Sensory, Arts and Crafts

All of the below activities involve your child’s drawing or making something or take part in an activity that focuses on the different senses.

Click on the title of the activity to link to the Facebook post for more photos and videos

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Croc Creek Phonics

DANGER of getting messy!

I filled a plastic tub with gloop (cornflour and water), spaghetti, peas and green food colouring. I added some artificial plants that I had as my son’s bedroom is jungle themed. The aim of this activity is to hunt in the swamp to find the stones that will help complete a word. There could be decoy grapheme stones in there too. Easily adapted for age and phase depending on the word and the grapheme they need to hunt for.

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Phonics Panpipes

Who doesn’t love shouting down a tube?

If you’ve got a few toilet and kitchen rolls hanging about then why not put them together to make a panpipe. I used some paper clips and some masking tape to hold them in place. On each of the tubes write a grapheme appropriate to the phase your child is working on. Have one that says blend at the end too. Get your child to say the phonemes (sounds) down the corresponding tubes to create a word and then say the blended word down the tube with the word blend on. Your child could just experiment in putting three sounds together to make words or you can have a few word cards to act as a prompt.

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Phonics Playdough

An easy win if you’ve got some play dough in the cupboard. Your child can form individual letters or words with the play dough. This will also encourage the understanding of letter formation. You can also write words and get your child to sound them out, count how many sounds in the word and then create sound buttons for the words with play dough. Every time you press the button you say the sound.

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Cut and Fold Phonics

A super easy activity to set up that not only prompts the phonics skills of segmenting and blending but develops scissor control too!

You don’t need a whole range of resources either just paper, pen and some child friendly scissors. Using squares of paper you will need a strip for each phoneme (sound) in the word, so for example ‘shell’ will need 3 strips and ‘brush’ will need 4 strips. I highlighted with a dotted line the place that needs to be cut and wrote the grapheme on each. Your child cuts along the dotted lines until they get to the solid line. Once they’ve cut the strips fold them all over so you can’t see the letters on each strip. As the say the sounds in the word they fold up one of the strips until all strips are unfolded and they say the complete blended word.

The activity can easily be adapted for whatever phase your child is working on by choosing the appropriate words and number of strips to cut. For extra fun they can draw the pictures too.

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Cotton Bud Painting

Using cotton buds and paints younger children can form the letters by connecting the dots, saying the sound as they paint. Older children could read the words and then add the sound buttons using the cotton buds and paint. A great way to develop fine motor control too by using the buds instead of brushes.

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Frozen Phonics

A fun filled activity perfect for lovers of the Frozen film.

I froze some blue paint (along with a bit of water) in to lollipop holders. You can then use these to paint. Younger children could form initial sound graphemes and say the sound of the letter as they paint. For older children I looked up some of the decodable words from the lyrics of ‘Let it go’ (let’s be honest I didn’t have to look them up πŸ˜‚). Your child segments and blends the word and paints the sound buttons underneath. Find the words from the lyrics appropriate to which phase your child is working on.

The castle was quickly put together using Lego, Duplo and some painted loo and kitchen rolls. The snow is flour and the bottom of the tray is a cut up IKEA bag.

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Phonics Boat Racing

Place a few paper boats at the start line. Say a word and your child has to find the corresponding boat and use the straw to blow it to the finish line. This activity can be adapted for younger children by just having initial sounds or you ‘sound out’ a word and your child finds the correct boat with a picture to help them (as pictured). A great one for key word recognition too.

To be honest I had to practise a couple of times to fold the boats properly πŸ˜‚. I’ve put up the instructions but best thing to do is find a video on YouTube. If you’ve got wax crayons then colour the boats in, or get your child to decorate them, before using them as they will last longer in the water.

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Alien Arrest

Alien words (made up non words) are a great way to ensure that your child is consistently recognising the graphemes that have been taught. If they have developed good decoding skills they will be able to segment and blend any decodable word given to them no matter if it is real or a non word.

Write a selection of real and alien words on a piece of paper. Your child’s job is to read the words and identify the alien words. If it is an alien word they place it behind bars. Here I cut up a small sweet potato and a carrot to produce jail bars by printing with paint. You could use a small sponge or cardboard for the printing instead. You could also splat the alien words.

Older children could write a sentence with the real words in once they have finishing arresting the alien words.

