- What is phonics?
- What is sound-talking?
- What are phonics games?
- How do I teach phonics from home?
- Game 1: Treasure Hunt
- Game 2: Happy Matching
- Game 3: Sound Counting
- Game 4: Fill in the Blanks
- Game 5: Word Pong
Reading is a fundamental skill for every child to learn, starting from an early age. However, it can feel like a bit of a chore when you’re getting started! Teaching through games is a form of interactive learning, which will help your child stay interested and engaged with learning these key life skills.
In this article, we’ll tell you all about what phonics is and how it works – and we’ve also rounded up our top picks for the best phonics games. We all know children love to play games, so these phonics games for kids are the perfect way to get them learning while they’re having fun!
What is phonics?
Phonics is a classic way to teach children the relationships between written letters and the sounds they make. It helps children to make sense of letters, groups of letters and syllables and comes into play at the very start of their school career. 🏫
Developing phonics skills is usually the first step to learning to read and write – phonics help children identify the different sounds that make up different words, and enables them to distinguish similar sounding words from each other.
What is sound-talking?
A lot of phonics relies on ‘sound-talking’, especially when you’re just getting started. This is when a word is broken down into its individual phonics sounds (or phonemes). It is really important that these phonemes are pronounced correctly.
While there are 26 letters in the English language, there are a total of 44 phonics sounds! This video by Oxford Owl shows you the right way to pronounce these sounds.
What are phonics games?
Phonics games can be very helpful when it comes to providing the basics for teaching your child to read. Using fun phonics games for kids as part of their learning means that your kid will enjoy themselves as they develop their skills. Phonics sound games can help your child sound out the letters and words they’re working on learning.
Most kids start their journey of learning to read with phonics - phonics games are a fantastic way to encourage this. There is a range of different phonics games available that can help your child make sense of letters and sounds, and this will help them learn to read. It’s a great idea for you to try out different phonics games with your child to see which game or style of learning works best for them. In general, the best phonics games are ones that are fun and exciting for your child to play, but also challenge them.
There are plenty of phonics apps out there that will help your child develop their skills while enjoying themselves. With fun and interactive designs, these apps are great for kids learning to read with phonics. However, playing phonics games in real life with your child is the best way to help them learn – especially if you’d like to avoid too much screen time for them! 😊
How do I teach phonics from home?
Teaching your child outside of school can seem daunting but learning from home has been a part of a normal education for decades. The most important thing is to keep this extra learning fun and interesting for both you and your child. Reading is like second nature for most of us and phonics is a distant memory. 📚 If you are feeling a little unsure before getting started, take a look at some advice by experts before starting so you can feel confident and comfortable helping your child learn to read with phonics games.
Without further ado, here are our top picks for the best phonics games for your child. The following activities are designed to help your child with the basics of phonics and give them a great start in their reading journey. They should keep them engaged with the topic and give everyone a fun learning experience!
🏴☠️ Game 1: Treasure Hunt
This fun and interactive online game focuses on blending the sounds of letters together to form words. You can also create a paper version with this wonderful free resource for a more hands-on approach! One of the key things to remember in this game is to include fake words as well so your child doesn’t start to just recognise and repeat words they know.
Here’s how you can set up a paper version of this fun treasure hunt for your kid!
- Cut out as many coins as you need (we recommend 10 at a time 💰), the ship, the red and green pirates, the dustbin, and the treasure chest
- On each coin, write one word that demonstrates a sound
REMEMBER: use a mixture of real and fake words
Eg. ‘oo’ → ‘foom’, ‘fool’, ‘poot’, ‘hoop’,
‘ch’ → ‘chim’, ‘chid’, ‘such’, ‘chat’
- Hide the coins around the room
- Place the red pirate and the dustbin on one side of the room, and the green pirate with the treasure chest on the other
- Put the ship in the middle as the starting point
How to play:
- Get your child to hunt for the coins, one at a time, and bring them back to the ship
- They should then sound-talk the word before saying the word as a whole
- Ask your child whether they think the word is real or fake
- If FAKE put the coin on the dustbin 🗑️
- If REAL put the coin on the treasure chest 🎁
- Repeat until all of the coins have been found!
- Tally up how many real/fake words your child got right and award them points
To make this extra fun, you could have different rewards depending on how many of the words were sorted correctly. The fun pirate theme makes this one of the best phonic games for younger kids!
🤗 Game 2: Happy Matching
One of the best ways to help your kid learn is by linking the topic to relatable things in your child’s life. These will be words they use frequently and will keep their interest as you add in more obscure words as they progress. A great way to start this association is by matching words to visuals. 🖼️ You can do this online by going here for a few simple matching-based games.
However, many children prefer a hands-on approach to learning and there are a couple of ways you can do this:
- Write out the names of different items around the home onto pieces of paper (make sure they are nice and easy to read!)
