, I’m a native spanish speaker but soon I will live in Canada which is why I’m introducing her to english and french. I’m also using videos, movies, songs and sometimes I talk to her in every language (please let me know if this is too much right now).

    I didn’t know how to do it exactly with three languages so I’m doing french monday and thursday, spanish tuesday and friday and english wednesday and saturday. I’m using the same sets and same words for every language with the same images as well.

    The sets I’m using are about words we use everyday such as body parts, animals, kitchen utensils, clothes, objects. The second week I changed one wet and introduced another. So my specific questions are:

    – Does three languages are too much too soon?
    – Should I let one language per week and then change to another?
    – Should I repeat a session the same day but with different language?
    – Should I reduce the number of words she’s seeing?
    – Should I do it more than two times a day?
    – Any other suggestions?

    Thank you so much, I will also share my flashcards in case they’re useful for some parents out there πŸ˜‰

  14. Marianne, I loved your approach – consistent, joyful with your baby’s attention span and interest in mind!

    I would love to hear the opinion of other members on this topic.

    From both my experience and things that I’ve read, your approach should be the most beneficial: kids have no issues with a great variety of languages at the same time. Introducing them early by speaking, reading, watching – is supposed to be the most logical way for the baby to learn. Allocating specific days with and sticking to it – is terrific!

  15. Thank you so much for your answers they’re encouraging! I thought I was doing something wrong so it’s good to know that I’m not. I do try to expose her to different languages because my mom did the same with me, although it was only with english, but it made it really easy for me to learn it at a very young age and languages became my favorite subject at school, I never knew the reason for this but now I know

    I’ll keep doing this same routine for another two weeks and then I will introduce her russian words, I’m not a fluent speaker but I studied enough to teach her some words and then some sentences as well.

    The bad thing is that in my house she only hears spanish from the rest of the family so I’m trying to compensate it with different materials that I mentioned before, hope it helps.

    I can’t see all the responses here but in my email I received another one about children who take longer to speak when they learn more than one language, and you’re right, in the long run the benefit could be amazing even if it seems confusing at first.

    And yes Alenka, I do try to be consistent even when I never was with my things lol I’m not trying to make an Einstein out of her or anything, I just want to make things easier for her, so when she grows up either path she might choose becomes more enjoyable and less of a struggle.

  16. Hi,thank you so much for putting up such a informative website. I just started doing the flash card with my daughter. I am flashing 4 different sets of cards(eng,chinese,math,picture) back to back at one session. Is this ok? Will she get confused if i flash the card within taking a break between them? I am thinking of adding new sets for each of the languages maths n pics- that makes it 40 cards at 1 session (without
    break) . Is that fine for my baby?

  17. Hi,
    I am from India, and a working Mom.
    I have a 15 month old Son and I am interested in teaching him to READ using
    the GD method.
    I have few issues which I hope will be solved via the helpful members who have been practicing GD on their kids in this forum.
    Here I go with my doubts:
    1) I have hand painted (yes painted) the words with Bright RED paint on A4 size paper strips with a 18mm thick paint brush.
    the cards look fine but I am worried if this is correct way of making the flash cards.
    Is Painting the words instead of PRINTING them OK?

    2) I work fulltime therefore I can devote time to my son first thing in the morning, i.e have a quick session in morning and then have 3-4 sessions in the evening after returning from work.
    I have read on your that we can have sessions with a 15 /30 minute gap in between.
    Now this seems very comfortable for me as I can devote a lot of time in the evenings.I can do 3-4 sessions if the above idea is valid and as per GD method.(as long as it has some INPUT effect on my kid!!).
    PLEASE guide me on the timings of the session and whether 15min time out method has the same effect on the kids as 3 sessions spread throughout during the day.

    3) I have barely started the program and I flash cards at him BUT he does NOT look for long at the cards. i.e somewhere during the sessions he gets distracted and looks around here and there.Also, I did only 10 words,3x for past 2 days and after every session he jumped on me as if to ask for a replay of the session. Once during a session, He jumped on my cards and tried to grab them.
    WHAT do I do in such case? Any tips would be really welcome and I would be grateful for them.

    4) So, I started with a very basic set of number words, one to ten. My Question is
    How many word should each set contain?? 5 or 10 or depends on how many we can handle in each set?

    5) And are we supposed to retire a word each day and add a new one the same day?

    Frankly I am really afraid time is slipping by fast πŸ™ and I am not doing enough for my childs developement. 😑 (Dont All Mothers feel this GUILT???)