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Phonics Crayon Rubbings

To make the grapheme cards that you rub over I wrote the letters with a fairly thick felt tip on to card. You then cut the letters out and stick them onto paper. I then stuck the whole thing back onto card so they were a bit more sturdy but you don’t have to do this bit. Take a look at the photo and hopefully that makes it a little clearer.

Your child picks a sheet that has a word with a missing grapheme. They segment the word and decide what grapheme is missing. I think it works best if you give them no more than 3 options. The digraphs ‘ar’, ‘or’ and ‘ur’ are good ones from Phase 3 as children often mix these as they all end in ‘r’. They then use a crayon to rub over the cards and fill in the missing graphemes.

Easily adapted for phase by selecting different words and grapheme cards to rub. For pre-school children you could say the word and they identify the initial sound and then do the rubbing.

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Jedi Phonics

I used a small glow stick for a lightsaber and stuck some graphemes on the wall with some masking tape in a room that’s fairly dark. I wrote these in orange highlighter so they would stand out. You could spread them around a bit more to make the activity more physical too. You say a word, your child segments the word and touches the corresponding cards with their lightsaber saying the phoneme as they do. Adapt the graphemes cards for the phase your child is working in. For younger children you could have initial letter cards, you say a phoneme (sound) and they touch the matching grapheme (letter).

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.

Phonics Ice Creams

Using the cotton wool pad flashcards found in the ‘Resources to Make’ section of the website you could use them to create ice creams.

You say a word and your child finds the corresponding ice cream scoop (cotton wool pad) to build the word onto the cone. Alternatively you could have pre drawn pictures on the cones and your child can build the words independently.

Like I mentioned in the previous post you can make split digraphs by almost cutting the pad in half and writing the graphemes either side. They can then be placed over a consonant in the middle.

Princess Phonics

Create a crown fit for a princess by sorting the real jewels from the fake ones.

I made a quick paper crown and wrote words onto small bits of diamond shaped paper. I used the words from a past Year 1 screening check. I put all the words into a jewellery box (mine was an old box of mini perfumes but you could use the real thing if you have it). Your child’s job is to use the tweezers to sort out the real jewels (real words) from the fake jewels (non words). Once they have sorted them they can colour them in and stick them on the crown. They could add further decorations if they want to and wear the crown with pride!

Adapt the words on the jewels depending on phase. For children working on initial sounds they could sort letters from numbers and stick all the letters onto the crown. Obviously it can be a crown for a king or prince instead of a princess. Using the tweezers in this activity, like a jeweller, is great for exercising fine motor muscles too. πŸ‘πŸ»

Phonics Artists

A unusual and fun way to encourage children to listen to the phonemes in a word, recognise graphemes, form letters and develop writing skills.

I created a transparent easel by turning over a small child’s table and wrapping around the legs with cling film. I taped some letter cards onto the inside of the cling film and gathered some objects into a bag. I also put out a couple of pots of paints and paintbrushes.

Your child picks an object from the bag, identifies the initial sound and then finds that letter on the easel. They can then attempt to trace over the letter with paint or just paint over the letter if they are not at the stage of forming letters yet.

Older children you could provide objects in the bag with words that are phonetically decodable for the phase they are working at. They segment the word and then write the whole word onto the easel with paint.

If you don’t want to put objects into a bag you could just give your child word cards. They segment and blend the word and then paint it on the easel.

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Phase 5 Dream Catcher

This is the perfect activity for children who are into crafting and learning to recall the Phase 5 alternatives to the Phase 3 phonemes, for example ‘ue’, ‘ew’, and ‘u-e’ as an alternative to ‘oo’

I cut the centre of a paper plate out. I then wrote some Phase 3 graphemes along with their Phase 5 alternatives around the paper plate. I chose some alternatives for ‘ai’, ‘ee’, ‘igh’, ‘oa’ and ‘oo’. You will also need some string or wool. I made a small slit above all the graphemes where the string can be inserted.

Starting at any Phase 3 grapheme tie the string on the back of the plate. Now your child passes the string through the small slit above each of the alternative graphemes for that phoneme. Repeat with all the other phase 3 phonemes.

