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Fun Ways to Develop Phonological Awareness

What Is Phonological Awareness?

It’s a big term, but it’s really quite basic: phonological awareness is the ability to hear and identify the various sounds in spoken words.

Kids who have strong phonological awareness can do things like rhyme, count syllables, and blend sounds into words. And most important of all, kids with strong phonological awareness learn to read much more easily, making their first attempts at reading more successful. This early advantage sticks with kids as they continue through their school career.

Phonological awareness is so incredibly important that it is one of the Big Five Skills for pre-readers, and it’s one of the first things I work on with children before teaching them to read.

How Phonological Awareness Develops

Kids don’t just pop out of the womb ready to run (although with some kids it may feel that way!). Instead, babies learn to stretch their little limbs, turn over onto their bellies, crawl, and walk–and then, eventually, they are off and running.

In the same way, phonological awareness develops gradually over time. Kids start with the easiest skills–like understanding that spoken language contains words–and then move on to skills like rhyming. Eventually they develop more advanced skills like manipulating sounds and are able to play word games like “Go Find It.”

Quick Check for Phonological Awareness

Here are six skills that indicate that your child is phonologically aware.

Your child is able to rhyme. If you say the word bat, your child can respond with words that rhyme like hat, sat, mat, or flat.


Your child understands word boundaries. If you say the sentence Don’t let the cat out, your child is able to separate the sentence into five individual words.


Your child can clap syllables. If you say dog, your child knows to clap once. If you say umbrella, your child knows to clap three times.


Your child can blend sounds to make a word. If you say the sounds sh…eep, your child can respond and say the word sheep.


Your child can identify the beginning sound in a word. If you ask your child to say the first sound in pig, your child is able to respond with the sound /p/.


Your child can identify the ending sound in a word. If you ask your child to say the last sound in the word jam, your child is able to respond with the sound /m/.

Of course there are more advanced phonological skills, such as segmenting and sound manipulation, but the skills above are the important ones to have before beginning reading instruction.

7 Fun Ways to Develop Phonological Awareness!

If your child hasn’t yet acquired the skills on the checklist above, you can help her develop them through informal activities such as listening to great books and playing oral language games. Here are a few ideas for you!


Go Find It

Play “Go Find It” with your child.

This engaging phonological awareness activity is a great way to help your child learn to identify the beginning sound in a spoken word.


Rhyming Picture Books library list

Read lots of great rhyming picture books!

Head to your local library with my free Rhyming Picture Books Library List and read a few of my favorites with your preschooler.


All About Reading Pre-reading program

Discover five ways to teach rhyming to your preschooler.

In addition to finding lots of great teaching tips, you can also download three sample rhyming lessons from the All About Reading Pre-reading program.


Help the monkeys count syllables in this fun game

Play “Help the Monkeys” to help your child learn how to count syllables.

And visit Fun Ways to Count Syllables to read a blog post loaded with hands-on tips for teaching children this critical reading skill.


List of great nursery rhyme picture books

Share lots of nursery rhymes with your child.

My free downloadable Nursery Rhymes Library List is the perfect resource! Just head to the library and check out a few of my favorites.


downloadable phonemic awareness game

Download our free “Dinner Time” game.

In addition to helping kids practice sound substitution and rhyming, this fun game will provide lots of giggles for kids and parents alike!


Phonological Awareness activities with Ziggy

Have fun In the Kitchen with the Zigzag Zebra!

Download our free activity book and let Ziggy help your child practice rhyming, identifying the first sound of a word, oral blending, and clapping syllables.

One Final Note

I’m a strong believer in letting kids be kids and not pushing academics too early. But I also know from extensive experience that most kids don’t develop reading readiness skills on their own. The All About Reading Pre-reading program strikes a good balance. In about 15 minutes per day (depending on your child’s attention span and abilities), this easy-to-use curriculum helps children develop all five of the Big Five Skills. The program includes crafts, rhyming and word games, alphabet charts, and lots of playful activities. And if you’ve never met Ziggy, you’re in for a treat!

