Here’s a quick and easy twist on a game your kids already play that can help them work on their phonemic awareness. You are probably all too familiar with I Spy With My Little Eye, where your child guesses which object you see based on the color you tell them. For example, you may say, “I spy with my little eye something…yellow.” And your child will guess all the yellow things she sees until she chooses the banana you were spying.
Try it this way the next time you’re playing–“I spy with my little eye something that begins with the ‘b’ sound.” Now, instead of colors, your child with look for objects that begin with a sound. Recognizing the sound and matching it up with an object is a phonemic awareness exercise. Don’t be afraid to explore other sounds like the ‘sh’ and ‘ch’ sounds.
You can even make it a phonics game by saying, “I spy with my little eye something that begins with the letter ‘B’.” This will require your child to match up the letter with the sound it makes.
We’ve been playing this phonemic awareness game lately to help Pea not only develop some physical coordination, but also strengthen her ability to think on her feet. It’s very easy to play, and lots of fun for the kids.
Blow up a balloon and punch it into the air. As you hit the balloon, say a word–any random word will do, but you may want to start with one syllable words until your child catches on to the rules. You child then hits the balloon into the air in response, while saying a word that rhymes with the word you said. It doesn’t have to be a real word, it just has to rhyme. As they get better at the game you can hit the balloon again, returning it to them while saying another word that rhymes with the first two.
See how long you can go until someone makes a mistake. It won’t hurt to let them win every now and then. 🙂
If you see they are having trouble with the game, you can begin by hitting the balloon higher into the air initially, giving them more time to think of a response.
We’ve been playing a game in our co-op that Pea loves so much she asks to play it by herself as well. She’s a tactile learner, and this game gives her an easy way to visually and physically learn about blending phonemes with her hands. For more information about blending phonemes, you can read our longer article on phonemic awareness.
Here’s the basic idea for blending initial sounds:
- Hold up your right hand and make the initial sound of the word. For example, if the word you are going to blend is “sat”, you’ll make the ‘s’ sound with your right hand.
- Next, hold up your left hand and make the sounds for the remainder of the word, ‘-at’ in our example.
- Finally, bring your two hands together and as you slowly say the whole word, making sure your child gets to hear the initial sound and how it is combined with the remaining sounds.
Once your child gets the idea, you can do the first two steps and let your child do the final step on their own, bringing the sounds together with their own hands to make the word. One key point is to make sure you are using your right hand for the beginning sounds and your left hand for the ending sounds. This drives home the idea that words are formed left to right. Remember, your child is seeing the mirror image of what you see.
You can use this same concept in reverse to isolate final sounds in words too! Just isolate the final sound with your left hand an use your right hand for all of the initial sounds.
Chick Pea loves to play hide and seek, so we made up a fun game to help her with her word groups. Right now we’re working with the “-at” words (cat, hat, mat, rat, etc.). The game is pretty easy–make up cards with the words on them and put them in various places around the house. Next, we go to “base” and look at a group of pictures that represent the various words. For each picture, we send her off “hunting” for the word that goes with the picture.
The words don’t really need to be hidden. In fact, it’s probably better if they can see the several different words as they are looking for a single word, just to become familiar with the differences. It’s also a memory exercise since they can spot words they aren’t looking find them quickly when the appropriate picture shows up.
If you have a group of kids, you can make it a contest–send them all out hunting and see who can find a word first. It’s a great game for outdoors as well!
Last weekend, a friend was telling me how much her three year old loves playing the Good Night Rhymes game. We talked about it as a bedtime game, but they play in the car. She started noticing that her little boy would always make a rhyme that started with the letter ‘L’. So if she says “boy” his response would be “loy”.
As I said in the original post on Good Night Rhymes, made up words are perfectly fine. The point of the game is to work on phonemic awareness. But she was wondering how she could get him to try different sounds. One approach she used was to start the game with a word that starts with an ‘L’ to stump him.
An easy variation on the game is to ask your child to rhyme the starting word using every letter of the alphabet. So if you started the game with “sit”, your child can use an alphabet chart to go down the letters to see what new words they can make. Although it doesn’t matter if the words don’t make sense, try to steer them towards words that “could be” words. For example, when you start with the letter ‘A’ for the word ‘sit’ you end up with “ait”. You can just say something like “That doesn’t sound right, let’s try the next letter. Bit, cit, dit, eit, fit, git, etc.”
This also changes the game from a phonemic awareness exercise to a phonics exercise because you are now asking your child to connect the letter of the alphabet with the sounds they make.
Here’s a quick and simple game you can play during your bedtime routine with your child that will help them learn to make words rhyme.
