Fun Phonics Games to Help your Child Learn to Read

Fun Phonics Games to Help your Child Learn to Read


Busy Things hosts over 900 award-winning educational games and activities for children between the ages of 3 and 11. A wide range of subjects are covered including maths, literacy, science, coding and phonics. The phonics area is designed to help parents teach their children to read. Our fabulous collection of over 60 phonics games are all designed around the government-endorsed Letters and Sounds programme. If you play our phonics games at home you will be supporting your child’s reading and spelling at school!

Phonics speak

To get the most out of our games you are going to need to understand some the basic phonics terminology. These are terms used by teachers and children alike, so don’t be scared to use them with your child.

Phonemes – the separate sounds that make up words.

A phoneme can be made up of one letter –  ‘s’ or ‘p’ , two letters –  ‘sh’ or ‘ph’ or even three or more letters – ‘igh’ or ‘our’.

Graphemes – the written letters that represent a phoneme.

Grapheme Phoneme Correspondence – this basically describes a phoneme and it’s matching grapheme together, and is usually abbreviated by teachers to ‘GPC’.

If you would like to become a Phonics geek you can read more about the technical side of phonics and its teaching in our blog How Playing Phonics Games can Improve your Child’s Reading.

Phonics games hosted by Dog and Cat

Within our phonics area, our characters Dog and Cat are your hosts, who, through crazy antics and a quirky sense of humour, lead children through the entire process of learning to read. At the start, they gently ease children into listening for the difference between all kinds of sounds. This helps to prepare the way for discrimination between the specific sounds that make up the words we speak.

Starting with ‘s’, Dog and Cat lead you through the full set of letters and sounds that are in the English language, all the while enabling children to read and spell whole words with the letters and sounds they are learning.

 This means that children are becoming fluent in the mechanics of reading and writing even before they have learnt all the letters and their sounds.

Developing listening skills

To begin, our games get children interested in listening for differences in sounds – and for discriminating between the sounds within individual words.

Our early games invite children to listen carefully to animal sounds, instrumental sounds  and even sounds such as stamping and clapping.

‘Digging for Cat’ teaches children to listen carefully and recognise changes in sounds.
  Cat is hiding under the polystyrene pellets! The sound coming from Dog’s flashing detector hat changes according to how close he is to Cat. The sound increases in volume, pitch and tempo the closer he gets. If the children listen carefully, they will be able to uncover Cat!

Introducing letters and their sounds

Children progress from listening carefully to every day sounds to listening to letter sounds.

In this game, the green monster says a word that contains three sounds (phonemes) and displays the word on his board. The hats each contain a sound, which the child must match to what the green monster says. With each sound correctly matched, Dog colours in a third of the picture.
”Build the word’ helps children learn the first letter sounds (phonemes).
‘Sound Seek’ helps children learn the written representation (grapheme) of a sound (phoneme).

In Sound Seek, Cat magically introduces and demonstrates the writing of new letters (graphemes). The matching sound (phoneme) is contained in one of the boxes. The child must find the sound that matches the letter or letters.

Building simple words

In Scribble and Spell, Dog carefully paints a picture that represents a word.  The child must try to build the word from the available letters (graphemes).
‘Scribble and Spell’ helps children begin to construct simple words.

Uh-oh! There’s more than one way to spell the same sound!

Once the full range of letters and sounds are in the bag – and only then – Dog and Cat, hold your hand as they introduce the ground-breaking idea that is accepted by us fluent English speakers, that there is more than one way to spell the same sound, and that some sounds can be pronounced in more than one way! New spellings of sounds already learnt are slowly introduced until your child is equipped to deal with new words with confidence.

In this whack-a-mole game, splat all the words that contain the target sound (phoneme), regardless of the spelling, in this case ‘ai’.
‘Cat Splat’ asks children to identify different spellings of the same sound.
‘Monster Cannon’ asks children to find the correct sound for a given letter (phoneme) in a given word.
In Monster Cannon, find the correct sound (phoneme) for the target letter (grapheme) to launch the monster out of the cannon. Is it ‘y’ as in ‘yoghurt’ or ‘igh’ as in ‘fly’ or even ‘ee’ as in ‘hairy’?

Some words are just plain tricky!

All the way through, children are introduced to a few common words that are do not use the letters and sounds they have learnt so far. This means they can begin making captions and sentences. These common words are dubbed ‘tricky’ words by teachers because they are hard to ‘decode’ into the sounds learn’t so far. Dog and Cat have a number of games that focus of practising these tricky words and composing and reading whole sentences.

In Words And Wigs, listen to the word the cardboard robot says and pick it out from the words Cat is holding. If you’re right the robot will produce a comedy wig. This game builds familiarity with those more difficult common words.
‘Words and Wigs’ introduces common words that can be difficult to learn.

Building simple sentences

‘Make a Caption’ gets children to construct simple sentences.
As children develop more confidence they can begin to build sentences from words that are becoming familiar to them.

Fun with words – homophones and compound words

In ‘Compound cutting’ children can make two words from one.
Once their reading becomes more fluent and words become less scary children can move on to enjoying and playing with words. They can have fun with exploring and recognising homographs (‘row’ as in boat and ‘row’ as in argue) and homophones (‘right’ and ‘write’) and recognising compound words such as ‘teatime’, ‘beanstalk’ and drainpipe’.

Try Busy Things phonics games for free

Busy Things  hosts over 60 award-winning phonics activities to help you teach your child to read. In addition to phonics, we have a huge selection of activities and games exploring other subjects, including English, Maths, Science, Geography, History, Coding and Art. You can start supporting your child’s learning today, by trying Busy Things for free!

Learn more about phonics teaching methods in our blog How Playing Phonics Games can Improve your Child’s Reading.

For top tips to help your child enjoy reading head to our blog: How to enjoy reading: 10 ways to encourage children to love reading.

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