- Put the papers in a pile and ask your child to pick them up one at a time
- Ask them to sound-talk the word before going and attaching it to the right item
- Print off a variety of images of things your child will recognise
- Write the corresponding word on another piece of paper
- Mix the papers up and ask your child to match the word to the picture
If your child needs a bit more of a challenge, you can turn the papers face down and only allow two to be turned at a time - they would then need to remember where the different words/pictures are before matching them 🧠
Seeing these words written down with the picture alongside makes it a lot easier for your child to learn. It will also help them with the spelling of words they will likely write down frequently. Once you have phonics down, you can give this spelling challenge a go!
🔊 Game 3: Sound Counting
When a child is learning their phonics, it is crucial that they really listen to the sounds of the words. In the classroom, they will be sound-talking and focusing on phonemes, so this is a fantastic game to do at home to support this learning.
It’s important to try and keep activities like this, and the others in this article, separate from official homework. Some modern studies have linked homework to additional stress in students, so it’s great to keep your child excited by learning outside of the classroom. The best phonics games for kids are those they find fun and challenging – it shouldn’t feel like a chore!
- Print out pictures of common items to create ‘counting cards’(you can design your own cards or go here for some great, free pre-made templates)
- Get some counters to place on the cards. These could be legos, coins, beads, or anything else you can find
How to play:
- Identify what the object on the card is and say it out loud
- Ask your child to sound-talk the word and count the number of phonemes
- Place a counter at the bottom of the card for each of the sounds
This is one of the best phonics games for 5-year-olds. This game mixes a few different skills together to form a well-rounded activity for you and your child to play – including a bit of maths! It is also a great way to encourage self-monitoring in your child. You only really need to supervise this particular activity and can allow your child to take the lead. You can help with this by putting the correct number of phonemes on the back of each card, so it is easy for your child to check if they are correct.
✍️ Game 4: Fill in the Blanks
This next game will help out with phonics, plus your child’s ability to think more critically. It is a lot like the classic game hangman, but it requires your child to find the right sound to put into a half-written word. This is a brilliant game for improving your child’s recognition of different phonics sounds.
- Write out your words with all letters except the middle phonic sound
Eg. ‘school’ → ‘sch__l’
‘feet’ → ‘f__t’
‘chat’ → ‘__at’
‘tight’ → ‘t___t’
- Put the different phonics sounds on separate pieces of paper
How to play:
- Put the word with its missing sound at the top and place the possible phonics below
- Ask your child to put the sound they think is missing in the gap 🤔
- Make sure they sound-talk the phonemes as well as the full word as they go along
Keep in mind that children can always surprise us and they may come up with a complete word you didn’t plan for – that would still be a correct answer!
If you’d like to do this activity online, take a look at ReadwithPhonics.com and you can pick and choose the sounds you would like to focus on. However you choose to do this activity, it is a great way to help your child if they are struggling with one sound in particular!
🥤Game 5: Word Pong
This is another game which will help your child to recognise and think about phonics blends and digraphs. These are the sounds made when two or more constants are blended together, however there is a subtle difference between them. Blends are formed of two or more consonants where, when spoken, you are able to hear each letter’s sound separately. Digraphs are when the grouped consonants form a single sound when spoken.
- Using a marker, write some phonics blends to the inside lip of x5 large paper cups (use ‘CH’, ‘SH’, ‘DR’, ‘SP’ and ‘TH’ to start with and swap them out for new sounds after a couple of rounds)
- Attach the cups to the floor using tape or blue tack so they are touching and you can see the sounds written inside
- Find some ping pong balls, counters, buttons, or anything else that can be thrown into the cups
- Draw up a simple score sheet with the sounds at the top and space below to write the words you and your child come up with 📝
How to play:
- Take it in turns to throw a counter into a cup (your child also gets a little PE lesson with this game!)
- When a counter lands in a cup, whoever threw it needs to come up with a word that starts with that blend or digraph (if your child has got to grips with the starting digraphs, try switching to ones at the end of a word instead)
- Remember to ask your child to sound-talk each word they come up with and repeat until you have at least 3 words for each sound
There is no real ending to this game, so as long as your child isn’t bored you can just keep it going! This phonics game is best suited to older kids or younger kids with a decent grasp of the basics. You can also make it more difficult by introducing more sounds or, if your child is finding the throwing part a bit too easy, you can space the cups out to give an added challenge.
The key thing when it comes to phonics is to start slow and progress gradually at a pace your child is comfortable with. These phonics games for kids can be adapted in whatever way you think would be best suited to your child depending on their age and developmental level.
Some kids may take a little longer to understand phonics while others will pick up on it faster, so be sure to take your time and ensure that your child has fun while they’re learning!
All of these games are all fantastic ways to teach your child their phonics in a different and engaging way. Try them out with your child and find which one works best for you! Pair these activities with the general support you give your child in their reading every day to help them build a fantastic foundation of knowledge.
You can help cement their learning by reading with your child every day and making sure they see you reading as well. So grab yourself a hot drink and put your feet up with a good book, magazine or newspaper after playing these games – it will be good for everyone! 📖