The majority of a young child’s day should be filled with play, real-life activities, and physical exploration. Add in just a touch of daily intentional instruction in the five reading readiness areas (including phonological awareness), and your child will have a huge advantage when it comes time to read.

Do you have questions about phonological awareness? Post in the comments below!

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Renae B

says:

Printed off several resources for my 3 year old. I find great confidence and quality in your resources as I am in level 2 with my older son. I will be glad to have these to use with my younger.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Renae,
We are pleased to hear that you appreciate our resources. Thank you.

Andrea P.

says:

I didn’t realize how much work goes into teaching children to read until my daughter started having trouble in school. I am going to start doing this with my younger two so they have an easier time.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Andrea,
Yes, reading is a much more complex skill than many of us realize. This is because of the curse of knowledge. Most people read so well that we don’t remember all the little skills and steps that go into reading.

Nicole

says:

Robin, your comment about forgetting each of the mini-steps that go into the whole picture of reading is so powerful! It’s good to remember all the little parts that make up the whole. Thanks!

Alison O

says:

❤️ This!!!!

Sarah Hoffman

says:

This looks like a very in depth program for early literacy. I have a younger one that would benefit from a program like this!

Geraldine

says:

Very handy I love it

Aimee

says:

I love these programs, my daughter is reading and so proud!

Terry

says:

I love these ideas. I have a mentally handicapped 9 yr. old grandson and it is my goal to teach him to read at least at a first grade level.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Terry,
Please contact us at support@allaboutlearningpress.com if you need help, have questions, or need anything.

Kathy E.

says:

These are awesome tips to help beginning readers! I will share this site with my niece who has 2 preschoolers and they are ready to learn! Thank you!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Kathy,
You are welcome. I hope your niece and her children enjoy these activities!

Can’t wait to get started with this program!

Elizabeth

says:

Perfect timing! I was just contemplating ways to help my pre-reader flourish. Thanks!

Amanda

says:

Wow! This is just what I need to make our lessons more fun! Thanks for the great ideas!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You are welcome, Amanda!

Dominica

says:

I noticed with my daughters that trying to teach them rhyming too young just didn’t work and made them frustrated, so I set it aside to try again a few months later. For both of them, one day it just clicked and they could hear the rhymes. Reading skills are definitely developmental, so don’t give up if your child is struggling with a skill, just give them some time to grow up a little more and try again.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Dominica,
Yes, of course! While phonological awareness skills can be taught, very young children may not be ready to learn them yet. However, even with very, very young children, you can start laying the ground work for phonological awareness skills by exposing them to language, especially rhyming language. Read rhyming picture books. Sing rhyming songs. Make up silly little rhymes using the child’s name and names of things around them. All of these are joyful for little ones, but lay a foundation that they will build upon later.

Lee Ka

says:

I had no idea about phonological awareness, this article has really helped me to understand and know more about teaching my kids to read. I am sure my kids will be happily playing with the games. I am going to play with them soon.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Lee,
We are very happy to be able to give you new information that will help you help your children become successful readers!

Karly

says:

Great article lots of useful games. D info I can use this school year with my TK daughter! Thank you

Aubrey

says:

I loved this article! It’s so practical. I plan to use these games this fall with my preschooler.
Thanks!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I hope you and your preschooler have fun, Aubrey!

Sarah

says:

Great tips. We did quite a few of these things just for fun without realizing the benefits for pre-reading skills. Good to know that we are on the right track, and that we can incorporate a few more things to help with reading readiness.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Sarah,
Yes, many young children learn many of these skills naturally while having fun. However, some children don’t pick these skills up on their own but can be taught. It is good to keep these skills in mind in the early years, to ensure your child is ready for reading.

Amanda E

says:

We’ve been working on those 5 things with my preschooler and he is starting kindergarten this fall and doing great!

