Fun Phonemic Awareness Activities To Get Your Child Started:


We have learned that phonemic awareness, the ability to hear, distinguish, recognize and manipulate sounds within words, is critical to reading success. We also know that phonemic awareness training has a significant positive effect on reading and spelling. [1] In other words, we can directly teach children how to hear, recognize and manipulate sounds within words. You can teach your child the phonemic awareness that is necessary for proficient reading.  For complete details on phonemic awareness see the article What is Phonemic Awareness? Why is Phonemic Awareness Important?  Why you must link PA to print! 


You can help your child develop phonemic awareness with simple oral activities. These activities or ‘sound games’ include listening, sound identification, sound discrimination, word play and rhyming activities. These activities help your child learn how to hear, recognize and manipulate sounds in words. These oral sound activities can easily be played for 5 or 10 minutes while you are driving in the car, making dinner or playing outside.


Start simple and then increase complexity as the child develops skills. Start with beginning sounds. Once the kids get the hang of beginning sounds (the easiest to hear and distinguish), you can move on to ending sounds and rhyming and finally to manipulating middle sounds.  Some of the sounds are harder to hear. Avoid the blended consonants in the beginning, particularly blends with the ‘fast’ sounds of /d/, /t/, /k/, /g/, /b/ that are much harder to segment (often when you ask a child to say ‘drop’ without the /d/ they will tell you /op/ because they have a hard time hearing and separating the two blended consonants). Younger children have a hard time manipulating middle sounds and some of the blended consonants. Always demonstrate the activity, showing the child exactly what you want him to do. Showing kids how to do something is more effective than telling them instructions. 


A few of the many possible activities include:






      ---Tell me the sounds in the word ‘cat’: the kid should say /k/ /a/ /t/

      ---Tell me the sounds in the word ‘shut’: the kid should say /sh/ /u/ /t/

      ---Tell me the sounds in the word ‘place’: the kids should say /p/ /l/ /ay/ /s/

      Say the word slowly and clearly to help the child hear and distinguish sounds.



The 7 specific phonemic awareness skills you need to develop are listed in the article What is Phonemic Awareness?  These are the specific phonemic awareness skills you are developing with the 'fun sound games'. 


Remember to start simple and then add complexities as the child’s skills develop. The following outline contrasts the simpler skills with the more complex.


Simple (easier to distinguish) à  à  à  à  More Complex (harder to distinguish)


     example: /s/ in sit à /s/ in miss à /s/ in mistake


example: /s/ in sit à /s/ in slip à /s/ in stop


(/m/ /s/ /f/ /a/ /r/ /l/ /n/ /o/ /sh/ )      à  à  (/t/ /d/ /b/ /k/ /g/ /p/ )


Note: Sounds that are more difficult to distinguish include: the sounds /f/ and the soft /th/ (as in bath), the sounds /f/ and /v/, the sounds /t/ and /d/, the sounds /k/ and /g/. Speech wise these sounds are very similar and are harder for some children to differentiate.  


Have fun with it! Make up your own sound activities/games. Create and adapt sound games to fit your kid.  Keep them age appropriate and fun. The focus is for your child to learn how to hear, recognize and manipulate sounds in words.  As the child’s skills develop, begin linking oral phonemic awareness to print.  


Phonemic Awareness is just one skill necessary for proficient reading. Link to the Free Reading Information page of Right Track Reading for additional information, articles and resources on teaching children to read proficiently.




This article was written by Miscese R. Gagen a mother, successful reading tutor and author of the reading instructional program Right Track Reading Lessons. The purpose of this article is to empower parents and others with information and resources on issues related to effectively teaching children how to read. More information is located at  Copyright 2006 Miscese R. Gagen

[1] National Reading Panel’s “Teaching Children to Read” Summary Report