- Think of a word and tell your child that the two of you will take turns saying a word that rhymes with the given word. These words can be real or make-believe as long as they rhyme!
- When you run out of words, ask your child to think of the next word – or save it for another night!
For example: You say “free”, your child can follow with “tree”, and you can come back with “glee”…”flea, tea, me, plea, we, tree, gee, bee, nee, kee, zee, etc.” (the last three words were examples of make-believe words)
- Kids have a lot of fun with this one because they don’t have to worry about word meaning, they only have to match the ending sound. You can tell them that Dr. Seuss was an expert on making up words that rhyme. Read one of his books that night to help you guys get started with the game.
- Although this is a good bedtime activity, it can be done anytime and anywhere!
This is a phonmeic awareness activity that will help your child blend words together using word families. You’ll need a list of word families and a puppet to make it extra fun. Explain to your child that the puppet sometimes needs help finishing words because he’s not sure how to put them together. Make a big deal about what a good helper your child can be…this usually gets them really excited to play!
- Tell your child that you will say the first sound in a word, the puppet will say the rest of the word, and they have to put it all together and tell you what the whole word is.
Parent: “What’s the word?”
Quick Tip: If your child is in front of you during the game, put the puppet on your left hand. Hold up your right hand when you say the first sound, your left hand (as the puppet says its sounds), and then bring your hands together when you ask for the word. This will provide a visual for your child that lets them know to blend the sounds from left to right . (which will translate later on when you teach them that words are read and blended left to right).
- Continue with words in the same family (wig, fig, pig, big, gig, twig). Then you can switch to another word family to continue the game if your child is really into it. If they’re loosing interest move on to something else and do different word families at another time.
- Remember that you want to keep these phonemic awareness lessons quick and fun!
This simple activity is great for helping your child develop discriminating skills as well as working on rhyming to improve phonemic awareness. You’ll need some picture cards or pictures cut out from a magazine.
- Put together some sets of picture cards (3 in each set) of things that rhyme and one that doesn’t belong. For example, you can have pictures of a bone, a phone, and a cat – or a tree, a ring, and a bee.
- Lay the pictures out for your child (1 set at a time) and tell them that they will have to tell you what the things in the pictures are and to find the one that doesn’t belong. Bonus points for them if they can tell you why the picture doesn’t belong!
- After they figure it out (or if they need help), tell them that you’re working on how the words sound and that the goal is to pick the two that rhyme. You can choose to tell them this before the activity if you want to or see if they can figure it out on their own. Do whichever you think would be most fun for your child!
- Repeat with the other sets of pictures.
This is another fun game you can play in a group or as a family in the car. Even mom and dad will be challenged with this phonemic awareness excercise.
The rules of the game are pretty simple–each person, in turn, says a word that begins with the same sound the previous person’s word ended with. Note that it is not the last letter of the previous word that matters, but the sound that is important. For instance, if mom starts off with the word “steak”, the next player must say a word that begins the /k/ sound–‘cake’, ‘climb’, and ‘kindergarten’ are all acceptable.
A variation of this game is to use words from a common category, for example “names for boys” or “things you eat”. This is also a great activity for older kids where the focus would be on building vocabulary rather then phonemic awareness.
This activity helps your child work on his/her phonemic awareness (oral blending skill) and their listening comprehension all at once! You can use a sample of any story you like to play this game. The example shared below uses an excerpt from Frog and Toad.
- Have your story and questions ready.
- Put on your “dunce cap”.
- Tell your child that you are going to tell him/her a story and that you might need their help blending some words because you can’t figure them out.
- Read a line from the story and sound out the last word very slowly. Then ask the question to your child and wait for them to help you by figuring out the word before you continue reading.
The old brown Frog sat in the /s/ /u/ /n/. Where did the Frog sit? (in the sun)
His pal Toad hid under a /r/ /o/ /k/. Where did Toad hide? (under a rock)
Toad told Frog that the sun would turn him into /m/ /u/ /sh/. What would Frog turn into? (into mush)
Frog told Toad that he looked like the gopher;s next /m/ /ea/ /l/. What did Toad look like? (a gopher’s next meal)
Suddenly it began to /r/ /ai/ /n/. What did it begin to do? (rain)
Frog and Toad played together in the /m/ /u/ /d/. Where did they play? (in the mud)
Kids have a lot of fun figuring the words out to complete the story. You can do this with songs, poems, and other stories anytime you want!
This is a phonemic awareness activity that focuses on having your child identify and isolate the initial sounds of words. Playing this word game with a puppet can make it a whole lot of fun!
- Have a list of random words that begin with different sounds ready for this game.