I used:
ai, ay, a-e
ee, ea, e-e
igh, ie, i-e
oa, ow, o-e
oo, ue, ew, u-e

Once your child has passed the string through every grapheme tie the string around the plate. They can now colour it in, add further decorations and hang on the wall. πŸ˜Š

Pencil for a Walk

This is so quick and easy to set up. In fact probably one of the quickest and easiest activities I’ve posted. It literally takes a couple of minutes and is so versatile it can be adapted to any phase. All you need is a piece of paper and some colouring pencils.

Get your child to take their pencil for a walk around a sheet of paper. You could do this instead if they would prefer. Then write some graphemes, decodable words or tricky words, depending on what you want your child to focus on, into the sections that have been created. Your child can now colour the sheet in, for example in the picture attached for Phase 3 your child could colour all the ‘ar’ graphemes in one colour, all the ‘or’ in another and the same for ‘ur’, ‘ow’ ‘oi’ ‘er’ until all the sections are coloured in.

In the photo is an example suitable for each phase.
Phase 2: initial sounds. You could do rhyming words i.e all words that rhyme with ‘cat’ in blue, all the words that rhyme with ‘dog’ in yellow etc.
Phase 3: different graphemes or you could have decodable words with these sounds in.
Phase 4: Colour all the words that start with the adjacent consonant ‘st’ in one colour and ‘tr’ in another.
Phase 5: colour the alternatives to ‘ai’ in different colours.

A great activity to encourage your child to stay in the lines whilst colouring too πŸ‘πŸ»

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Blast Off!

A super way to incorporate phonics with making a balloon rocket (perhaps as part of a STEM activity) and a great way to make the reading of word cards more fun! Children will be really eager to read through the words so their rocket can blast off!

Similar to the ‘Incy Wincy Phonics’ activity I posted a while ago but this time they are waiting for a word to indicate they can let their rocket blast off rather than trying to avoid a word. If you Google ‘Balloon Rockets’ there are lots of videos that show you how to make them. All you need is a balloon, string, a straw and tape.

Have a pile of word cards with a couple of blast off cards. The blast off card could be the word ‘Blast off’ and a picture of a rocket. Adapt the word cards for the phase your child is working at. Shuffle the cards and start at the end of the string. Show your child a card, they segment and blend the word and pulls the rocket back towards the other end of the string by a step. Show another card and keep taking steps back each time. When they get a ‘blast off’ card they can let go of their balloon and it will zoom along the string back to the start. They can play this with a partner. Who will be the person to make the rocket blast off? Blow up the balloon again and repeat.

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Magic Mirror Phonics

A really engaging, magical way to support phonic knowledge. You could use the activity to prompt grapheme recognition, blending and segmenting of decodable words, reading of tricky words or sentences. I just drew some mirror outlines onto sheets of A4 and then on separate sheets I wrote what I wanted to be revealed. For my son it was letters of the alphabet. It’s best to use marker pen for this so it doesn’t run when the oil is applied. Place the mirror outline on top of the other sheet. You could put a little tape across the top to hold them together. You then just need a small pot of vegetable oil (any oil will work) and a couple of cotton pads or small paintbrushes. Your child wipes the oil across the mirror to reveal what is underneath. They then say the phoneme when a letter is revealed or read the words. For children in Phase 5 and learning alternative graphemes for the same phoneme you could have letters on the mirror and the correct grapheme to spell the word underneath, for example ‘pl’ for play on the mirror and your child has to say whether the word should use ‘ai’ or ‘ay’ and then use the oil to reveal the answer underneath.

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Phonics Bird Feeders

At this time of year it is nice to treat our outdoor feathered friends to some seed so they can fatten up and build up a reserve for winter. This activity means you can do just that and practise phonics too!These feeders are so easy to make. I drew the letter outline onto cardboard, painted on some peanut butter and sprinkled on the bird seed. I then pinned them to the fence. You could hang or tie them instead. Now sit back and watch! I’m imagining observations such as “that bird just went on the r” and “the most seed has gone from the d”.Great for letter recognition especially those letters that are often mixed like ‘b’ and ‘d’. Wouldn’t it be fab to do the whole alphabet! You could also make the letters of your child’s name to prompt recognition or it’s a super way of exposing your child to those trickiest of tricky words.
* I think you could paint on some lard instead of the peanut butter if you need to be mindful of allergies*

