Around age two-and-a-half to three, your child becomes aware that words are made up of individual sounds. This skill is called phonemic awareness.
“Phonemic” comes from the word “phonics,” which means sounds. When you help your children become aware of the individual sounds in words, you are helping them develop a very important skill for reading success.
Remember, children have an innate ability for language development, and so phonemic awareness can be created in such an easy way that you could even call it “child’s play.” No teaching required, just fun and games.
One of the activities, or games, that you can do with your child is the I Spy Game. This is played very much like the game you used to play as a child where you said, “I spy something green.”
To help create phonemic awareness, you are going instead to say, “I spy something that begins with the ‘b’ sound.”
The challenge is to know how to make the “b” sound. Here’s how. The letter name for “b” is pronounced “bee.” The sound of “b” is more like “buh.”
Try saying the word “ball” and stopping yourself after you get the “b” sound out. The “uh” part of “buh” is very, very soft, and if you can say it without any “uh” sound, that is even better.
The variations of the I Spy Game are endless, and you can play it on the spur of the moment. For this reason, it is a great car and restaurant game. You can play with parts of the body, clothing, names, things in a room, etc. Just remember that the object of the game is to help your child learn to hear individual sounds in words. He or she can’t win or lose! Only learn phonemic awareness.
To play the game, you might say, “I spy something that begins with the ‘n’ sound.” Your child says, “Tree!” Instead of saying, “No, you’re wrong,” kindly say, “Tree starts with a ‘t’ sound.”
I’m thinking of something on your face that begins with an “n.” You can even point to your nose! If your child still doesn’t say the word nose, touch your nose and say, “I was thinking of nose.”
Remember the object is to create awareness of sounds in a fun way that assures success. Play the I Spy Game every day. As your child progresses, make the game more challenging by doing ending sounds. “I spy something that ends with a “t.” ” Yes, it’s ‘cat.’”
Internal sounds are the most difficult to hear so do them last. “I spy something with an ‘o’ sound.” “Yes, I was thinking of “dog.” You will be amazed how quickly your child can hear the different sounds of our language.
Your child will take this skill of phonemic awareness along with letter/sound recognition and become a successful reader.
Here is a list of words whose initial sounds will help you make the sounds of each letter.