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.
Chick Pea has really been enjoying a weekly craft day that allows us to work on letters and sounds. It’s a great way to not only teach kids the letters and their sounds, but also give them a chance to work on their fine motor skills by placing the animal parts onto the paper. She’s also very proud of the them, and loves to look at them displayed on the wall.
So far, we’ve made it through “I for Iguana”, and the quality seems to be improving every week. The excitement builds up every week because she now knows which letter is coming next and which animal she’s going to be constructing.
Here’s a list of animals you can use, but feel free to come up with your own creative ways to go through the letters with different animals or a different set of objects altogether. TIP–spend 10 or 15 minutes after bed time the night before you plan on doing the craft to prepare everything, cut out the shapes you’ll be using, etc.
- Unicorn/Umbrella Fish
- Vampire Bat
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.
This is a really fun game that lets your kids practice matching objects to letters and sounds. You’ll need some picture cards of various objects (and/or magazine pictures) and a bit of creative imagination. You can play with two players, but the more the merrier!
- Choose a target letter to work on (for example: M) and select several pictures of objects that begin with M. Sample pictures can include: monkey, mother, mop, motorcycle, mirror, etc.
- Place the pictures in a basket or bag so that they can be chosen randomly without being seen by the other player(s).
- Have the first player pick a picture from the bag and act out the object for the other player(s) to guess. Note: I recommend that the parent be the first to choose a picture to act out so that you can model how to play.
- Once your child guesses the object, ask them to tell you what sound it starts with. Then ask them if they can tell and show you what letter it starts with. If your child is in the beginning stages of learning their sounds and letters, help them out by telling them this information.
- Continue the game and take turns with your child so that they get a chance to act out the pictures for you.
- You can play a variation of this to practice more than one letter/sound by mixing up pictures that begin with different letters in the bag. Each player has to guess the object and then match it to the correct letter.
This is a great way to help your child review their letter sounds. You’ll need an alphabet chart (or letter cards) and a puppet – and make sure he’s wearing his “dunce cap”!
- Tell your child that the puppet is going to help him/her review their sounds.
- Have the puppet point to a letter and have him say something like “The letter ‘B’ makes the /r/ sound.” Wait to see how your child reacts. Hopefully he/she will laugh and/or give the puppet a weird look. Ask your child to correct the puppet.
- If your child needs some help…you can say something like “Hmm, I don’t think that’s right. Does the ‘B’ make the /r/ sound? No, the ‘B’ makes the /b/ sound like /b/ for ball. Can you say /b/ for ‘b’?
- You can continue with the whole alphabet – sometimes the puppet can be right and sometimes he can be wrong. Change it up by picking random letters rather than going from A-Z. This will keep them on their toes!
- Your kids will have so much fun correcting the silly puppet they’ll barely even notice that they’re reviewing their letters!
This is a great phonics activity for a hike as an alternative to Digital ABCs, or ABC Nature Hike. All you need for this activity are pencils or crayons, a clipboard, and the great outdoors.
- Before you leave for your hike, create a grid of different sounds. You an choose certain target sounds or do the whole alphabet A-Z.
- While you’re on the hike, have your child search for items that begin with each sound in the grid and write their names in the grid. Younger kids who can’t write yet will have fun drawing a picture of each item.
For example, two of the sounds on your sound grid may be the long and short /a/ sounds. An acorn satisfies the long /a/, but they’ll need to find another item for the short /a/, maybe an ant or an apple.
- This is a great activity you can repeat over and over with different sounds – so get out there and have fun!
This is a great way to get your kids to reinforce their letter recognition while playing outside in the wonderful summer weather! You’ll need some letters (either paper, foam, magnetic, or other plastic letters) and a safe outdoor space (backyard, familiar trail, park, etc.)
- Take some letters and hide them around different areas of the outdoor space where your child can safely hunt for them. You can choose what letters to hide depending on what you want to work on with your child. For example, if you’re working on just one letter or reviewing a few, then just hide several of those letters. Or you can do the whole alphabet and have your child hunt for the letters in sequence – it’s up to you!
- Give your child a bag or basket to fill up with the letters they find. Be sure to tell them how many letters there are for them to find, so they know when to stop hunting! Go through their bag with them when they finish so they can tell you all about the letters they found.
