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The kids are jumping up and down. The whole family is about to leave on vacation. Maybe you are flying to a famous amusement park. Perhaps you are driving several hours or days to visit with Grandma and Grandpa. You can make the trip more fun, AND educational as well, by building phonemic awareness.

What is phonemic awareness?

  • The understanding that words are made up of sounds
  • The ability to pick out and manipulate sounds in spoken words

Why is phonemic awareness important?

  • A key to early reading success along with alphabet recognition

How do we build phonemic awareness?

  • By listening to rhymes, rhyming words, poetry, songs and wordplay

jeremy coming up to look at leaf family craft

Here are seven simple games you can play in the car or on the plane:

  1. Read poetry and enjoy lots of rhyming stories. When you reread the stories, pause when you come to the matching rhymes and see if your child can ‘fill in the blanks.’
  2. Play Hink Pink – A Hink Pink is a pair of rhyming words that answer a riddle. For example, a large hog is a Big Pig. For older kids you can play Hinky Pinky (using two syllable words as the answer) a fight over a baby’s toy is a Rattle Battle or Hinkity Pinkity (using three syllable words) such as something frozen in the shape of a riding toy is a bicycle icicle.
  3. Twist Your Tongue – Have fun with tongue twisters like Silly Sally Skates and Slides and Somersaults or Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers! Help your child to make up silly alliterative sentences.
  4. Make up an unusual list – ‘I’m going camping and I’m going to pack a bat, a cat, a rat.’ OR ‘I’m going camping and I’m going to pack a sock, a sleeping bag, a soccer ball, and a sandwich. Do you think I will want a sweater or a jacket?’ Ask your child to suggest some more things for your list. Can your child hear how your words work together?
  5. Play I spy with my little eye, something that begins with /s/ (use the letter sound rather than the letter name)
  6. Clap to the beat of songs and poems
  7. Make up word riddles – what starts with /b/ and rhymes with red?

Picture 054 BVivian Kirkfield, BA, MS is a passionate advocate of early childhood education. She believes that with a positive self-image and a love of books, every child can achieve a life of balance, happiness and meaning. To spread the message that reading picture books with children is one of the most important tasks of parenthood, Vivian wrote Show Me How! Build Your Child’s Self-Esteem Through Reading, Crafting and Cooking, an award-winning parent-teacher resource that provides 100 classic picture book summaries and a simple craft and recipe for each.  She contributes to newspapers, magazines and blogs world-wide at Picture Books Help Kids Soar, writes picture book stories and actively serves the community by providing literacy and self-esteem-building programs for parents, teachers and kids. You can connect with Vivian on Twitter, Facebook, or at