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Honeycomb Phonics

This sensory tray is ideal at supporting children in learning the Phase 5 alternative graphemes for the same phoneme in a fun, practical way and brilliant for developing fine motor skills too. Having said that it can easily be adapted to suit children in Phase 2 and above. I made the honeycomb by using a hot glue gun to stick Rigatoni pasta to a small piece of cardboard. This was inspired by the lovely bee play tray shared by @thescottcottage. I made enough honeycombs for each alternative grapheme. Here I made one for ‘ee’, ‘ea’, split digraph ‘e-e’, ‘y’ and ‘ey’. I then filled the surface of the tray with yellow split peas. I made a few bees by drawing on a stone with sharpie and also used a paper one from a previous bee themed activity. I wrote out some words that contained one of the alternative graphemes and then hid the bits of paper amongst the split peas. Easily adapted to suit the phase your child is working in. You could just have two honeycombs and focus on two alternatives or it could be sorting letters of the alphabet instead of words. Your child now finds a word, reads it and then places it into the right honeycomb by rolling the paper (great for fine motor skills) and putting it inside a pasta tube, just like bees collecting nectar inside honeycomb. So, for example, your child finds the word ‘buzzy’ and identifies the ‘y’ is making a ‘ee’ phoneme and then rolls the paper and places it inside the ‘y’ honeycomb. Once your child has found and sorted the words the tray can now act as a sensory writing tray. Using their finger they can write graphemes or words into the split peas. Nice for scooping and pouring for Preschool children too which my son spent a long time doing πŸ‘πŸ»

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Phonics Octopus

A fun activity that focuses on grapheme recognition and uses a few items that you might have around the house.

I drew an octopus outline onto a piece of cardboard and then covered the whole picture with Sellotape so that you can now use whiteboard pen on it and the writing can be rubbed away. This means that you can change the focus and return to the activity at a later date.

On the Octopus tentacles I wrote some graphemes with a whiteboard pen. I wrote the alternative graphemes for the same phonemes learnt in Phase 5 (for example ai, ay, a-e, eigh, a). You say a phoneme (sound) and your child uses the hooped cereal to cover all the graphemes that make the same sound. Repeat until you’ve covered all the graphemes and created suckers for all the tentacles.I played with letters of the alphabet with my son. You could also have a dice or pieces of paper that indicate the graphemes they are looking for which saves you saying the phonemes.

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Phonics Fortune Tellers

Who remembers making these when they were younger? πŸ™‹πŸΌβ€β™€οΈ

A phonics version of the game. Your child chooses a words and segments it. For every new sound in the word they move the fortune teller. Repeat as many times as you like. Inside the final section there could be a nice message or offer of a reward for doing some excellent segmenting. I made one for real words and one for non-words.

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Play with Phonics

I stuck some small stickers on our toy keyboard. You could use small bits of masking tape if you haven’t got any stickers. Have some letter or word cards for your child to pick and they find the corresponding keys. So for the word ‘sat’ they press the s/a/t keys. Adapt the stickers and cards for age and phase.

You could also use a small toy xylophone and concentrate on a smaller number of graphemes that your child is finding tricky to recall. A great way to encourage recognition. You could put key words on instead.

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Spelling Snake

A great activity for children working in Phase 5 where they are learning that different graphemes can make the same phoneme (sound). During this phase children make ‘best bet’ decisions on how to spell words, for example if they hear an ‘ai’ at the end of the word their best bet is that it will be ‘ay’. The same with ‘ie’ instead of ‘igh’. Some words though they just have to be exposed to the different options and make the right choice on what looks right, for example ‘ou’ and ‘ow’ can both be found in the middle so it could be ‘shout’ or ‘showt’. Here they could think about word families and rhyme to aid their decision.

To make a spelling snake cut a A4 sheet (landscape ways) in half and fold each half in two. You then give your child two options to spell a word, one being the correct way and one being the wrong way. They will have to use their phonic knowledge about best bet decisions to cut the one with the correct spelling out. They then use this to create their paper chain snake.

For the snake in the picture I concentrated on three different ways to write the phoneme ‘ai’ but you can adapt it to the graphemes/phonemes you are working on. Instead of wasting the left over paper turn the strips over and your child could write on a correctly spelt word and add it to the paper chain.

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Phonics Cake Baking

I just wrote up the ingredients and instructions; adapting them slightly to make them a bit more child friendly. Put the sound buttons under the words that you want your child to have a go at reading independently.

