Phonemic awareness is the ability to recognize separate sounds (phonemes) in words. Learning this skill will help your child read, spell, and write because they will know how to “sound out” a word by pronouncing each phoneme. Parents can teach their child phonemic awareness with the 10 games and suggestions below:

10 games and activities to build phonemic awareness

  1. Read books with your child that use rhyme, repetition, and rhythm. Favorites are Mother Goose, Dr. Seuss, Shel Silverstein, Jack Prelutsky, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Mar, and the alphabet books by Edward Lear are favorites.
  2. Play rhyming games: “I am thinking of an animal that rhymes with hat. What is the animal?” Answer: cat.
  3. Play isolation games: Quiz your child on separating sounds, such as, “What sound does dog begin with?” Answer: /d/.
  4. Play segmentation games: Ask your child to identify all the sounds in a word, such as, “What are the three sounds you hear in the word cup?” To help them, if necessary, extend the sounds while pronouncing the word. Answer: /k/ – /u/ – /p/.
  5. Play deletion games: Ask your child to remove a sound in a word, and identify the new word, such as, “You have a beautiful smile. What is the word smile without the beginning /s/ sound?” Answer: mile.
  6. Play substitution games: Ask your child to change a sound in a word, and identify the new word. For example, point to a bug and say, “Bug! What happens if you change the /g/ to /n/? You have something you like to eat. What is it?” Answer: bun.
  7. Play blending games: Give your child three sounds and ask them to identify the word. For example, say, “Here are the sounds of a word. Guess what the word is.” Then follow with the sounds /b/, /i/, and /g/. Answer: big.
  8. Take your child on field trips and talk about what you see, playing the phonetic games. Praise them for their effort.
  9. Reinforcing phonemic awareness skills needn’t be too elaborate or time consuming. Focus on one specific skill at a time. Five simple minutes, three times a day, will go a long way toward reinforcing that skill.
  10. There is no need to fret if your child doesn’t understand phonemic awareness immediately. It might take a lot of practice for success — and that’s okay.

Excerpted from Involving Parents in Their Children’s Reading Development: A Guide for Teachers