10 Phonics Games for Kids to Build Reading Skills
A Creative Approach to Word Retention and Reading Comprehension
Let’s face it: following a workbook can get dull, and not every child learns best by copying letters and sounds. At YesPhonics, we know that learning is multisensory, and that every child learns differently. Last month we wrote about how play is crucial to healthy child development; today we’re following up with some specific things you can do to reincorporate play into your teaching.
Below, we’ve listed and described 10 different reading and phonics games for kids. You can throw these games together in an hour or less, and play them again and again.
We encourage you to use these ideas to come up with games of your own. After all, you know your child best. Tomake phonics fun, find a way to incorporate phonics into the games your kids already love to play.
To make phonics fun, find a way to incorporate phonics into the games your kids already love to play. Click to Tweet
Scoop and Spell
Great for: The Thinker
Letters of the Alphabet (fridge magnets, Scrabble tiles, etc.)
A scoop (A small bowl, an old snack container, etc. Two small hands will even do the trick.)
All you have to do is mix the letters in the bag and let your child take a scoop!
Let your child scoop out letters. See how many words he can make. Have him copy them onto a sheet of paper to keep score. To keep the game interesting, encourage him try to beat his last record.
This game is great because it practices spelling and penmanship. It also helps kids enjoy the creativity involved in using language, even if it’s just arranging and rearranging letters—if they come up with “dog” and “god” in the same scoop, they’ll be proud of themselves for finding the connection between those words and they’ll start to feel comfortable making further connections on their own.
Sidewalk Spelling Hop
Great for: The Athletic Learner
Pavement (Your driveway is perfect, but a sidewalk is too small)
Make a square of six boxes across and five down. Write out the letters of the alphabet. In the remaining four empty squares, put a star, a question mark, the words “Capital Letter” and an apostrophe.
Always start and end on the star.
Try to get to the next letter without stepping on any of the others. Running around is an option.
Jump on the question mark if you get stuck.
Proper nouns and names have to start on the “Capital Letter” before moving on to the first letter.
If you misspell a word, you have to start over.
Call out words your child can spell, especially those off his spelling list, and have him hop on the appropriate letters. Competition always makes things interesting, so try challenging friends and siblings to see who can spell more words.
This is a great way to connect muscle memory to words, which builds memory. As we’ll talk about below, the more your child can associate movements with specific phonemes the easier it’ll be for them to recall them. This game is a great first step toward that kind of retention.
Spelling Connect Four
Great for: The Thinker
Connect Four Game
Put masking tape on each of the Connect Four pieces and write out the letters of the alphabet. Make sure to include extra vowels, and some of the more common letters: T, N, S, H, R, D, L.
This is almost like scrabble. Have your child drop a word, then you drop in a word of your own. Letters can be added to make words longer like “fad” to “fade” to “faded”. You can play where any letter is fair game, or make things more challenging by playing where you can only use the letters of your color.
This is a good way to teach your child some fairly advanced reading skills, like morphology: if your child figures out that “fade” and “faded” are forms of the same word but “fad” is not, they’ll be well on the way to a more general understand of conjugation and declension, prefixes and suffixes, etymologies, and other important skills for advanced readers.
Great for: The Imaginative Learner
Letters of the alphabet (fridge magnets, Scrabble tiles, etc)
Spelling Menu (See Below)
Make the menu! Every good bakery needs a menu, so sit down with your child and see what words you could order off the list. Themed foods are fun (cake, apple, pie, etc.) but it’s most important to keep the menu at your child’s spelling level. Put the letters in a bowl or toy mixer and mix them up.
You are a guest at your child’s bakery. Sit down and order an item. To serve it, your child should spell the word correctly on a toy plate. If they get it right, thank them and pay for your meal. If not, say playfully “Hey that’s not what I ordered!” and help them figure it out. Make sure to keep up an appetite!
This is a good game for intermediate readers because it allows you to tailor the difficulty to your child’s reading level as you play. You can start with simple words like “pie”, build up to compounds like “cupcake”, and end up with with unconventional phoneme combinations, like “flan”. Because of this, it also works well as a way to diagnose what your child still needs to work on in their reading without making a fuss about a test or an assessment.
Great for: The Athletic Learner
Set up a normal hopscotch path (1, 1, 2, 1, 2, 1)
Instead of numbers, put in the phonemes your child is learning. Use the sets of 2 to include the two-lettered phonemes (th, ch, etc.)