- This can be easily integrated with any unit study or special interests your child may have by being a little creative. Have fun and enjoy the weather!
This is a fun and engaging way to have your kids practice building and blending words! You’ll need plenty of paper, and letter stamps – you can use letter stamps with ink pads, foam letters and finger paint ( you can find foam letters at the dollar store!), or you can even use letter stickers.
- Have a list of words ready – high frequency words and/or words pulled from a book or selection you are reading with your child that have letters and sounds you have already introduced.
- Tell your child that you will write a word or show them a word card for them to make their own by stamping/painting/sticking it onto the paper. To make it more challenging, simply tell your child that you will be calling out the word for them to make – then if they need help, you can write it or show them the word card.
- Once your child makes the word, have them blend each sound together from left to right slowly before going back to quickly read the whole word.
- Have your child go back and quickly read all of the words they made when finished for some extra fluency practice.
- Here’s another way you can change this up once they got the hang of it: Call out the letters that make a word for your child to stamp/paint/stick, then have them try to blend the word together and see if they can read and tell you what word you spelled out for them. They love this part!
- Note: You can use irregular words (words that are exception to the rules: ex: the, was, one) with this activity, but tell your child to read them without trying to blend the sounds together.
This is a great activity to reinforce letter recognition and/or letter sound correspondence while strengthening fine motor skills. You’ll need some play dough, an alphabet chart or cards, and plenty of imagination.
- Tell your child that you’ll be calling out a letter and that you want them to try to mold and form the letter using the play dough. You can work on one target letter or have them review several letters at once.
- If your child can’t remember what the letter looks like, then show him/her the way it looks on the chart or alphabet card. Encourage them to try again. If they still need help, get your hands dirty and show them how it’s done. Remember this is not a test, so keep it light and fun!
- You can make this a letter-sound corresponding game by asking your child to then make an animal or object out of the play dough that starts with that letter’s sound. Or you can reverse it by using picture cards or pictures out of a magazine and asking your child to make the letter that matches the picture you’ve shown them.
- For extra fine motor skill development let your child use scissors on the play dough to help them make letters and objects. This is great for kids who need a little extra practice using scissors.
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 is a fun pretend play game that reinforces letter recognition while getting your child active around the house or at the store. You’ll need a couple of pipe cleaners and a print rich environment (make sure there are lots of things with words around)
- To make an instant inspector – make a “magnifying glass” out of a pipe cleaner by twisting it into a loop shape that has a hole big enough to place over the hunted letters.
- Tell your child that you need their help in searching for as many (target letter) that they can find around. For example: You can lead by saying “I’m searching for the letter ‘b’”, while looking through your “magnifying glass” as you walk around. When you find one, you can say “Here’s a ‘b’! Let’s see how many more you can find.”
- Have fun investigating throughout the place for as many letters as you can both find!
- You can also incorporate some math in by having them keep track of how many target letters they can find.
- You can use this as a review activity for several letters at once and keep track of how many of each letter is found. Incorporate math by having your child compare which letter was found more often, find how many more ‘f’s did you find than ‘b’s, etc. They can even make a graph!
An oldie but a goodie. You can play this with the focus being on sounds or letters. This helps develop their ability to match sounds and/or letters with objects and reinforce their knowledge of word meanings. Play at home, in the car, at the store, at the mall, or anywhere!
- Pick some random object in your surroundings that begins with the sound or letter that you’d like to work on.
- Say “I spy with my little eye, something that begins with the sound/letter ____.”
You can have your child repeat the rhyme when giving you the answer. Then they can even take a turn asking you to find an object!
- Take this opportunity to discuss meanings of words they don’t know by choosing/pointing out objects they may not be familiar with.
You may have memories of learning phonics in school and being continuously drilled on letter sounds and spelling rules until you thought you would explode. Or you may be a product of whole language instruction (like me) and have very little knowledge of the intricate workings of our written language – you know how to read and write, but you’re not sure how it all works. It just depends on when and where you went to school. So which way is best? Recent research has shown that along with phonemic awareness instruction, both phonics and whole language instruction is best. You can read more about the differences between the two and why they should work together in this article. Either way, phonics instruction has come a long way since we were in school and there are ways to make it fun! So let’s get started on what you need to know to teach your child phonics.