Phonics Family Favourites

Below are a selection of activities that have been the most popular across our Facebook and Instagram pages. A mixture of initial sounds, spelling and reading games and tricky word practice.

Click on the activity titles to link to the original Facebook post for more videos and photos or search the title on the Facebook page.

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Phonics Spin the Bottle

This was a massive hit in our house. A perfect game for pre school and nursery children who are learning to hear initial sounds and for those recognising graphemes and working in Phase 2. Spin the bottle and whatever grapheme it lands on you go and find an item that starts with that initial sound. You could put it on a timer to make it even more exciting. One minute to find an object!

You could play with older children who are working within the higher phases and ask them to write down the object they’ve found.

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Phonics Splat

For nursery and pre-school aged children you can say the sounds and they have to blend the sounds together and splat the corresponding picture. If they can say the word as they splat then even better! You can then move on to identify letters and older children you say a word and they splat the correct spot. I used an old toy hammer here but you could easily just use a hand to splat!

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Silly Soup

Great for nursery age children to listen to the sounds and try and blend them together but to make it harder you could show word cards and your child reads the card and then adds the object to the soup. They love stirring the soup every time 🥄

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Phonics Gearbox

I used a small upturned cardboard box and cut out some tracks. At the end of each track is a grapheme card. I stuck on the corners of some punched pockets to hold the cards that way you can reuse the gearbox by changing the cards as your child moves up the phases and learns new graphemes. You could just use masking tape. I then used a brush as a gear stick and coloured it all in with a black marker pen. You could use a wooden spoon or anything that has a larger end so can’t be pulled through easily.

Similar to the ‘Phonics Phone’ activity your child picks a card, segments the word and moves the gear stick to the corresponding graphemes. Return to the centre point to blend the sounds together and choose the next card. There are 10 word cards to read (see in comments for the word list). Time how long it takes for them to segment and blend the words and try and beat their time when they do it again. Adapt the graphemes on the gearbox for whichever phase your child is working in.

Oh and don’t let them tell you they drive an automatic 😂

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Phonics Nail Salon

A friend of mine shared a post with me this morning where a family had drawn around hands onto cardboard and set up a nail bar. It definitely was prime for a phonics twist!

This activity is ideal for the budding nail technician but also a great way for your child to really listen to the phonemes in a word and make the right choice on the grapheme to use. Often ‘ar’ ‘or’ and ‘ur’ are confused as they all end with an ‘r’. Children also mix up using ‘sh’ and ‘ch’ in their writing. The activity will also make your child think about what grapheme is needed at the end of words, for example we use a ‘zz’, ‘ck’ ‘ll’, ‘ss’ and ‘ff’ at the end of a word in Phase 2 as it is after a short vowel, like in ‘buzz’ and ‘duck’. Children then learn in Phase 3 that if they hear a ‘c’ phoneme at the end of a word and it’s after a Phase 3 digraph it will now be a ‘k’, like in ‘park’ and ‘shark’. That’s the same for the ‘l’ phoneme like in ‘sail’.

Your child paints the nails of the fingers with the correct grapheme on to spell that word.

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Tricky Word Torches

I’m not going to lie I was super excited to see if this worked when I had the idea. So easy to make and hours of fun can be had with these!

All you need is a toilet roll, cling film, a black marker and something to secure the film. I used an elastic band but you could just as easily use tape. A fantastic way to help with the recognition of tricky words (words that need to be learnt by sight). Use them just before bed on the bedroom ceiling. Once your child can easily recognise the word just change for a new one.

You need to write the word on the cling film before attaching to the toilet roll otherwise you need to write it backwards for it to be the right way on the wall. It doesn’t need to be tricky words you could do graphemes that your child is struggling to remember. Quite often children mix ‘b’ and ‘d’ so you could make a torch for each.

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Poppin’ Phonics

A super activity for children learning initial letter sounds and who doesn’t love popping bubble wrap!

Place a piece of white paper with initial letter graphemes written on and spaced out so they show under the bubbles of the wrap. You could write directly onto the bubble wrap but it’s quite tricky to make a clear enough letter shape.

You say a sound and your child pops the corresponding bubble. Extend it by saying a simple CVC word and your child pops the corresponding bubbles. Simple, fun and effective!

