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Phonics Games for Kids – Helping Your Child Learn to Read

by Racheal Tighe

Reading is a fundamental skill that every child needs to succeed in school. It is at the core of how we communicate, and vital to the intellectual development of every student.
Whether children struggle with reading at an advanced age, or if they simply appear hungry to learn at an early age, phonics based instruction is a good place to start. Learning phonics can help any reader develop their reading skills. However, particularly with younger children, students sometime have difficulty focusing on a lesson. In these situations it can be beneficial to turn phonics instruction and practice into a game. Here are some ideas for phonics games that can be played just about anywhere

I Spy
The classic road trip game, I Spy can also be utilized as a wonderful phonics instructional tool. The process by which to do this is very simple. Instead of prompting your child with a statement such as, “I spy something blue with my eye,” instead use a prompt like, “I spy something that starts with a ‘ch’ sound,” or “I spy something that rhymes with barn.” By doing this, your child will learn to make sound associations and develop early literacy skills while passing the time on a road trip or in the shopping cart

Word Games
Depending on the age and level of your child, word games of various difficulties can help children make phonics a fun experience. For early learners, write a few letters on a piece of paper. Then, say a word that is spelled with some or all of those letters. Ask your child to point out the letters in order to spell the word based on the sounds they hear in it. For older children, word searches can assist with word study skills, particularly if you teach the child to say the word they find before circling it. That will help them make the association between the letters and the sounds.

Rhyme Games
Start with a simple word, like bat. Or, have your child begin the game by supplying the word. Then, take turns supplying a word that rhymes with the original until someone is stumped. The loser must then do five jumping jacks. This allows children practice with sound association, and also allows them to burn off a little bit of their endless supply of energy.

Picture Phonics
This is particularly easy to play with the help of a computer or tablet. It’s also more fun with more than one player. To play Picture Phonics, simply pull up a photo of a common object. Then, have the child correctly say the sound that makes up a part of the word. For example, you could show you child a picture of an elephant and ask them to say the second sound. They should respond with “uh.” By keeping the photo choices fun and the questions moving, kids can learn to break apart word sounds.

This is another classic game that can be altered to suit the tastes of people who are not comfortable with the notion of hanging someone. Choose a word at random, then draw a dash to correspond with each letter. Your child has a limited number of guesses to choose letters. If they choose a correct letter, write it in the correct place. If they do not, draw a part of the picture. When your child gets the word correct, they win. If the picture is completed first, they lose. This is a very simple and fun way to start word analysis with your child.

One of These Doesn’t Belong
A take-off on the classic “Sesame Street” segment, start the game by saying three or four different words. All of the words except one should rhyme or share some other structural similarity. For example, you could say “ball, fall, roll, wall” or “blue, clue, bear, bat.” Your child needs to point out the word that does not belong, and explain what makes it the odd one out.

Growing Words
Start the game with a short word, such as bat. Next, take turns adding a letter to the end of the word to make a new word. The new word should be said aloud. For example, bat could become bath. The next player could use bathe, or batch. This can also be played where one letter can be altered to make a word instead of adding, such as changing batch to catch.

Phonics games are a fun way to pass the time while assisting in your child’s education. Frequent practice can make a profound difference in your child’s success with reading. While these games may seem insignificant, constant repetition is the key to fluent reading.

Racheal Tighe is an Australian primary school teacher who runs Little Learning Planet helping parents teach their kids learn to read with phonics games. You can connect with Racheal on Google+, too.