An alternating treatments design was used to compare the effectiveness of activity‐based intervention and didactic instruction to teach sight word reading to four young children with developmental delays attending an inclusive child care centre. Following the collection of baseline measures, the two interventions, counterbalanced for word lists and order of intervention, were implemented twice a week for six weeks. Acquisition of the sight words was assessed by the interventionist in pre‐teaching probes and also by a special education teacher known to the children but independent of the research team. Maintenance data were collected three weeks after the intervention was completed. The results indicated that there were no differences between the two instructional approaches in relation to acquisition and maintenance of sight word reading for three of the four children. Features of each intervention and the implications of the findings are discussed.