Activities to Teach Phonemic Awareness

Are you looking for ways to help your little one start to learn phonemic awareness?

Phonemic awareness is a critical skill for literacy development and can be taught at home with the right activities.

This blog post will provide practical activities to teach phonemic awareness in a fun and engaging way.

Activities to teach phonemic awareness featured image of 5 grade school kids gathered around a book

What is phonemic awareness?

Phonemic awareness is the ability to identify, think about, and manipulate individual sounds (known as phonemes) in spoken words.

It’s a critical component in learning to read. Children with strong phonemic awareness are better able to recognize and blend sounds in words and use this knowledge to decode unfamiliar words.

As a result, they can become more fluent readers.


Why is phonemic awareness so important?

Phonemic awareness is a crucial part of learning to read and spell.

It helps children recognize the individual sounds in words and how they can be combined to create words (letter-sound relationships).

It also helps kids sound out unfamiliar words and better understand what they are reading. Knowing the individual sounds in a word and how to combine them allows children to figure out which letters to use for each sound to help them spell more accurately.

Phonemic awareness also helps children develop their vocabulary.

What is the best way to teach phonemic awareness?

The best way to teach phonemic awareness is to start with simple phonemic activities such as rhyming, syllable segmentation, and alliteration.

These activities help children to recognize and distinguish individual sounds and syllables, which are the building blocks of language.

Reading aloud to children is also a great way to introduce them to phonemes, as they can hear and practice the different sounds. As they progress, turning to some of the best learn to read programs can provide a structured and efficient way to enhance their reading skills and comprehension.

Additionally, children can gain a deeper understanding of their phonological awareness skills through games and activities.


Phonemic awareness strategies


Rhyming activities help children to recognize and identify sounds, word patterns, and word families.

These activities help children to understand that words that sound alike may have similar spellings and meanings.

Rhyming activities such as:

  • Nursery rhymes
  • songs, poems
  • alliteration
  • word games 

Help children become aware of the sounds in words. Picture books can also be used to encourage children to identify rhyming words.

  • Children can practice rhyming by playing games like “I Spy” or “What Rhymes?”. In these games, children can identify and match words that rhyme.
  • Repetitive rhymes and songs help children to learn how to recognize and produce the same sound.
  • Reading rhyming books together can help children practice rhyming and recognize rhyming patterns.
  • Word family activities can help children to recognize and manipulate phonemes. For example, children can practice identifying and producing the “at” word family by saying words like “cat,” “hat,” and “mat.”

In addition to helping children practice recognizing and manipulating phonemes, these activities can also help them to develop their overall literacy skills.

Sound isolation and identification

Sound isolation activities in phonemic awareness involve isolating individual sounds in words (e.g., /b/ in “bat”).

These activities are essential for helping children understand that words are made up of individual sounds (phonemes). Sound identification activities involve identifying the same sound in different words (e.g., /b/ in “bat” and “bed”).

This can include activities where children identify the:

  • beginning,
  • middle,
  • and end sounds in words.

These activities also help children understand that the same sound can be represented by different letters.


Blending activities help young learners combine individual sounds into a word.

In blending activities, the teacher or parent typically starts by saying a word’s individual phonemes (the smallest sound units).

For example, if the word is “cat,” the teacher will say /k/ /a/ /t/ and then ask the student to combine the sounds to make the word.

Blending activities can be done in a variety of ways, such as:

  • Flashcards: Create flashcards that feature individual sounds and ask the student to combine them to make words.
  • Sound Matching: Match individual letters with the sounds they make.
  • Rhyming: Create rhymes with words that have similar sounds and ask the student to identify the words.
  • Word Puzzles: Create puzzles that involve matching individual sounds to words.


Segmentation activities are designed to help children learn how to break words into individual sounds or phonemes.

This is a critical skill for reading and spelling as it further develops sound identification. Incorporating sound boxes for phonics into these activities can enhance children’s understanding and mastery of sound segmentation and identification.

Syllable segmentation involves breaking down a word into its individual syllables.

For example, “cat” can be broken down into two syllables “ca” and “t.”

This activity helps children understand how syllables are put together to create words.

The next type of segmentation activity is called phoneme segmentation. This involves breaking down words into individual phonemes or sounds.

For example, “cat” can be broken down into three phonemes: /k/, /a/, and /t/.

This activity helps children understand how different sounds are combined to create words. 

The key difference between segmentation and blending activities is the child’s direction with the sounds. In segmentation activities, the child breaks words down into individual sounds. In contrast, the child combines individual sounds in blending activities to create a word.

Phoneme Categorization

Phoneme categorization is activities in which students are asked to identify the odd sound in a sequence of words.

For example, a teacher might present students with a sequence such as “cap, man, can” and ask them to identify which word does not belong. In this case, the answer would be “man” because it does not follow the “ca” letter-sound pattern.

This can also be done with syllables or phonemes.

Phoneme Substitution

Phoneme Substitution activities involve replacing one sound in a word with another to create a new word.

For example, if the word “cat” is given, the child might be asked to substitute the /c/ sound with the /b/ sound to create the word “bat.”

This helps kids increase awareness of the sounds that make up words and how to manipulate them to form new words. It also helps them to understand the relationship between the sounds and the meaning of the words.

Phoneme Substitution activities are a great way to help children develop their phonemic awareness skills.

Phoneme Deletion

Phoneme deletion activities involve having children listen to a word and then delete one of the sounds in the word.

