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5 Phonics Reading Games for Your 3-6 Year Old

reading-gamesby Sarah Forrest || 2 Mar 2017

Looking for fun reading games to help your beginner reader learn?

The basis for strong reading skills is phonics. Many children struggle because phonics is abstract, so they turn to sight-memorizing whole words because it feels easier. That leads to reading difficulties and guessing habits. Playing phonics-based reading games with your 3-6 year old is a great way to get them on the right path with their reading skills. For info on our online learning games for beginners, click here.

The phonics-based reading games

1. Phonetic I Spy Game – Play the classic game using the starting sound rather than the letter. “I spy with my little eye something that begins with ch…”

2. Word Blending Game – Pick a word for your child to break apart and blend back together again. For example, you say the word “cut”. They say “kuh, uh, tuh. Cut.” Then it’s their turn to give you a tricky word to decode and reblend. Trade turns for a minute until you’ve each done a few words each.

3. Onset Match Game – Ready for a challenge? This is tricky! Pick a word. Now ask your child to say a word that starts with the final sound of your chosen word. So “cut” might lead to “tray”. Then you do the same for their word. “Tray” might lead to “ape”. Then “ape” to “pasta” and so on.

4. Rhyme Match Game – You and your child can take turns picking words that rhyme. When you run out of rhymes, you can pick a word with the same starting sound to start rhyming with. See how far you can go before you get stuck! “Hand, stand, land, look, book…”

5. Try a games-based reading system – DM Ed’s two reading programs for ages 3-5 and 6-11 have online versions of helpful phonics games, mixed with targeted reading practice. Or find a reading games app for your phone.

Why phonics?

Research has shown that phonics is the best way to learn how to read. The other method sometimes taught is whole word sight-reading. This involves using context clues to guess the most likely word, and practicing words using flashcards for memorization.

The reason whole word sight-reading fails is that the visual memory wasn’t designed to hold hundreds of thousands of squiggly black lines. So around age 7 or so, reading ability collapses using this method.

The right way to read is through phonics. That’s because our alphabet contains letters that represent sounds. Each letter is a sound-cue for how to pronounce the word.

But, you might say, English is so tricky and irregular! One vowel can have 10 different sound pronunciations! And you’re right. But that doesn’t mean sight-reading is the answer. We recommend using the DM Trainertext method, or another visual phonics system to help a child pick up the different letter-to-sound matchings quickly and easily. No flashcards, no lists of phonics rules – easy, and fun!

Have a game you like to play with your beginner reader? Leave a comment and let us know!