It’s difficult to overstate how important reading and language are. These skills are the foundation for a lifetime of success, so it’s only natural if you’re seeking out ways to make sure the little ones in your care are on solid ground. One tried-and-true method for building literacy skills is through the use of phonics activities. In this article we’ll help explain what phonics are and share some excellent phonics activities we’ve found from preschool professionals.
What are phonics?
It’s pretty simple—phonics are just the relationships between letters and the sounds they make. For instance, the letter “p” sounds like /p/ and the letter combination of “tion” sounds /shun/. Though letter combinations like “tion” are more complex, preschoolers can get started learning to recognize simpler letter sounds.
Learning phonics will help young kids decode words to learn how they’re pronounced and what they mean. This will give them a leg up on writing and spelling. Normally learned between kindergarten and second grade, phonics activities are available for every age, including remarkably simple and amusing options for you and your child. We’ve gathered the best on the web just for you and your preschooler.
14 Fun phonics activities for preschoolers
1. Rainbow hop letter sounds game
This kinetic phonics game from Fun Learning for Kids transforms your living room into a life-sized board game. Simply use colored paper, one die and a marker to create a stepping-stone for every letter of the alphabet or however many you have room for. You can even include “ch” and “sh” pieces for more advanced learners. For the game, your child will roll the die, take the allotted number of hops and say and pronounce the letter that they land on. Perfect for playing with siblings or parents or friends, this active game will help your little one learn both letter sounds and counting.
2. Alphabet ball
Best played outside or in a gym, this super simple active game from Hands On As We Grow will keep your energetic preschooler moving, grooving and learning. First, the adult calls out a letter and the child responds with a word that begins with that letter. Then, the adult throws the ball to the child and the child gives the adult a letter to find a word for, and on and on. You can make the game even more fun by kicking the ball or chasing each other to tag with the ball. You can also play rhyming ball, where the thrower provides a word for the catcher to rhyme with.
3. Alphabet phonics clip cards
You can download these free, fun and easily portable phonics clip cards from Kids Activities. Using clothespins or any other kind of nonpermanent marker, your child will mark which animal name starts with the letter “z,” “b” or “s” depending on the card. These colorful cards enable your child to work on word association and sounds while in the car, waiting at the doctor’s office or relaxing at home.
4. Letter sounds race
This Letter Sounds Race from Inspiration Laboratories is perfect for your little sprinter. Place letter magnet opposite any magnetic surface—magnet board, the fridge or easel. While your kiddo stands near the magnet board, pronounce a letter sound, have them run to the letter magnets, pick out the corresponding letter and place it on the magnet board. You can help your younger child learn new letter sounds by asking them to find and place the letter, pronounce the letter sound and ask them to repeat it.
5. Phonic photo scavenger hunt
Get clicking with this bright idea from VeryWell Family. Have your preschooler create a photo album, either physical or digital, with a photo of an item for every letter sound: “a” for anthill to “z” for zoo. This is an easy way to keep the learning flowing while on vacation or on the go. This can be done again and again to learn new sounds like “ch” or “sh.”
6. Spin & rhyme
No Time For Flash Cards suggests a creative alternative to boring work sheets. Use a paper towel roll and clothes hanger to easily create rhyming words (e.g., cat, pat, mat, sat). This exercise also helps your little one learn how to break down words and identify word families. The simple setup is easy to transport and provides a kinetic twist to a basic phonics activity.
7. Erase the sound
Your little artist will love this simple and visually stimulating activity. Draw a picture on a whiteboard or chalkboard, name individual letters and have your child identify and erase items in the picture that start with that letter. PreKinders suggests drawing a snowman with a hat for “h,” buttons for “b” and carrot for “c.” If your child is old enough, you could also reverse the roles of artist and eraser, once they see how it’s done.
8. Mystery bag
In this tactile activity from PreKinders, you’ll place three objects within a bag—like a ball, bug and button for the letter “b”—have your child name each item, and guess the “mystery letter” that unites all of the objects. If you have more than one little one learning phonics, you can have them fill a bag for the others with objects around the house to have the others guess.
9. 4 in a row
The Measured Mom recommends this game for older preschoolers who can count to four and know most of their letters, but need a bit of review. You can print this simple sheet from this website and take turns naming and pronouncing a letter. When you or your child names a letter correctly, you can color it in or cover it with a small object or game piece. The first to get four in a row wins!
10. Kaboom alphabet
Using just jumbo craft sticks and a cup, each player will pull a stick out of the cup and say the sound of the letter written on the stick they draw. Then, they get to keep that stick. But “KABOOM” is written on one stick and every time it’s pulled, the unlucky player has to put all their sticks back in the cup. You can even set a timer as Fun Learning for Kids recommends for a fun speed-round version.
11. Say two words
This simple game from PreKinders requires zero materials and allows kiddos to stretch their legs and get some energy out. When you say two words that begin with the same sound, they should stand up as fast as they can, but stay seated if the words do not begin with the same sound. If playing with more children, you can create an elimination system, so that there’s one clear winner determined.
12. Monster names
This simple activity from PreKinders is fun anytime and takes absolutely zero setup. Have preschoolers replace the first letter of their name with the letter “M,” and add ‘mad’ to the beginning. For example, Ashely would become Mad Monster Mashlyn. The kiddos can then stomp around, growl and play monsters with each other. This simple approach for reinforcing phonetic sounds can obviously be expanded and modified for further practice (e.g., Cool Cat Cashlyn, Funny Fish Fashlyn, etc.).
13. Smack the letter
Fun Learning for Kids recommends this flexible and fun game. Preschoolers will love getting to use a flyswatter to hit the letters you write on sticky notes and pronounce for them to identify. You can pick the letter sounds they most need to work on. If playing with a peer, this game can become a race. Two to three children can play for points to see who can reach 10 first. It can also be played tournament-style, if you’re working with a larger group.
14. Phonics I-Spy discovery bottle
Imagination Tree offers this fun boredom buster. Fill a large juice bottle with a variety of small items that start with various letters, using rice or sand as a filler for the remaining space. To play, use an alphabet deck or phonics clip cards to pick a letter and have your child shake the bottle and hunt for the item with the corresponding beginning letter.
Make phonics fun!
If these ideas excite you, it probably isn’t because you only love teaching phonics. It’s more likely you love helping little ones develop their minds too. If making a career out of that love sounds like a bright idea, learn about just how important early childhood education is and how you could play a role in it.
This article was originally posted on the Rasmussen College Blog by Kirsten Slyter.