- Tell your child that you’ll be saying some words and that the puppet wants them to repeat only the first sound of each word. Show your child some examples with the puppet’s help before you have them give you the sounds.
Parent says: snail … Puppet says: /s/
Parent says: mushroom … Puppet says: /m/
Parent says: shade … Puppet says: /sh/
- Phoneme isolation is one of the more difficult skills of phonemic awareness, so your child may need some practice with this one. Remember that the words you chose don’t have to be small words because your child is not expected to read them – they just have to be able to say them and repeat the first sound. This is a good chance to expose your child to some new words!
This is a phonemic awareness activity that focuses on kids’ ability to segment (separate) and substitute initial sounds. Play it as a riddle game and they’ll have plenty of fun with it!
- Ask your child these riddle type questions to see if they can replace the first sound in the given word with a new sound. Here are some examples to get you started:
- What word starts with the sound /b/ and rhymes with cat? You can keep going by asking for the new words that rhyme with cat but start with the sounds /h/, /r/,/s/,/f/.
- What word starts with the sound /t/ and rhymes with the word new? More sounds: /y/,/z/,/g/,/sh/.
- What word starts with the sound /s/ and rhymes with the word night? More sounds: /r/,/l/,/m/,/b/.
Phoneme substitution is one of the hardest of the phonemic awareness skills, so don’t be surprised if this is tough for your child to do. Help them out by giving them the new word when they can’t think of it. If they get frustrated, then move on to something else and try this game another time. Remember that you want to keep these games fun and engaging, so just keep it light!
Ok, so clear your pipes and get ready to sing. Don’t worry if your voice isn’t that of a songbird, I promise you your kids won’t care. This is a fun song to sing that will reinforce the letter sounds and possibly get your kids (and you) dancing and moving around. It’s sung to the tune of ” Who Let The Dogs Out”. Now before you roll your eyes and say “no way”, give it a try. Kids love this!
If you’re looking for a CD that has this song on it, the only one I’ve been able to find is on Kiss Your Brain, available at Amazon.
- Here is the basic line of the original song: “Who let the dogs out…woof, woof, woof, woof, woof!”.
- Replace this with “Who let the A out… short /a/,/a/,/a/,/a/,/a/!”; “Who let the B out…/b/,/b/,/b/,/b/,/b/!”, and so on and so on with each letter of the alphabet.
- You can add clapping and stomping to this to work on rhythm and movement at the same time.
- Take this opportunity to really emphasize the correct pronunciation of each letter sound. Try not to add the schwa sound (uh) after certain letters like b, g, k, m, etc. I know it’s easier to say /buh, /guh/, and /kuh/ – but it’s important that you keep the sounds as true as possible so that your child can learn the sounds correctly.
- You can easily turn this into a phonics activity that reinforces letter-sound correspondence by singing along with letter cards or by using an alphabet chart to point to the letters as you sing their sound.
- Or if you want to take this activity outside and get your child really moving, you can draw the letters on the ground using sidewalk chalk and have your child jump from letter to letter as they sing each sound. It’s really funny when they make up little dances while they sing about the letter before jumping onto the next one!
This activity can be used to burn off some of your child’s extra energy while practicing their sounds to develop their phonemic awareness. It’s even more fun when you have siblings or friends join in!
- Choose a target letter and decide where in the word you want the focus to be (easy: beginning sound, medium: ending sound, hard: middle sound or mixed if working with vowels). It also helps to create a list of random words that have the target sound and some that don’t ahead of time, so you don’t get stuck trying to think of some on the spot.
- Tell your child that you’ll be saying some words and that they have to listen to see if the word has the target sound in the right place. If the word does, they can jump up. If it doesn’t, they can just stay where they are.
- Tell them to get in the ready position by squatting down with their hands on the floor (I call it froggy position). Begin saying some words slowly to give them a chance to react.
Some sample words for the beginning sound /s/:
silly mine net
goat sack scallop
happy Septmeber star
snake tent book
Sally ballopn playground
monkey singer squash
I promise that you’ll wear your child out playing this! You can use it as a game to pay when you introduce a new sound or as review. You can also change it up by changing their response activity (clapping, stomping, jumping jack, etc.)
This is a phonemic awareness activity – click here for info on why these help. You can use a puppet for this activity to make it more fun.
- Tell your child that you will be putting some sounds together to make words. Tell him/her that you (or the puppet) will give them a sound and a part of the word and they will have to put them together to make a word. For example: You say: /n/…eedle. Your child says the word “needle”.
- Remember that the goal is for your child to blend sounds together orally, not to be able to read these words. So don’t be afraid to use big words – it’ll really add to their listening/speaking vocabulary!