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Playing with sounds!

Updated: Apr 20, 2022

If you have a kid who knows all of their letters and sounds but can't seem to sound out their words, there's a good chance they're missing some underlying phonological awareness skills.



Phonological awareness is an umbrella term that refers to a number of different skills that rely on our knowledge of the sounds that make up a word, rather than the meaning. It is independent from letter-sound correspondence.


Helping reluctant readers can feel like a herculean task but I am telling you it can be easier and a lot more fun to tackle these skills without using writing. All you need is some time, a few simple toys and a little creativity.


First up: rhyme recognition!


Have you been reading books and singing nursery rhymes with your child? Congrats - you're already introducing them to rhyme! Classics (like Dr. Seuss) and newer books (check out The Cat and the Rat and the Mat by @emlynas), there are so many great options.


Look around your house for an assortment of toys - dolls, blocks, stuffies. What rhymes, red (block) and bed, or red and doll? Mouse and ball, or mouse and house?


Tweak a nursery rhyme! Use the melody from the Wheels on the Bus to practice rhyming:


Words that rhyme

sound the same at the end

(same at the end, same at the end)

Words that rhyme

sound the same at the end

like cat and mat and.... fish?


On to rhyme production!


I Spy! This is a great one to try when you're stuck waiting somewhere. I spy, with my little eye, something that rhymes with ....


Don't feel limited to using real words! If you ask your kids to come up with a rhyme for run, lun is just as good as sun.

Take the Name Game song, for example:


Apple, apple, bo bapple

Banana fanna fo fapple

Me mi mo mapple

Apple!


Next up: isolating sounds!


Remember, we're working on sounds, not reading or writing yet. Try to stick to


using letter sounds (/d/) and not the name ("dee").


Find a stuffy with a tail and teeth (think lion, dinosaur, shark). Model a CVC word (cat, miss) while you run your hand down it's back. Tell you kiddo they have to 'catch the tail' (say the end sound) or the shark might tickle them!


Grab your favorite train set (I love Duplo!) and some blocks. Build a small wall and challenge your kid to 'stop the train' by finding the first sound in the word. If they pick a middle or end sound, stop the back and send the front careening into the wall!


Hide some favorite toys in conspicuous places around the room and tell your kids they've been captured. Can you find the toy that starts with /d/?


Last, but not least, have fun singing the 'Apples and Bananas' song. It doesn't directly target finding the middle sound but you can giggle along with your kids as you switch out the vowels to make nonsense words.


Finally - blending!


Start with blending onset-rime (e.g. b-ook) and work your way up to all the sounds (c-a-p)


Grab some toys with simple CVC names (e.g. doll, cat, man) to hid in an opaque bag. Give your kiddo the segmented word and see if they can figure it out.


Hang up some pictures of CVC words around the living room and challenge your kids to see who can find the segmented word first!


You don't need to make a bingo board to have fun playing. Give your kids a word bank and let them draw the pictures for own boxes in a tic-tac-toe grid.


Break out the play-doh and roll 3 small balls. Let your kids squash each ball in turn as you say a sound, then smash all 3 together when they blend them!


You can do this even if you have absolutely nothing around you! If you sound excited to give them the sound, your kids will get excited to blend them. Try playing in the car, or in line at the grocery store.


Above all, remember to have fun!




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