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Shadow Phonics

On a sunny afternoon this is a super activity to encourage the reading of tricky words, recognition of graphemes or the segmenting and blending of decodable words.

Using strips of an old cardboard box I wrote the word in thick marker pen in order to create an outline and then cut the letters out. For letters like ‘a’ and ‘p’ that have a centre circle I just left a very small strip so it remained attached to the rest of the letter but you could use clear tape to hold it in place. Cut out initial letters, digraphs, trigraphs or words and your child holds the card up to create a shadow and reads.

I also cut out a card that kept the middle and final grapheme and then a box so that I could replace the initial sound each time. You could play this like a full circle game. Replacing the first letter card and reading the new word each time until you get back to the word you started with.

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Phonics ‘Spell’ings

A fun way to practise segmenting, blending and spelling words without using pen and paper!

I gathered a few empty bottles from the recycling and wrote some graphemes on the outside with marker pen. The graphemes can be adapted for the phase your child is in. I filled the bottles up with water and in some added a little food colouring too. I then made a couple of sheets for the spells by drawing pictures of the words that needed to be made. Your child looks at the picture on the sheet, segments the word and find the corresponding bottles to spell the word. They can then add some of the liquid from the bottles to their cauldron. Repeat with the other pictures.

A great activity to develop phonic knowledge and the spelling of words, but also if you keep the lids on the bottles then unscrewing them is a super way to develop fine motor skills too. If you also put different coloured liquid into the bottles, when they add some to the cauldron, you can discuss colour mixing 👍🏻

You could put out some blank spell sheets and leave your child to build more words using the bottles and record the words they make on the sheet.

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Dinosaur Dash

This activity was inspired by my son this morning who lined up his dinosaurs and wanted to race them. A fun, interactive game for anyone who loves dinosaurs which prompts grapheme recognition and the segmenting and blending of words.I taped out a quick grid with masking tape on the floor to act as a race track. Each lane had a corresponding grapheme at the beginning. I then wrote out some simple CVC words onto cards made up of the letters at the start of the track. The letters and words in my photo would suit children working in Phase 2 but adapt what you write to suit the phase your child is working in. You could have digraphs and trigraphs from Phase 3 or 5 instead and words that contain these. Your child picks a card, segments the word and moves the corresponding dinosaurs along the track. So for the word ‘dig’ they would move the dinosaur above the ‘d’, ‘i’ and then ‘g’. Which dinosaur will win the race and be ahead of all the others once all the cards have been read?For my son, who is working in Phase 1 and early Phase 2 as he is beginning to recognise the letters of the alphabet, I held up the card and he moved the corresponding dinosaurs so it really helped with grapheme recognition and he was so motivated to do it because it was dinosaurs. I then ‘sounded out’ the word for him to attempt to orally blend the sounds together.In order to extend the activity you could have picture cards instead of word cards and your child moves the corresponding dinosaur to spell the word.

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I Spy Box

A really simple one to set up if you have a transparent plastic box and some whiteboard pens. A great activity to help your child identify initial sounds, recognise and form letters but easily adapted to suit the phase your child is working by altering the items inside.I just placed a few items from around the house inside the upturned plastic box, put out a couple of whiteboard pens and some letter cards to help with identification and formation.Your child looks inside the box, chooses an object that they can see and listens for the initial sound. They can then practise writing the letter on the outside of the box with the whiteboard pens. For children working in the higher phases place objects inside the box that are decodable for the phase they are working and they can write the whole word on the box.

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Hodgepodge Hedgehogs

I just think these look so cute 😍 and they are so simple to make too. Just a bit of cardboard and some wooden pegs.I drew some hedgehog outlines onto cardboard and cut them out. On each hedgehog I wrote the letters of a high frequency word all muddled up. I then wrote the letters for that word onto the pegs. High frequency words are words that most often appear in reading books. They are a mixture of both decodable words (you can sound them out) and tricky words (need to be learnt by sight) and it’s great if your child can develop a fluency for both reading and writing them. Your child picks a hedgehog outline and finds the corresponding letter pegs. They then try and unmuddle the letters and clip on the pegs in the correct order to spell the high frequency word. As they do this they are building their fine motor skills and creating the spines of the hedgehog. 👍🏻You could leave out a list of the high frequency words for reference if your child is struggling to build the words from the muddled letters. A great way of practising any spellings that are sent home from School. It would be particularly great for the ‘dge’ grapheme as in ‘hodgepodge hedgehog!’

