Before our kids started school, we didn’t know what phonics was.

Then we found out it was letter sounds. And we wondered why everyone doesn’t call it that instead of confusing our children (and us!) with a word that even has a mysterious ‘ph’ sound at the start of it. Rant over. Here are five helpful tips that make learning phonics letter sounds a doddle.

Know their level: If your child has just started in reception they’ll begin by listening to and making the sounds for these letters: s a t p i & n.

Play a game where they hear the sound, say the sound and do an action. For example, pretend to be a s-s-s-snake and s-s-slither on the floor. Or say something s-s-s-silly – like sardine sandwiches! They might t-t-t-tut to stop you trying to tap their teeth. Or p-p-p-parp like a parrot on the p-p-p-potty!

Learn the alphabet sounds: It’s helpful to listen to the sounds that each letter of the alphabet makes, as these are different to the letter names. This really useful song on the CBeebies website does this for you, so you can make a cup of tea while they grow their brains. There’s also a great Alphablocks sticker poster in CBeebies magazine (on sale until 4th October) showing each letter with the sound it makes.

Building blocks: Once they know the sounds, they’re ready to start making words. It’s useful to write the sounds for them on little squares of paper, which they can use to physically build the words. Unfortunately the first sounds they learn (s a t p i & n) combine to make some pretty dull words, so we’ve added some fun actions too!

tap – turn on the tap and make a big splash!
pin – pretend to poke mummy or daddy with a pin (we said Pretend!)
pat – play pat-a-cake and try to get your hand on top of another person’s, while they try to do the same.
sit – sit, jump up, and sit down again as fast as you can

High frequency words
There are some words that crop up again and again, and it’s useful for your child to learn these as complete words so they’ll recognise them when reading. The first ones they’ll learn are: a, it, at, as, an, in, is
Try a treasure hunt, where they look for these words at home. Then write them out and decorate them, so you can put them on a wall where they’ll see them every day.

Introduce more sounds: Once they’re feeling confident with their first sounds (s a t p i & n), you can start to introduce more. The next group of sounds they learn are: m d g o c k & ck.

Try repeating activities 1 and 3 with these new sounds. The great news is they can make some more interesting words – like dog, and sock!

This game on the CBeebies website is great for this level, too.

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