I think with younger children you shouldn’t stress about creating a timetable or schedule during the ‘School’ week but do little and often and take the opportunities as they arise. I’ll keep posting up ideas and games over the weekend too and hopefully one of them will gain your child’s interest and you might, just might, get five minutes peace πŸ€žπŸ»

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Phonics Body Parts

Body part words are great to read and write as lots of them are phonetically decodable (you can sound them out rather than learn by sight) πŸ‘«. I used an old bit of wallpaper here but you could use the back of leftover wrapping paper or stick pieces of paper together. I drew around my son’s body and then we worked together to label the body parts. Older children can write the words themselves. It’s a great way of developing and introducing new body part vocabulary too. You could talk about the palm of the hand or sole of the foot. He then wanted to add more details and colour it in.

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Phonics Archaeologist

Set up a tray with a piece of paper at the bottom with letters on and cover with rice (if you are willing to spare! πŸ˜). Using a brush you hunt for the letters and cross out the ones you’ve found. You can make it harder by getting your child to write the letters they’ve found rather than match them or hunt for words instead.

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Phonics Squishy Bags

To make the squishy bags you just need a punched pocket, duct tape and some opaque liquid. I used some shampoo, shower gel and bath cream. Have a sheet with some graphemes written on (this can be adapted to the phase your child is working on) and place it under the punched pocket. I then taped the whole thing to a floor mat but you could just use the floor outside, chopping board or any hard surface.

Your child squishes the liquid inside the pocket to reveal the letters underneath. They can then cross it off their sheet. If you want to encourage letter formation they could write the letters they find themselves. You can extend it by having missing graphemes that they have to find so, for example, searching for the ‘ar’ to complete the word ‘park’. You could even have key words to find instead.

My three year old little boy absolutely loved this activity. A great sensory game too πŸ‘πŸ»

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Draw by Phonics

Set up two grids. One for you and one for your child. Create a list of instructions that your child will need to read and follow in order to draw the picture. Once all their boxes in the grid are full reveal your picture and see if it matches. For younger children or children working within Phase 3 you could number the boxes and just put a simple statement for them to read and draw the picture in the corresponding numbered box. Once again reveal your picture to check it matches.

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Phonics Through the Looking Glass

A engaging way to encourage children to apply their phonic knowledge in their writing.

I placed some objects with words that are easily decodable (box, sheep, boat, book etc) on the other side of a window. The objects will need to be adapted depending on phase. Your child looks through the window and writes on the window what they can see. They could use whiteboard marker, bath crayons or a chunky felt tip for this. Just please check it’s not permanent before they start! For the objects that you’ve put out your child should be able to decode the word and have a good go at spelling it correctly. They could then move on to writing words for other things that they can see through the glass and have a phonetically plausible attempt at writing the word, for example a child in Phase 3 writing ‘clowd’ or ‘skigh’ would be a fantastic try.

You could also do the activity like a spot the difference game. They close their eyes and then you take away an object. They then spot what object is missing and write it on the window.

It’s fun wiping the writing off too.

Knock Knock!

Make a book by folding some A4 paper in half and stapling down the middle. This is going to be a lift the flap style book so on each page create a small door to open. I just glued down the side of a smaller piece of white paper. Under every door write a word/caption/sentence that indicates who is behind the door. Your child reads the writing to find out what they need to draw behind the door. They can then design and draw a front door too.

I focused this book on the different graphemes for the phoneme ‘n’ as the title of the activity is called ‘knock knock’ so I included words in the sentences that had ‘n’, ‘kn’ and ‘gn’ that children will learn in Phase 5.

Easily adapted for phase by just writing single words or captions and include graphemes that you have been focusing on. As an example:

Phase 2- a big dog, a cat in a hat, a sad man
Phase 3 – a goat with a coat, a big red car on a road, a man with a torch at night
Phase 4 – a green dragon, a black sheep, a little clown
Phase 5 – A white bird, a girl with a blue shawl, a boy with a yellow toy

Phonics Scratch Cards

I have to admit I was super excited to see if this worked. A really fun and interactive activity that can be adapted for all of the phases depending on what is written on the cards. You could have initial sounds, tricky words or missing graphemes in words.

Write onto the card a word or grapheme. I put the bit that I wanted to cover in a box to show where I had to paint. Cover the whole front of the card in sellotape. Now paint over the area that you want covering. The paint is a mixture of emulsion paint and washing up liquid. I think acrylic paint works best but I had an old tester pot of paint and it seemed to do the job just as well. It takes a fair while to dry so I used a hairdryer as a helping hand as I was getting impatient. Your child now scratches the card using a coin and reveals the word or grapheme underneath. A great way to support fine motor skills too πŸ‘πŸ»

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Got your Back!