For example, if a child hears the word “cat,” they would delete the “c” sound, and the new word would be “at.” 

These activities should begin with words with only two sounds and progress to more complex words as the child gains proficiency.

Children can also learn to recognize and produce new words through phoneme deletion activities.

By deleting sounds from words, the child will begin to understand the relationship between sounds and words and be able to create new words when given the appropriate word building blocks.

This is an integral part of reading and writing development and can help the child to become a more proficient reader and writer.

Phoneme Addition

Phoneme addition activities involve adding a single phoneme to a word.

For example, if a student is given the word “at,” they would be asked to generate words that result from adding a single phoneme, such as “cat,” “bat,” or “mat.”

These activities help students practice hearing and manipulating phonemes.

Phoneme addition activities are designed to help students practice manipulating individual phonemes and build an understanding of how words are constructed. These activities can be used in the classroom or at home and can be tailored to different ages and skill levels.

For example, younger students might use pictures to help them identify the target words. Whereas older students might be asked to generate longer words with specific phonemes. 

Phonemic awareness activities for preschoolers

Phonemic awareness activities for preschoolers should focus on helping them become familiar with the sounds of language.

Activities such as rhyming games, word-building exercises, and talking about the beginning sounds of words can help preschoolers start to recognize and manipulate the sounds of spoken language. Understanding why phonological awareness is important is pivotal, as it underscores the role these activities play in enhancing a child’s ability to read, spell, and comprehend text efficiently.


Phonemic awareness activities for kindergarten

Kindergarteners are ready to move beyond just recognizing sounds to manipulating them.

Activities focusing on segmenting and blending sounds, such as clapping out syllables and blending words together, can help children build phonemic awareness.

Additionally, games that involve rhyming and manipulating sounds can also be helpful.


Phonemic awareness activities for older students

At this stage, children are ready to move beyond just recognizing and manipulating sounds to manipulating larger language units.

Activities such as syllable deletion, syllable substitution, and word blending can help children practice manipulating words. Identifying and counting syllables, rhyming words, and segmenting and blending words can also be helpful.


Fun, fast and free phonemic awareness activities and games

I Spy

I Spy is an interactive game that helps children recognize and blend sounds to form words.

In the game, the teacher or parent presents a picture or object and says, “I spy with my little eye something that starts with (the sound of the letter).”

The child must identify the object the parent is describing and name it.

1. Start by finding a place to play where your child can easily observe items around them (for example, the living room).

2. Explain the game to your child. Tell your child that you’re going to “spy” items that start with a specific sound, and they have to guess what the item is.

3. Choose a sound to start with. It can be any sound in the alphabet, but it’s best to start with a sound that’s easy to identify, like “m” or “b” .

4. Look around the room and find an object that starts with the sound you chose. For example, if you chose the “m” sound, you could point to a mop or a mug.

5. Once you’ve found an object, tell your child the sound it starts with and let them have a guess. For example, you could say, “I spy with my little eye something that starts with the “m” sound.”

6. If your child guesses correctly, praise them and move on to the next sound. If not, give them a hint until they guess correctly.

I Spy can be played with a variety of different objects and pictures, so it is an activity that can be used in any classroom or home setting.

I Spy is an effective teaching tool that can be used to help children develop phonemic awareness. It encourages children to think critically, use their problem-solving skills, and build their language and literacy skills.

It’s a fun game that is sure to keep children entertained while they learn.

Clap it out

Clap it out is a great game for helping children develop their phonemic awareness.

To play the game, have your child sing any song or nursery rhyme, such as “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.” As your child sings, have them clap with the different syllables.

Encourage your child to clap loudly and enthusiastically to make it more fun.

This activity helps children become aware of syllables in words and how to segment them. It also helps them understand and identify the sounds in words, which is a critical component of phonemic awareness.

Additionally, it can help them learn and recognize words more quickly and become more confident in speaking and reading.

Mystery Bag

The Mystery Bag game is a fun way of helping children develop their phonemic awareness.

It involves placing small items in a bag along with plastic letters corresponding to each item’s initial sounds.

To start the game, the child should take turns pulling out an item from the bag and placing it in the correct phoneme column.

For example, if the child pulls out a pencil, they should find the letter ‘p’ and put the pencil in the column with the letter ‘p.’

Once the items have been identified and placed in the corresponding column, the child can practice saying each column’s sounds.

This helps to reinforce the letters and sounds associated with each item.

The Mystery Bag game is an excellent way of assisting children in developing their phonemic awareness in a fun and engaging way. It expands their knowledge of letter-sound associations and helps them to learn new words.

Rhyming games

Playing rhyming games can help children become familiar with how words sound and relate to one another.

To play a rhyming game, start by asking your child to think of a word that rhymes with a specific word.

For example, you might say, “I’m thinking of an animal that rhymes with “hat.”
Can you guess the animal?”
Your child might answer, “cat,” “rat,” or “bat.”

You can also take the game out of the house and into the car.

This game can also turn into a silly game of nonsense rhymes. For example, ask your child, “What rhymes with tree stump?”
Your child might answer, “bump clump.”

Even though these words don’t make sense together, they do rhyme, which helps your child practice phonemic awareness.


Build your child’s reading skills with fun activities for teaching phonemic awareness

In conclusion, teaching phonemic awareness to your child is an essential step in a child’s literacy development.

By engaging in fun activities such as playing rhyming games, playing with words and sounds, and introducing new books and stories, you can help your child build their reading skills, improve their phonemic awareness, and have a lot of fun in the process.