Inside: What can you expect for your child’s reading development before they reach school age and simple hands-on phonics activities for teaching letter sounds to preschoolers.
Understanding your child’s reading development can feel daunting. Unlike learning to walk, our children don’t just learn to read without much help, we have to actively teach them how. Read on for an introduction to reading development and of course, a printable pack of hands-on phonics activities for preschoolers to learn basic phonics at home.
- How to Develop a Strong Foundation for Reading from Young
- Teaching Beginning Sounds
- Introducing the Short Vowel Sounds
- Simple Hands On Phonics Activities
- Download the Beginner Phonics Printable Pack
- Questions about Phonics Learning for Preschoolers
- Download the Beginning Phonics Printable Pack and Try these Phonics activities with your preschoolers!
- Download the Beginner Phonics Printable Pack
How to Develop a Strong Foundation for Reading from Young
From as soon as our little ones can see, hear stories, and interact with books they are able to begin developing skills as emergent readers.
Related: Have a baby at home? Read this post to understand how early literacy development looks like for babies and you can set your baby up for literacy success.
Not many children begin reading before reaching school age and it is not necessary to expect this of them. However, a strong foundation for reading is built through beginning to develop their understanding of how letters correspond to sounds, which go together to make words, which go together to make sentences… and that the sentences that we see in books hold meaning.
Therefore, having knowledge of letter sounds is a great way to support your child to develop a strong foundation for learning to read from as young as 2 to 3 years old.
Teaching Beginning Sounds
Before they can begin breaking words down into sounds (‘sounding out’ or ‘segmenting’), blending sounds together, or predicting what a word might be just by seeing its shape, children must learn the alphabet and the letter sounds.
The simplest way to do this is to begin by teaching the sound that each letter makes when it comes at the beginning of a word, when children have gained some confidence with beginning sounds then you may like to introduce other sounds that some letters make, for example, ‘c’ makes a ‘kuh’ sound in the word ‘cake’, and a ‘suh’ sound in the word ‘laces’.
For younger learners (3 to 4 years old) you will want to begin by teaching only a handful of letter sounds, beginning with the most commonly used letters in the English language: C, M, A, T, S, R, I, P.
Watch this video for my recommended order to teach letters to children! Hint: it’s not from A to Z!
Introducing the Short Vowel Sounds
Similarly, when beginning vowel sounds, it can get confusing and complicated if we try to introduce too many sounds at once. The simplest way to introduce vowel sounds is by beginning with their ‘short’ sounds. For example, ‘a’ as in ‘apple’, rather than ‘a’ as in ‘cake’. ‘o as in octopus’ rather than ‘oo’ as in ‘food’.
For a preschooler, this is more than enough to begin developing a strong phonics foundation. In this activity pack, we focus on vowels as short sounds only to keep things as simple as possible for beginners!
Simple Hands On Phonics Activities
Download the Beginner Phonics Printable Pack, and try these simple activities for hands-on phonics learning at home.
See below for instructions and tips, all page numbers correspond to the printable pack.
Phonics Activity 1: Letter Name and Sound Houses (Pages 1 to 3)
This quick and easy activity requires matching pictures that begin with the same letter sounds.
- For beginners: start with one strip of letter houses with the same colour so that children can focus on 4 to 6 letters at one time.
- Cut out the squares on page 3.
- Say out the names of the pictures on the triangular roofs and squares.
- Identify the pairs of pictures that start with the same letter sounds, for example, car and cat start with the ‘kuh’ sound.
- Paste the square below the triangle with matching beginning sounds to complete the house.
- For the older preschoolers, write the letter below each house.
Phonics Activity 2: Smack the Letter Sound (Page 3)
Grab a fly swat, spatula, or cut a spade shape out of the side of a cereal box to play this fun and energetic game:
- For beginners: keep the activity simple by offering 4 to 8 pictures at a time
- Cut out the square picture cards on page 3 and scatter them on the table with the pictures facing up.
- Call out a letter sound and invite your child to find the picture that begins with the same sound and smack it with their fly swat or spatula.
Phonics Activity 3: Dot the Beginning Sounds (Page 4 to 5)
Simply print the pages for this activity, grab a marker and you’re ready to go!
- For beginners: cut along the dotted lines and use each strip to focus on 2 to 4 letter sounds at a time.
- Grab a dot marker or a crayon to dot or colour the letter sound that each picture begins with
- Model the word for your child, highlighting its beginning sound (‘M-monkey’) and encourage them to say the word before selecting the right letter
Phonics Activity 4: Short Vowel Cakes (Page 6)
Print and cut this simple find and stick activity. Here’s how to use it:
- For beginners: begin with the vowels you have introduced already, for example a and i to begin with, then introduce the remaining vowels.
- Find the 3 cake layers with pictures which begin with the same short vowel sound.
- Paste the cake layers with the vowel and pictures together to make a 4-layer cake.
Phonics Activity 5: Short Vowels Phonics Monster (Pages 7 to 8)
Create a family of phonics monsters for practising short vowel sounds:
- For beginners: sort pictures for 2 or 3 vowels only.
- Print pages 7 to 8.
- Paste page 7 on a cereal box.
- Cut along the dotted lines and cut out the hole for each monster’s mouth.
- Cut out the picture cards on page 8.
- Invite your child to say out the name of the pictures and identify the vowel sound it begins with.
- Feed each picture to the right phonics monster with the matching letter.
Phonics Activity 6: Short Vowels Train (Page 8)
Use this hands-on phonics activity to practise short vowel sounds:
- For beginners: Start with one picture per train OR 2-3 vowel trains only.
- Cut out the train engines and the pictures on page 8
- If you happen to have a big selection of play trains or cars, use sticky tack to attach pictures to separate carriages for a more hands-on activity!
Phonics Activity 7: Alphabet Phonics song to sing while you play!
This catchy alphabet phonics song on YouTube goes through the letter of the alphabet giving their name and sound.
- For beginners: slow the playback speed to 0.75 using the settings toggle and listen along to the song, see if they can follow or sing along
- Once your preschooler is familiar with a small group of letters, sing about the letters and their beginning sounds during phonics activities
Questions about Phonics Learning for Preschoolers
Many children start school without confidently being able to identify beginning sounds from their letters. The stage of reading development where a child might be classified as an Early Reader is when they are actively learning about letter-sound relationships and this is normal up to around 7 years of age. However, teaching letter sounds can begin as early as you introduce the alphabet, and this will form the strong foundation from which your child begins to read.
Unlike learning to walk or even speak, reading is not an innate skill that children intuitively learn. Learning to read requires instruction and support at a pace that your child can follow. The process of reading is known as decoding because like cracking a code, a child must learn how to break down what they see on a page and put together, as well as predict, the meaning of text. A great place to start with preschoolers is learning letter-sound relationships and then moving on to recognising syllables before learning to blend and segment words. Try our list of hands-on phonics activities!
In order to move on to recognising words and sentences, children have to develop a good understanding of how letters convey sounds and go together to make words.
Download the Beginning Phonics Printable Pack and Try these Phonics activities with your preschoolers!
Teaching your child to read can feel like an impossible and scary task. Starting with simple hands-on phonics activities like this printable beginner phonics pack for preschoolers is a great way to begin as both you and your child grow in confidence! The stakes are low when they are still so young, so any practice is valuable before they start school.
What’s next? Next in the Ready to Read series, learn to recognise and count syllables!