A super simple Saturday morning activity.

When I teach a new grapheme I often get my class to ‘sky write’ it in the air, use their finger to write it on the carpet, on their palm or on a partner’s back. This activity is just a step on from this.

Write some graphemes, appropriate to the phase your child is working, on small cards. You write the grapheme on your child’s back with your finger and they hold up the corresponding card. They can say the phoneme as they hold it up. Great for recognition and concentration. They could write the letter onto paper or whiteboard instead of holding up the card and this will encourage correct letter formation too.

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Dotty About Phonics

Bingo dabbers are great fun to use, are cheap to buy (these were Β£2 for 4 and will last ages), develop fine motor skills and you can use them in a variety of ways to support phonic knowledge.

The activities on the tray are:
1. A picture of an object and a selection of graphemes. Your child sounds out the words and selects the correct graphemes needed to spell that word. Great if you put out graphemes where they have to think carefully like using a ‘k’ or a ‘ck’ at the end of a word.
2. Using word cards, your child ‘sounds out’ the words and puts the sound buttons on with the dabber.
3. Using a selection of colours your child highlights certain digraphs with certain colours. This is a great one for those digraphs that often get mixed like ‘ar’, ‘or’ and ‘ur’
4. Using a selection of dabbers your child highlights all the words which are using the same digraph. This one is a good one for those in Phase 5 where they are learning the alternative graphames for the same phoneme like ‘igh’, ‘ie’ and ‘i-e’.
5. Forming the letter shape using the dabber. Each time your child dabs they say the phoneme. A super one to support letter formation too as your child will have to think about where they need to start and finish.

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Phonics Water Xylophone

I collected up some glass bottles and jars (these have been collected over the course of a few weeks, honest πŸ™ˆ). I put some masking tape on the outside and wrote a selection of graphemes on with marker pen. I then filled them with varying amounts of water and arranged them in height order on a tray.

Your child takes a picture from the pile, segments the word and uses the spoon to tap the corresponding bottles and jars to spell that word and therefore creating a little tune! See below in the comments for a little video demonstration πŸ‘‡πŸ» Adapt the graphemes and picture cards according to the phase your child is working in.

You could leave out a blank sheet with a collection of three musical notes and your child builds words independently and writes the graphemes above the notes. The notes are therefore acting like sound buttons.

*This activity does need supervision as obviously there is glass involved*

Helipad Phonics

A great activity to support phonic knowledge in a fun and practical way.

You can play this with decodable words, tricky words, digraphs, trigraphs or initial sounds. I chose to focus on the tricky words from Phase 5. Just adapt what you write on the helicopters to suit your child and their focus.

I found the instructions to make the helicopters on YouTube (I’ll put a link in the comments below along with a video of them in action πŸ‘‡πŸ»). I created one helicopter for each tricky word and wrote the words on the rota blades. I then made a helipad out of a paper plate and created an air traffic control sheet.

Your child selects a helicopter and reads the word or says the phoneme. They then release the helicopter from some height (if safe to do so then standing on a chair would be great) and try and make it land on the helipad. When they manage to land a helicopter on the helipad they can tick it off their air traffic control sheet. Repeat until all helicopters have landed.

Phonics Portholes

A great way to encourage the recognition of graphemes or tricky words.

You will need a tray or box with a transparent bottom, a transparent pot (I used a yoghurt pot. GU pots would be ideal too), water, food colouring, pen and paper.

Fill the tray or box with water (just enough so that it doesn’t go over the top of the pot when it’s placed in the water) and add food colouring so that you now can’t see the bottom (I used blue and a little black). Write some graphemes or words on a piece of paper and place under the box or tray. Adapt this for the phase your child is working at. It could be initial sounds, digraphs and trigraphs, consonant blends or tricky words. Children in Phase 5 could search around to find all the alternative graphemes for a Phase 3 phoneme.

Your child places the pot into the water and moves it around the bottom in order to find and reveal the letters or words on the paper underneath. They can then circle what they have found on a separate sheet. You could also have words with missing graphemes and your child searches for a grapheme in the water in order to complete the word.

