5 Effective Ways to Approach Phonics for Preschoolers
by Mary Follin
If you’re thinking phonics for preschoolers is a bit young, think again! The beauty of phonics is that it’s actually a pretty simple concept, one that most small children can easily learn. What makes it more (or less) effective is how you approach it. Lessons should be age-appropriate, ‘bite-sized,’ and fun.
And don't worry if you've never taught phonics before. There's a misconception that phonics is a complicated field of study, making it tough for parents to learn how to teach it. While the study of phonics can be quite complex, what you need to know about phonics to teach reading is pretty straight forward.
So easy, even a child can do it! Take a look at the 5 effective ways of approaching phonics for preschoolers, and I think you'll see what I mean.
5 Ways to Approach Phonics for Preschoolers
1) One of the simplest ways to teach phonics for preschoolers is to play rhyming games and sing songs with repeating sounds. This will create ‘phonemic awareness’ for your child, enabling him or her to identify individual letter sounds or sound patterns. For example, “Sally sells seashells by the seashore,” or “Wee Willie Winkie runs through the town, upstairs and downstairs in his nightgown.” In this one, you've got all the 'w' sounds, plus town, down, and gown.
2) Beyond singing and rhyming, you can become more intentional about your ‘phonics for preschoolers’ activities. Show your child a letter and tell her the sound. Then act it out! What can a preschooler do with the sound of the letter ‘b’? You might be surprised. Jumping up and down (b, b, b), clapping (b, b, b), flapping wings (b, b, b)—any number of body movements will bring the sounds of letters to life. The idea here is to introduce a fun way to have your child focus on a letter and its associated sound.
3) Use colored chalk to draw letters on the sidewalk—big ones. Have your child ‘walk’ the letters, tracing them with his feet while reciting the sound. Don’t hesitate to tell your child each sound if he doesn’t know it; internalizing the correct sounds takes practice.
4) Point out letters and sounds throughout the day on road signs, billboards, menus, grocery items—the list goes on. You will quickly find the tables turning, where your child is pointing out sounds to you.
5) Finally, you can take a more structured approach to phonics for preschoolers. Many children are ready to learn how to read by age three, and as long as you keep lessons to a minute or two, you can work your way through the alphabet and introduce one letter at a time. The key here is to make sure you don’t introduce a new letter until your child instantly recognizes all the preceding ones, or he may get frustrated.
Phonics for preschoolers is an important early learning step. By helping your child develop phonics skills at such an early age, you will find that learning how to actually read will come more easily to him or her. And you can never go wrong teaching your child phonics for preschoolers in the early years, as long as you let your child set the pace.
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Founder and developer of Teach Your Child to Read™, Mary Follin was a systems engineer with IBM early in her career. In that capacity, she wrote software manuals to make complex systems easy to use. She has worked in a variety of industries: market research, product design, service innovation, and multiple professional services firms. She is also the author of Ethyr, winner of the the Moonbeam Children's Book Award and the Gertrude Warner Book Award. Mary currently writes a column, along with Erika Guerrero, titled ASK MOM, an advice column featured every other Friday in Fredericksburg Parent & Family magazine. ASK MOM won a 2021 Parenting Media Association award.