As a teacher and linguist, one of my favourite subjects to teach is reading. It is so rewarding to see a child develop into a reader before your very eyes. In fact, I think it’s the thing I miss most about being in the classroom. One of the ways that we teach children to read in school is through phonics, which is teaching a child to recognise a letter according to the sound it makes. Later, this enables a child to put sounds together (this is called blending) in order to read a word. When introducing phonics to your little one during the pre school year and beyond, it’s important to use the pure sound. Here is a Youtube clip which demonstrates how to use the pure sound.
It can feel really alien when you first start out as this is not how we learnt to read when we were at school. That said, for most children it’s one of the most effective ways to learn to read so it’s well worth getting on board. Naturally, this method doesn’t work for every child and there are other methods to teach reading, so do speak to your child’s key worker or teacher if this is the case for them. As a SENDCo, I understand just how important it is to meet the needs of the individual child and learning to read is not a one-way-fits-all process. Please do leave a comment or send me an email if you would like to discuss this with me in more detail.
During the pre school year, it’s a great idea to start teaching phonics to your little one by introducing single sounds which are relevant to your child. For example, start by teaching them to recognise the sound that their first name begins with, or the sound ‘m’ for Mummy, for example. Begin by pointing these sounds out to your little ones when you’re out and about and doing everyday activities.
When choosing a method to introduce phonics to your little one, or when buying flashcards, my advice would usually be to speak to your child’s pre-school setting and ask them what they use to teach phonics. They are most likely delivering phonics in the same way as the school their children feed into to ensure a consistent approach. However, as most of us are currently educating our children from home, this could be a little more difficult. I follow the Read Write Inc. method for introducing phonics to my little dude, which is great because it’s my preferred method as a teacher and it’s the system they use in the school he will go to in September. If you’re not sure which system your little one will use, using Read Write Inc. is a great place to start as you can buy resources for home online and there are lots of clips on Youtube which explain more. My only other piece of advice would be to begin with just one or two sounds, introducing one or two new ones as they they become more confident. It’s best not to overwhelm a little one by introducing more than they can handle. It’s much better to know fewer sounds well, than introducing lots that they aren’t too sure of.
As many of you are aware, my mission through Story Station is to nurture a love of stories, books and reading. For this reason, I believe children in pre school learn best when they are playing. When teaching and reinforcing phonics with my little dude, I do this mostly through practical, and fun activities. So, let me get to the purpose of this blog, which is to share with you my top 10 practical phonics games and activities to do with your pre-schooler, although most of these activities can be easily adapted for older children who are are further on in their phonics journey.
1. Sound Hunt
Going on a sound hunt is a really fun way to practise phonics and can be done in a variety of ways. You can hide the sounds somewhere in the garden, in a sand pit or around a room in your house before hunting them down and saying the sound you see as you collect them. You could even go fishing for sounds in the bath!! My little dude is really into pirates so we hid the sounds we were learning with some “jewels” and hunted for “treasure”. As we found each sound, we read it together and then matched it to the phonics flashcards cards on the floor. This is really simple, but fun, game to play and you can use anything to hide the sounds in. If you don’t have phonics flash cards, just write the sounds on some paper.
2. Big Write
Have a go at writing the sounds you are learning in a multi sensory way. Use water and a paintbrush to write on the walls outside. Or, make chalk paint to write on the pavement; all you need to do is mix cornflour, water and food colouring! Another idea is to write sounds in the air using your finger, or play ‘guess the sound’ by using your finger to “write” on someone’s back. Alternatively, try some squishy phonics by mixing shaving foam and food colouring in a zip lock bag. You could even put rice or flour in a tray and and use your finger to write letters on there. This list could go on but the main message here is that writing isn’t just putting pencil to paper, it comes in all forms and can be so much fun! When teaching little ones to write letters in school, I find saying a rhyme as they write really helps with the letter formation (again, I use the Read Write Inc letter formation rhyme).
3. High Five Sounds
This game involves running or jumping to hit the sounds with your hand. We have done this by placing the sounds we’re learning around a trampoline and bouncing to hit the sound outside. In the winter months, I’ve put the sounds on a small table and got the little dude to run up and tap the sound before running back to his starting point, writing the letters on paper plates works really well for this. You could even adapt this from to make stepping stone sounds, putting the paper plates on the floor and getting your little one to say the sound as they step on them.
4. Bottle Top Phonics
If like me, you like to reuse any of the plastic items in your home, do make sure you save bottle tops and yogurt pots as they come in really handy for phonics games. Write the sounds on the milk bottle tops and place them in the matching yogurt pot tubs. Why not mix it up from time to time by throwing the bottle top into the tub? Just make sure your little one is saying the sound as they go and have your phonics flashcards to hand for reinforcement. Another fun game is to make your own phonics bingo cards by drawing around the milk bottle tops and writing the sounds in the circle. Then get your child to place the bottle top over the sound after the bingo caller says it. Milk bottle tops are great for using sounds to build words for older children who are further on in their phonics learning journey.
5. Matching sounds to everyday objects or pictures.
Whether you’re baking a cake, making pancakes or visiting a zoo, all of these everyday activities can involve phonics. Take pictures of your activity/visit, or use the actual cooking ingredients. Say the name of the object and get your little one to match the beginning sound in each word to the phonics flashcard. This is such a simple activity but it makes learning relevant and therefore much more enjoyable. We planned to visit a local wildlife park during the school holidays so I showed my little dude where we would be going the night before and we looked at the website together. I then printed off some pictures of the animals we would see and did this little phonics activity. When we were there the following day, I pointed out the sounds we’d learnt on the display boards as we were looking at the animals!
Often when we’re baking, I gather together all of the ingredients and talk about what we’ll need and the steps involved in the activity. Once we’ve talked about what we will need, we sometimes do a little phonics activity which involves matching phonics flashcards to the object, according to the beginning sound of each ingredient.
6. Word Shapes
This activity involves making a shape, writing a word on it and cutting it up to make a jigsaw with a different letter on each piece. After that, get your little in to rebuild it to make a word. I’ve been using this activity to get the little dude to order the letters in his name correctly. We’ve also been practising the words Mummy and Daddy.
7. Phonics with Hot Wheels
For this activity, use masking tape to write sounds on on something your little one enjoys playing with- for us this is Hot Wheels cars. We got the little dude to drive each car in turn into its allocated “parking space” which we’d drawn on a cardboard box and he absolutely loved it, happily saying the sound on each car! The only thing we should have realised (apparently) is not to put a sticker on his favourite car…! This works really well when playing trains too- you can put a sticker on each carriage as you build it or on the train track themselves.
8. Duplo or Lego Tower
If your little one is a fan of construction, place stickers, or write sounds on pieces of Duplo or Lego. Have a go at building a tower, getting your child to pick up a block according to the sound that is written on it. For children who are further on with their phonics learning, you can use the sounds to create a word tower. This is also a great activity to do to get your child to practise spelling their name.
9. I-Spy tray
This game involves placing everyday items into a tray and playing “I-Spy’. Use the beginning sound of each object and take it in turns with your little to select an object from the tray.
10. Board Games
Have look at the games you have in the cupboard and see if there is away to add a phonics element to those. For example, we have adapted the little dude’s favourite game, Pop-up Pirate, to include some phonics learning by adding sounds to the swords or replacing the swords with lollypop sticks. As he places a lollypop stick into the barrel, he must say the sound for bonus points!
Thank you so much for taking the time to read this blog and please do let me know what you think of these practical phonics ideas by leaving a comment or writing a review. If you take any pictures of your little people enjoying the phonics activities then do tag @storystaion3 on Facebook or Instagram as I would love to see them.