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Monochrome Phonics

Giving your child the opportunity to draw shapes and letters into writing trays with their fingers or other tools is a great sensory way to develop pre-writing and fine motor skills, encourage correct letter formation and prompt the recognition of graphemes and tricky words.I reused the black rice from the ‘Stargazing’ activity and put it on top of of an IKEA highchair tray. These trays are absolutely ideal to use as a writing tray as you can place cards either side of the main tray. Your child takes a card, says the phoneme or reads the word, writes the letter or word in the rice and then places the card on the other side of the tray. Using the black rice on top of a white tray acts as a great contrast and what is written really stands out. The trays can be bought separately from the main highchair and for Β£3 not a bad price. You just need something to prop up the tray at the front so that it lies flat. I used a kitchen roll tube.

Copyright Phonics Family 2020

Natural Paintbrushes and Pens

Just a different take on a ‘say it, build it, write it’ activity. Use natural home-made paintbrushes made from sticks and leaves and a few feathers as pens. A fun way to encourage the spelling and writing of words and an engaging alternative to pencils and pens.Have a selection of letters appropriate to the phase your child is working in. I used some wooden letters but you could have magnetic letters, graphemes stones or grapheme cards. Say a word, your child builds the word using the letters and then writes the word using the natural tools. For children working on identifying letters of the alphabet they can use the stick brushes and feathers to form letters instead of words.

Copyright Phonics Family 2020

Phonics in Autumn

We went for a walk around a local woodland yesterday and it is starting to look very autumnal. Such a great season to collect up some natural objects and use them in play. I just thought I would demonstrate a few ways to use these wonderful free finds to support phonics.I covered a tray with brown paper as the colour is great to create an Autumn tray and you can also write or draw directly onto it. I drew a tree and a couple of bird feeder outlines and then added the leaves, conkers, sticks, feathers, bark and acorns that we scavenged yesterday.The activities on the tray are:
1. Write some words onto the paper within the bird feeder outline (I focused on ‘ir’ words to demonstrate but adapt depending on phase). Cover the words with some bird seed and then your child can use a feather to brush away the seeds and reveal a word. They could then record the words they find or you could have a list to tick.
2. Cover the other bird feeder outline with bird seed and then your child could use a finger or stick to practise letter formation.
3. Write graphemes onto some autumn leaves. Your child could then use them to help form the letters in the seeds or build words.
4. Write graphemes onto conkers or acorns with marker pen and your child can build words. You could also write the alphabet onto them if you collect enough and your child could put the letters in order.
5. Use smaller flat sided conkers as sound buttons. You can write the word directly onto the brown paper and place a conker under each grapheme. Your child presses the ‘button’, says the phoneme (sound) and blends all the sounds together to form the word. My son then used all the natural materials in a mud kitchen making soup and potions.

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Werewolf Writing

Another Halloween themed activity. A ‘striking’ sensory writing tray. A different way to engage little learners if they enjoy all things spooky and gruesome at this time of year (my son is definitely a big Halloween fan at the moment) and encourage them to practise letter formation without pencil and paper. Claws crossed 🀞🏻One piece of red card fits nicely into the bottom of a baking tray and I then covered it with dyed rice.

Copyright Phonics Family 2020


A really simple activity that can be used to encourage the recognition of letters, tricky words or names as well as matching capital letters to lowercase. As craft/painting activities go this one is fairly contained and not too messy so a good one if you try to avoid anything that involves too much cleaning up. I got the lower case stamper set from Poundland a week or so ago. I have a similar set from Hobbycraft which I think was around Β£2.Your child simply selects a letter stamp and fills the corresponding letter outline with as many of the little letter stamps as they can. Great fine motor practise for little hands too. When printing the letters in my son’s name we had a chat about the capital at the beginning and what the the lowercase and uppercase letter looked like. This could be a great way to encourage the recognition of capitals and lowercase. Draw some uppercase letter outlines and your child finds, matches and stamps the lowercase letter into the outlines.

Copyright Phonics Family 2020

Colour by Word

An idea as a 10 minute filler if you need to set something up quickly. Choose a page in a colouring book and some objects within the picture with decodable words (suitable for the phase your child is working). Write the word in the colour you want your child to colour the picture. So, for example, write the word ‘truck’ in green. They then need to read the word and select green to colour the picture of the truck.

Images Β© Phonics Family 2020

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