  18. Your work and your dedication sound admirable! Congratulations on an amazing effort!!!!
    1. Hand-painting – wow, must look gorgeous. Cards don’t have to be printed – original Doman books indicate writing words with a very thick red marker. His site even sells it. Printing was easier for me, but you can do anything that works for your busy lifestyle – being able to keep up is the hardest, so pick whichever method that works the easiest for you!
    2. I do just 3 sessions per day with my son. I can’t fit in more into our schedule. If you can – it is great. Keep in mind: “rules” are just guidelines! You pick what works for you and your baby.
    3. 10 cards – wow! I don’t think my kids ever had patience to look at a card set that long. Can’t convince my little one to look at one now (that’s why I have a few minutes for typing you a response instead). Try 7. Try 5. Try 2. Try whatever number of cards that your baby can enjoy and stop one card before his attention span wears out. Keep his interest as your guide!
    4. It is generally recommended to start with reading, and add math later. Reading is the staple of knowledge, it takes a priority. If you prefer to start with math, ~5 cards per session should be fine. Again, you can increase/decrease the amount of cards based on your baby’s interest.
    5. We show a new set of cards for 5 days (3 sessions a day x 5 days = ~15 times to look at each card – again, not a formula, just a sample), then start retiring/adding every single day. Every single day after the first week your baby has a new word/number in each set.

    Guilt – yeah, that is a hungry wolf eating all of us raw and never having enough.

    Good luck! Share how it goes!

  19. I just finished reading this book and plan to start this program with my son when school is out. He’s turning 6 and has developmental delays as the result of a tumor, radiation, and chemotherapy. I’m a little confused about the schedule and have a few questions maybe you can help me with.

    1. When I read the book I thought it said the first set you show your child is 15 words. On your site (which is fabulous & highly informative) I see mostly indications of showing 5 words. Am I misinterpreting the book? My son being older and facing challenges I’m implementing an intense program for 3 months with the intention of determining whether or not I want to continue with the Institutes, with NACD, or just keep going on my own. So I want to follow the book to the letter.

    2. The other thing I don’t understand is when to move on to the second step with coupling. Does he have to show me he knows the single words first? How do I know when to move on?

    Any advice you could offer would be great.

  20. Everything also seemed very confusing to me at the beginning. First of all I would like to say that the book just lists suggestions for the word showing schedule, and you adjust it based on what you can do and how interested your child is. General schedule that my edition of the book has indicates 5 words (one set), three times a day for 5 days. So by the end of the week the child saw every word ~15 times. One word in that set is retired and a new one added. New sets are added as you become comfortable. Couplets are started when you have enough words to “couple” with: usually I show it after we’ve seen colors and adjectives. Couplets also depend on the age of the baby when you start: really little ones don’t understand this concept and sticking just to words would make more sense to them. Older children will be excited by couplets much sooner. Good luck!

  21. i have a 14 months daughter. i read the book and started to show some words to my child. but she is not paying attention..she grabbed the cards and play with it. what will i do?.

    before i read the book, my child already watch some dvds. but i didnt show her flashcards. she is interested in the dvds than the flashcards. should i stop the dvds?.

  22. Sounds totally normal for the 14 month old! I don’t think DVDs have anything to do with it and you can continue with it if you see any progress and find it useful (and don’t show it too much – I am personally not a great fan of TV and kids under three, but I believe that with the right balance it can be useful). There are plenty of suggestions in this section: Alternative Ways to show cards to a runaway child

  23. Any one you are comfortable with, any one you want your child to be able to read. I’d start with the language that your daughter hears the most – the language that you you talk to her.

  24. My daughter is 8 month old, and I have showed around 140 words. I have not started couplets yet. I have also not shown any pictures while showing the words.They were just random words. I read the book little later . Hence didn’t start with words and things around her. So, she will not actually know the meaning of those words.
    Now I’m totally confused as to when to start couplets. Should I start to show pictures with couplets now?
    I have not tested her even once.
    She still seems interested to see the word cards.
    All these while I was using printed cards. Can I use hand written cards now?Is there a chance of she getting confused between fonts?


  25. Pictures are really a burden and really-really not necessary! My kids wouldn’t watch the words as is, so I had to resort to pictures. If you daughter likes the words – let her enjoy it! You can start putting couplets together from the words that you’ve already shown. She will know the meaning of these words anyway, since you use it in the language on daily basis, you hopefully picking some words that surround her. Fonts, prints, type – babies don’t care. If they don’t like it – they show it by losing attention and interest. Sounds like you have an absolutely remarkable progress! Enjoy it and good luck!

  26. Hi, I was given this glen doman kit but the instruction book is lost. I am not too sure how to start using it. Do you know where I can find the boom? Thanks.