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Building Skyscrapers

A fun, practical activity that not only supports phonic knowledge but is an ideal way to develop counting skills, addition and the understanding of measurement.

All you need is two dice, a sheet of paper and some building blocks. I made one dice out of a favour box and wrote the Phase 2 tricky words on each face. You could just put a sticker or masking tape on a normal dice instead. The other dice just needs to be a normal one. On the sheet of paper draw a space to build a tower for each word. Your child rolls both dice. They read the word and then puts the number of blocks on the corresponding place on the sheet of paper. So if they roll ‘no’ and the number ‘4’ they put 4 blocks on the ‘no’ skyscraper. Easily adapted to suit each phase. I played with letters of the alphabet with my son. You could play with tricky words from a different phase, decodable words or digraphs and trigraphs from Phase 3. Children in Phase 5 you could have Phase 3 graphemes on the dice and the Phase 5 alternatives on the sheet and they build the tower on the corresponding alternative grapheme, so roll ‘ee’ and build a tower on ‘ea’.

Which skyscraper will be the tallest when all the blocks run out? Which will be the shortest? How many blocks do you have on each skyscraper?

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Phonics Wordfinder

All you need for this activity is three milk bottle tops and some cardboard. A great way to support children in identifying vowels and reading CVC words. This is a similar activity to ‘A Wordsearcher’ I posted a while back. This time though your child uses a ‘Wordfinder’ to search for their own words, rather than ones on a list, and write down all the real words they find.

I created the ‘Wordfinder’ by gluing three milk bottle tops to each other. If you can use two different coloured lids it works best (although not necessary). I used blue for the consonants and a green lid in the middle for the vowel. I drew up a grid onto some cardboard with lots of CVC words to find. I made them interlink as much as possible so ‘pen’ across the top with ‘net’ using the ‘n’ and ‘tin’ using the ‘t’ from ‘net.

Your child uses the’ Wordfinder’ by placing the middle green lid onto a vowel and then reading the word within the bottle tops. They can find words both horizontally and vertically. When they find a real word within the ‘Wordfinder’ they write it down.

You could have vowel digraphs and consonant digraphs on the grid instead for children working in Phase 3 to find CVC words like sheep, night, boat, town etc.

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Phonics Phone

For this activity I wrote some graphemes on small bits of masking tape and stuck them on to a rectangular tray. I rolled up some playdough and stuck them above the graphemes. These will act as buttons like on a phone and offer a real sensory experience when squishing them. Your child picks a card, presses the corresponding buttons, blends the sounds together to make the word and picks another card. This activity is done to a timer. ⏳ How many words can you segment and blend in a minute? Repeat and try and beat your score. Adapt the graphemes and words for age and phase.

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Phonics Hoopla

Set up a hoopla game with old toilet rolls and cut out paper plates. On each of the paper plates is a word with a missing grapheme. Your child has to get the hoop around the peg that will make a word. They segment and blend the word each time checking that it makes a real word and not a non word. Change the graphemes on the rolls and plates depending on age and phase.

Tip – put something fairly heavy inside the toilet rolls so they don’t fall over each time.

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Phonics Viewfinders

This was a big success for my three year old and so simple to make. I cut a camera shape out of an old bit of cardboard and taped on a small corner of a punched pocket at the bottom. The pocket was so I could change the focus of which initial sound we were looking for. We then went around the house and garden taking ‘photos’ of objects that began with that initial sound. My son absolutely loved pressing the ‘button’ and making the shutter noise as he took a photo. For children working in the higher phases you could have a different digraph grapheme in the pocket, for example ‘ar’ for ‘star’ and ‘car’.

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Say What?

If, like mine, your child is a huge fan of the Toy Story films and you have a few of the toys in the house then this will be a fantastic activity to do. It will provide them with real motivation and a reason to read.

