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‘I spy with my little eye… something beginning with s!’

‘Sky?’

‘No.’

‘Sun?’

‘No.’

‘Sock?’

‘No.’

‘Sunglasses?’

‘No.’

‘Oooh sweetheart you have really been thinking hard… I wonder what it could be!’

‘You’ll never guess mummy, you’ll never guess!’

‘Ok then tell me… you clever little sausage you!’

‘Car!!’

‘Sorry?’

‘Car mummy car!’

‘Oh… you’re right sweetheart I never would have guessed.’

Does this sound familiar? I spy is almost a right of passage through childhood isn’t it. A well loved classic but my word those early days of eye spy can be soul destroying cant they. Let me let you into the wonderful world of phonics and spare you the teeth pulling, the trawling letters of the alphabet and the desperate measures of wishing you were a mind reader so you could atleast check the letter you were given is the correct one for the word they are expecting you to spy!

Learning to read and write is an extremely complex process but there are ways as parents you can help to make the process easier. From the earliest ages, if we look at development matters, children should be spoken to, encouraged to use language, should share books regularly, handle them carefully, turn the pages carefully, enjoy songs and rhymes and as they get older, phonics is introduced. Phonics is a way of teaching reading and writing by teaching individual letter sounds and sound blends and there are plenty of ways you can do this at home.

Play I spy. Yes I know I just said you wouldn’t have to do this but bear with me. Phonics is broken down into 6 phases and the first phase which can begin whenever you feel your child is ready from age 2-3 requires your child to differentiate between different sounds and also sound talk. Here you can focus on a range of games. Go on a listening walk and write down all the things you can hear on your journey. Stop in different places throughout the day and close your eyes for 20 seconds. What was the loudest thing your child heard, what was the quietest. Play hide the instrument. This just requires a tray of instruments and a cover of some sort. You play an instrument under the cover and your child has to say which it was. This gets them to distinguish between different sounds and is a great way of engaging them in educational games without them even realising. You can also play sound talking games. We would always begin these games with cvc words, consonant, vowel, consonant. So for example pig, cat, dog, mop, sun, sit, pat, tap, pan, rat, pin, pot, bin. When you play I spy, sound the word out. I spy a  D.  O.  G.  What can I see. This encourages blending and segmenting, a key component in learning to both read and write. You can have some pictures available if you are playing at home or simply play in the car as you are driving along. At first, you may have to almost give them the word by stretching it really clearly e.g ddddoooooogggg. Your child will become better at the game as time goes on and it will happen really quickly. As they become better at the I spy cvc version, get them to sound talk their object back to you with support until eventually, they will be able to do this independently. The great thing about this is that when your child comes to recognise some letter sounds, they will be able to then spell simple words really easily as they have the key skill of blending and segmenting words orally. Just five or ten minutes per day doing these type of activities will help your child’s development massively.

Another key component of phase one phonics is the ability to continue a rhyming string and to know and understand what rhyme is. Reading rhyming stories is great for this, when reading stop before the rhyming word and see if your child can guess what it might be. Again, when they guess reinforce the fact that the word rhymes, it ‘sounds the same!’ When playing this game in the car its important to think carefully about your starting word. Many a time in the classroom we have had to abort the game… nit rhymes very nicely with a few choice words for example and many a time I’ve been in creases as back, sack and crack comes out in perfect sequence. Simple games like Slug in a jug can be great for rhyming pairs and is a really reasonably priced game too. I use the picture cards in the classroom for cvc I spy too so it can be doubled up as a multi use game!

Alliteration is also part of phase one phonics so again, looking at words that start with the same letter or making up superheros with alliterative names is a great idea. Alliteration is when words all begin with the same letter sounds. An example of an alliterative sentence is,

Silly Simon’s Snake Slithers Slowly

Starting off with your child’s name is always a good place to begin e.g. Lovely Lydia, Happy Harry, Jumping Jessica, Gorgeous Gracie. Having an awareness of letter sounds before actually recognising any letter sounds will help your child distinguish different sounds and help them to be one step ahead when they learn to recognise their letter sounds.

There are many other things you can do to raise awareness of reading and words. Look for print in the environment and discuss what it means. Look at shop names and packaging on favourite foods and make a point of reading the words on the labels. Point to the words in the book as you are reading to your child and show them the difference between the words and the pictures.

All of these small activities done a couple of times a week for five or ten minutes here and there will help your child’s phonic development and in turn their reading and writing development too. Remember, your child will learn much more when they are having fun so make all activities short, snappy and play based. For more useful games and activities follow our Facebook page @beautiful.new.beginning