Play hopscotch with your child like normal, but instead of shouting out the numbers, shout out the phonetic (ah, aa, aw, as in “Have a ball”) sounds of each letter before progressing to the next one.
To mix it up and make it harder, have your child toss a rock onto one of the squares and hop around it. Have them pick it up without losing their balance.
This kind of fast-paced activity is great for active learners, but it’s also a good tool to build memory in learners of all stripes. If your child has muscle memory to associate with the memory of a phoneme, they’re going to have a much easier time recalling that phoneme in the future.
Phonics Scavenger Hunt
Great for: The Athletic Learner, The Imaginative Learner
Index cards or flash cards with a consonant blend on it (See Set Up)
Write a consonant blend on each flash card: cl, cr, dr, fl, gr, pl, sc, sl, sm, sn, sp, st, sw, br, and bl.
The game starts when your child draws his card. He then has five minutes to find as many objects around the house that start with that phoneme as he can. He can work to try to beat his personal record, or he can compete with a friend.
This is a great game for early readers who are still learning the phonemes, but it can have a surprisingly long tail for more advanced readers. Think of it as a memory improvement tool, similar to Phonics Hopscotch: having muscle memory or spatial memory of a phoneme is going to make it easier for your child to recall that phoneme no matter their reading level.
Great for: The Thinker
About 10 pairs of common household rhyming objects
Find about 10 pairs of rhyming objects (20 objects total). You should be able to find most of these objects around the house, and especially in your child’s playroom. Try pairs like sock/rock, man/can, house/mouse.
Once you have your collection, put one half of the rhyme on the table and the other half in the bag.
Sit down with your child and go over all the objects on the table. Make sure you both agree on the name. For example, “man” shouldn’t be “person” or “doll”. Next, have your child pull an object out of the bag and find the matching rhyme. On your turn, pretend to have difficulty finding the rhyme and have your child help you.
Try being silly by using made up words to perk your child’s interest. You can also have a competition by seeing who can come up with the most rhyming pairs in a minute.
Like the above two games, this can have a great effect on phoneme retention. Teaching your child to find rhyming pairs will improve their ability to recall the common phoneme of the rhyming pair and probably . It’ll also teach them to have fun with the language, which will be a huge boon for future teaching. For a more advanced reader, think about finding rhyming pairs that have different numbers of syllables: socks/toybox,
Shopping for Phonics
Great for: The Imaginative Learner
A play grocery store
The Letters of the Alphabet (written on a note card or stock paper is great)
This game requires very little set up. Just be ready to play grocery shopping with your child.
You and junior are going grocery shopping! You were in a hurry, so you only wrote down the first letter of the item you need. “Oh no junior! This is all I have for a grocery list! I have the letter B! What sound does that make? That’s right! What do we need that starts with a letter B? A butterfly! That’s right! Can we find a butterfly?” This game should be entirely imaginative where he helps you find objects that start with the right letter as he practices his sounds.
This is a great exercise for small groups—kids will rush to find words starting with the letter they’re given, and the competition to come up with them will push aside any thought that this is “boring”. (Although you don’t want it to get too frenzied.) Keep it in mind if you’re teaching in a homeschooling group (which we’ve written about before) or a classroom setting.
Great for: The Imaginative Learner, The Thinker
Two matching sets of phonics flash cards [Link to Phonics Flash Cards]
Shuffle and deal out 7 flash cards to each player.
Play this game just like the classic go-fish, but have the children say the phonemes as they play. It’s a simple phonics game for kids to practice saying and memorizing the phonemes. You can also use the flashcards to play Match instead.
When you have to “go fish”, think about pulling out the wrong phoneme a few times and having your child correct you. This will help them try on independence as a reader and give them practice at finding and solving mistakes.
Great for: The Thinker, The Imaginative Learner
Have the supplies and time to help your child write a letter
Writing letters is a great way to encourage your child to practice his writing. The letter doesn’t have to be long, and it can go to any friend or family member, but grandparents are always a great pick!
This is a good game for advanced readers and an excellent way to introduce them to language in its more complex forms. Having to think in terms of sentences instead of words is an important hurdle to cross for any emerging reader, and if your kids can do it creatively, that will be a good sign in their journey towards a healthy, fulfilling relationship with language.
It’s not always easy to get your child to sit down for a workbook, but games are often a more effective way of teaching anyway! The idea is to associate the sounds with a memory to make recall easier. The more your child ingrains these sounds and spellings, the easier it will be to read and spell effectively. Most importantly (in danger of sounding cliché) have fun! Learning is a marathon, not a sprint, so every practice counts.
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