Want your child to get lost in the wonderful world of books? Children on the road to being successful readers are often exposed to the English language long before they pick up their first story. It’s always beneficial to have lots of conversations and reading time with your child, but the number one predictor of reading success in young children, according to experts, is phonemic awareness.

"Phonemic awareness is the knowledge of words as a combination of a series of sounds,” says Deanna Zerr, Early Childhood Consultant and owner of Unlimited Options. “Parents can play sound games anywhere for a fun and educational interaction with their children."

Try these phonemic games with your child the next time you’re waiting in line, riding in the car or eating lunch!

Hearing Games

Matching Sounds: Say any word and have your child help you identify the beginning sound. Ask him to think of other words that begin with the same sound. For example, if the word is dog, say /d/ and look for other words, like door, doughnut and doctor.

Beginning Sounds: Say a series of words with the same beginning sound and ask your child to identify that sound. This promotes understanding of a sound rather than a letter.

Same and Different: Say two with the same beginning sound and one with a different beginning sound, and ask your child to identify the one that doesn’t fit.

Ending Sounds: After your child has mastered beginning sounds, you can move on to ending sounds. This is harder to pick out, but the challenge is fun. 

Word Construction Games

Build a Word: Give your child the sounds in a word and ask him to combine them to discover the meaning. For example, ask him what word the sounds /c/ /a/ /t/ makes.

Break it Down: Give your child a simple three letter word, and have him break down its individual sounds. For example, ask him what sounds make up the word dog.

Sound Games

After your child is familiar with hearing the individual sounds in words, he can manipulate sounds in a playful way, using real or make believe words in these activities.

Replacing Sounds: Say a word and ask your child to remove the first sound and replace it with a new sound. For example, remove the /c/ in “cat” and replace it with /h/ for an accessory that goes on your head.

Sound Addition: Say a word and then ask your child to add an additional sound to the beginning of the word. For example, add /b/ to the beginning of “rake” for a new object that cars have to slow down.

Sound Subtraction: Ask your child to remove a sound from the beginning of a word to create a new one. For example, “smile” without /s/ is “mile”, ”great” without /g/ is “rate” and “snail” without /n/ is “nail.”

Although it may seem complicated at first, phonemic awareness comes easy when you start playing around with sounds in words. These fun language games will instill a love of language and learning in your child and build a foundation for reading success!