I found some of the quotes from across the four films and wrote them onto speech bubbles. Your child’s task is to read the speech bubbles and match the quote to the right character. Some of the words might be a bit advanced for them and they may not have covered them in the phase they are working at but you can highlight the words you want them to have a good go at segmenting and blending by putting sound buttons underneath them. You can then help them with the other trickier words. They may even learn them in the process. Leave a few blank speech bubbles out and they might attempt to write their own.

It obviously doesn’t have to be Toy Story characters. If you’ve got a few toys from the same film then you can do the same. I’m thinking Anna, Elsa and Olaf from Frozen or Princess Poppy and Branch from Trolls.

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Read and Seek

Stick a large piece of paper on the floor and write some describing words on it. The activity will need your child to read the words and go and find an object with properties that match that description.

The words on the sheet in the picture are aimed at children working in Phase 4 as they include adjacent consonants and Phase 3 graphemes. Younger children you could say the sounds in the word for them and they blend the sounds together to make the word and then go and find an object.

To make this activity appropriate for children working in Phase 5 you could have the words ‘heavy’, ‘shiny’, ’round’, ‘curvy’ ‘yellow’, ‘blue’ or ‘squishy’ written on the paper. Extend it by getting them to write a sentence for each of the objects they find, ‘The stone is hard’, ‘The leaves are green’ etc.

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Dr Phonics

Another activity that I was super excited to set up. I know I need to get out more!

My son absolutely loves dressing up and playing Doctors. Most children absolutely love a plaster too! If you are willing to spare a few then you can use the real thing but you could always write the words on strips of masking tape. Adapt for age and phase depending on the words you write.

All words on the teddies in the photo are appropriate for children working in Phase 3 to have a good go at reading. Older children could write up their ‘notes’ and write a sentence for where they put the plasters.

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Put a lid on it!

If, like me, you’ve got a fair few takeaway containers in the cupboard then this activity is an easy one to set up.

Put an object inside each of the boxes (it could just be pictures), stick some masking tape on the lids (you can just write directly onto the lid with a marker pen if you don’t mind) and then write the names of the objects inside on to the lid. Remove the lids and it’s your child’s job to read the word and put it onto the matching box. Children love little boxes and putting lids on them! Great for developing fine motor control too.

For pre-school children you could say the sounds and they have to blend them together, find the right box and put the lid on. Adapt the words and objects depending on phase. In the photo boxes appropriate for Phase 2 would be ‘duck’, ‘cup’, ‘lock’ and Phase 3 ‘fox’, ‘fish’, ‘car’, ‘sheep’, ‘farmer’, ‘fork’, ‘spoon’ and they can have a good go at reading ‘train’ .

Phonics Sorting Hat

I was trying to think of a way to make reading word cards and sorting them more fun and engaging. Then I thought why not make a Harry Potter Sorting Hat! Every time it is worn the wearer knows that some sorting will need to be done!

To buy a Sorting Hat it seems you have to fork out £20-£30 so I decided to attempt to make one instead. I have to be honest this wasn’t a five minute job but it wasn’t difficult either. You just need some time to let the paint dry. All I used to make the hat was a circle of cardboard, a cone of brown paper, masking tape, white sheets of paper and brown paint (I didnt even have this so had to mix yellow and purple poster paint). See the photos to see what it looked like before I painted it.

Even though this might not be a quick one to put together once the hat is made you will be able to keep it to support learning across all the phases. It can be a fantastic resource not only to develop phonic knowledge but within other areas of the curriculum too (sorting odd and even numbers, multiples etc).

Your child puts on the hat and sorts the cards. The cards can be adapted for whichever phase your child is working in. Here are a few ideas:
1. Sort picture cards according to their initial sounds (like my son in the photo)
2. Sort letters from numbers
3. Sort rhyming words
4.. Sort words according to the grapheme they have in them for example graphemes that children often mix like ‘ar’, ‘or’ and ‘ur’.
5. Sort real and non words
6. Sort words that are split digraph and words that are not. This is a good one to do if your child is working at recognising split digraphs and still attempting to ‘sound out’ the whole word including the ‘e’ at the end. I would not put sound buttons on these cards and children have to spot that it’s a split digraph because it has the ‘e’ at the end.
7. Sort past and present tense

Have fun!


Blooming Marvelous Phonics

Visit the Facebook Page for a video of these in action. Truly magical!

