Next you probably want to help them ‘blend’ the letter sounds together to make short words.
This is a fun and interactive way to explore phonics blending. Your child can learn how to sound out simple rhyming words.
In this activity you can:
- write out words in muffin trays and write letters onto play balls.
- fish out the correct letter play ball, practising letter recognition.
- place it onto the correct letter in the muffin tin, practising letter matching.
- sound out each letter, practising the phonics or letter sounds.
- connect the sounds together into words, learning letter blending.
You can adapt this phonics play game to your child’s age and ability.
For example for older children you may not need to write the letters in the bottom of the muffin tray.
Instead allow them to spell out the word from scratch using the play balls.
Time: 10 minutes
Ages: Little kids to Big kids
Difficulty to set up: Easy peasy
Skill: Phonics blending and word spelling
You will need:
- Muffin tray
- Black Sharpie
- Plastic balls
- Toy fishing net or soup ladle
- Clear plastic storage box or large bowl
Step 1: Write out Words on Your Muffin Tray
Using a black Sharpie pen, write letters onto the inserts of your muffin tray.
Each 3 letter word can be a simple rhyming word – such as cat, mat, bat and hat.
Adapt this to any rhyming words that your child is learning. Such as net, pet, bet and set. Or hot, not, lot and pot.
The pen marks can be removed by wiping the inserts with rubbing alcohol.
If you prefer you can cut out circles of card. Write the letters onto those instead and place them in your muffin tin.
Step 2: Write Letters on Your Plastic Balls
Using a Sharpie pen again, write letters onto your plastic play balls.
We used a set of soft play balls we bought cheaply online. You could also use ping pong balls if you like.
Step 3: Fish for Letters
Place all the lettered balls in a plastic tub. You can add water if you like so that they float about.
Now ask your child to look at the first letter in the muffin tin. Can they find the matching letter on a play ball and fish it out of the tub?
Once they have ‘caught’ the right letter they can place it on top of the matching letter in the muffin tray. Say the letter sound out loud together.
Then you can ask them to fish for the other letters to complete the first word.
Step 4: Blend the Letter Sounds to Read the Word
Once your child has the first three letters in place, ask them to say the sounds of each letter.
Say the sounds slowly at first, then faster and faster until they blend into one sound:
‘c-c-c’ ‘a-a-a’ ‘t-t-t’
Repeat the activity for the next word in the muffin tin. Find the matching play balls and line them up in the correct position to make the next word.
Sound out the letters then read out the word. This one should be easier as it’s a rhyming word.
Extending this Phonics Play Ball Game
You can adapt this activity to help your child sound out any set of rhyming words.
As they learn combined letter sounds like ‘ee’ and ‘ou’ you could play the activity using words with these sounds in them.
Write sets of words with the same vowel digraph ending on your muffin tray – such as see. bee, tee and fee.
You could also challenge your child to fish out, place and then sound out a mixed set of words – such as pit, pot, pet and pat.
Use this activity for whatever stage your child is at or to practise any new phonics sounds they are learning.