Phonics is the relationship between sounds in a spoken language and letters in its alphabet. Children who learn the sounds of letters and letter groups can sound out or “decode” written words — a crucial skill in learning how to read. Here are 10 fun ways parents can use phonics to help their kids with reading, writing, and spelling.

10 activities to help your child with phonics

  1. Read alphabet books aloud to your child, especially fun ones that tell stories or share information. There are two excellent A-B-C books at the top of this list.
  2. Sing the alphabet song, joyously and frequently, and ask your child to sing it with you. Slow down when you sing “l-m-n-o-p” so it doesn’t sound like just one big weird complicated letter-noise. Say “l-m-n-o-p” with five distinct sounds, with pauses between sounds, then continue saying the alphabet slowly and clearly.
  3. Point to alphabet letters. Say their names and demonstrate their sounds. After a while, mix them up and say them out of sequence.
  4. Teach reading by starting with the names of family members. Teach your child to spell his or her name, by writing it on transparent paper, and having them trace over it. Warning: this approach is tricky if their names do not follow the simplest rules. “Pat” is easier to spell than “Phillip” and “Zoe” is much easier to spell than “Siobhan.”
  5. Make letters in fun ways with paint, clay, sticks, or drawing in sugar or sand.
  6. Look for letters wherever you go with your child: street signs, cereal boxes, book covers.
  7. Ask your child to point at a letter, say the letter name, say the letter sound, and say a word that begins with that sound.
  8. Make flash cards using the letters in the alphabet, and play games such as Go Fish or Memory. You can also make flashcards that show easily identifiable objects starting with different letters, like Apple, Bread, Cat, Dog, Eye, etc., and play I Spy.
  9. Write a simple word on a piece of paper — like ME — point to the first letter and ask your child to tell you the letter and the sound. Continue with each subsequent letter. After the last letter, ask your child what the word is. Continue by making words that are longer and harder to sound out.
  10. Go on a letter hunt with your child. Write a letter on top of a sheet of paper, like B. Have your child go all around the house looking for objects that begin with that letter. Write down all the objects they find on the sheet of paper and encourage them to find at least 5, then 10, and maybe 15. Praise them for their effort!

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