As I was looking through YouTube for instructions on how to make something (I’ll post this activity later) I happened upon some videos of these blooming paper flowers and I thought they would be absolutely fantastic to make but with a phonics twist!

They are so simple yet effective. Literally just draw round a small circle (I used a milk bottle top) on paper and add the petals around the outside by drawing free hand. Write a word or letters in the centre, colour in and cut it out. Fold the petals over the centre circle. Add it to water and the petals unfold to reveal the flower and the writing inside! Absolutely magical!

I thought they would make a great way to reveal the answer to a spelling choice for children working in Phase 5 and learning the alternatives. The beginning part of the video shows this game. I wrote some options on how to spell the word ‘leaf’ on some leaves (you don’t have to have the leaves you could just write a list of options). Your child circles the correct spelling and then puts the flower in the water to reveal the answer and see if they made the correct choice.

For those in Phase 2 – 4 you could write decodable words, tricky words, digraphs and trigraphs or initial sounds. You could have a word with a missing grapheme, they have to work out the missing phoneme and then put the flower in the water to reveal the answer.

Your child could draw, colour and cut the flowers for you before you then write the words/letters inside.

*I sped up the video as it takes around a minute or so for the flower to unfold once added to water.

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Train Track Phonics

This afternoon we used the track and trains in a different way to encourage letter recognition and formation. Myself and my son worked together to create letters out of the track and then my son moved a train along the track to form the letter. I put a green sticky dot on the track to show where he needed to start and a red dot to show where he needed to end. He was saying things like “I want to try the ‘r’ next” and “you need to start the train up here”.As an extra little activity to fill the time I then put out some paint, a couple of trains and some paper and my son then dipped the trains in the paint and formed the letter on paper. He was able to look back at the tracks on the floor as he was doing this to think about where he needed to start and finish.

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A Wordseacher

Word searches can be great fun and a brilliant way to support blending for reading and segmenting for spelling, as well as problem solving, but they can be pretty daunting to some children. In my experience even with the simplest versions children can become overwhelmed with all the letters and struggle to know where to start.I made this little Wordsearcher from the cardboard carrier that holds sets of Playdough pots. I cut out a section with three holes. I think a helpful little tool to narrow down the search rather than looking at the word search as a whole. Children can move the Wordsearcher around to limit the letters they are looking at and match the word they are looking for within the three circles. Alter the number of holes in the Wordsearcher to suit the phase your child is working. To make it simpler just have the words running horizontally too. This version would suit children who are just starting out in Phase 2 (typically children starting Reception) as all the words that need to be found are made up of the first 6 letters taught (s, a, t, p, i, n) and all the letters on the board are from Set 1 and 2. Set 1: s, a, t, p Set 2: i, n, m, dThe order of which the letters are introduced within the Letters and Sounds scheme is important. As soon as children are introduced to Set 1 letters, and their corresponding sounds, they can begin to blend those sounds together to make words (at, sat, tap, pat)
Edit – just realised I’ve written ‘sat’ twice

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Split Digraph Delivery

At this time of year you might be getting lots of parcel deliveries. Don’t throw the boxes in the recycling just yet. The packaging and logo of that well known brand #amazon is a perfect way to help demonstrate split digraphs. Cut out the arrow/smile and it makes a fantastic split digraph sound button!

After cutting the arrows/smiles you can use the rest of the box to make other grapheme cards. I stuck letter cards to the ends of each arrow to make the split digraphs. Your child can now explore building and reading split digraph words.

Split digraphs are taught within Phase 5a and are just what they say on the tin. A digraph has been split but still makes the same single sound. For example in the word ‘bike’ the digraph ‘ie’ (two letters that make one sound) has been split up and the consonant ‘k’ has been placed in the middle. You may know it as the ‘magic e’. I explain to children that the ‘e’ at the end is making the vowel in the middle say its name rather than its sound. The ‘e’ remains shy or silent and we don’t sound it out in split digraph words.

Children need to practise identifying split digraph words (a short word with an ‘e’ at the end) so they don’t sound out all the letters. The sound button for a split digraph is drawn as an arch (either above or under the word) linking the ‘e’ with the vowel in the middle.

Images © Phonics Family 2020

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