Amy

says:

I will be trying some of these with my almost 4 year old. Maybe even with my struggling 7 year old.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Amy,
Yes, do see how your 7-year-old does on the Quick Check for Phonological Awareness. It is not uncommon for a child to struggle with reading because he or she isn’t strong in a foundational skill. Building up those weak skills can make a big difference.

Brittany W

says:

I love the games. They are really helping my daughter a lot! When she does not understand a concept we come back and try the games again later. Usually after a week or two she has more knowledge and ability to do it!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Brittany,
Thank you for letting us know your daughter is growing in knowledge and ability with our phonological awareness activities!

Holly

says:

Great ideas! Thanks!

Kenia

says:

Thanks for such helpful tips. My son loves them.

Janeen

says:

What a great resource! Thank you!

Olivia

says:

Even though I own learn-to-read programs from two other publishers and my first and second child did well with them, All About Spelling is so good that I decided to try All About Reading as well. It’s noticeably more engaging for both student and teacher than the other programs! My third child will get to enjoy AAR from the very beginning (pre-reading) level.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Olivia,
Thank you for this!

Maria

says:

So grateful for the resources, thank you!

Shelley

says:

Thanks so much for all the really great ideas for preparing my children for learning to read! Will definitely put some into practice.

Melinda

says:

Great Information.

Jennifer Dowen

says:

Thank you for these great ideas to help me teach my 5 year old.

Tabitha H

says:

Thanks for all of the extra tidbits and resources in your emails and. Log posts. I started the pre-reading program with my 4 year old earlier this month, and we both have enjoyed it. Looking forward to more!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You are welcome, Tabitha! If you need anything or have questions, please let us know.

Sherly

says:

I would love to implement this because I think this will help her in long run

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Sherly,
Learning phonological awareness will help your student in the long run!

MaryAnne

says:

I loved using Ziggy with my three year old. It made teaching her fun for both of us.

Roberta Tebussek

says:

Thanks so much for this! It totally makes sense. I believe it will really help prep my child in understanding phonics. :)

Merry

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Roberta! Let us know if you have questions along the way.

Carol

says:

What great information! Thanks!
I just found your curriculum this summer and have started it with several of my kids. They are loving it! Thanks for the dedication to make this a great resource!

Merry

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Carol. Enjoy!

Rhonda

says:

I just began using AAS with my 12 year old daughter. Her spelling is already improving as is her confidence. AAS is a fantastic, well thought out program that works.

Merry

says: Customer Service

That’s great, Rhonda! My son was older when I started him too–it’s never too late!

alyson noto

says:

This is a great resource, thank you!

Jenn Khurshid

says:

This is so helpful! Thank you for these awesome ideas….can’t wait to get started!

Badriya

says:

Amazing ideas..thank you for this

I’m waiting newborn..it is my first little girl
I have saved all this ways for future..I’m enthusiastic to apply the ^^

Merry

says: Customer Service

Congratulations on your little one coming, Badriya!

Shannon

says:

Thank you for this helpful post for those getting ready to teach reading…and your ideas look so fun!

Rebecca Kazort

says:

I have two dyslexic children but both didn’t have any trouble with the sounds of letter even when they couldn’t remember there names. I think that is because we focused on phonic awareness early.

Merry

says: Customer Service

Hi Rebecca,

It sounds like you are doing a great job with your children!

What a valuable resource. Just what i was looking for for my emerging reader. Thanks

Pamela D

says:

Great advice! My 3.5 year old and I practice this daily- and we make it fun! Thank you for the tips!

Merry

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Pamela. Have fun!

Victoria R.

says:

Nonsense words are great to use when working on this skill.

Angie

says:

These are great resources and activities listed! We are using a series of activities this summer to increase the phonemic awareness of our eight year old daughter who is dyslexic. We now have more to add to the list :-) Thank you for the great information!

Merry

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Angie! If you haven’t already, check out our Dyslexia Resources page.

Heather Craig

says:

Thank you for you these ideas. I plan to use them with my 3.5 yr old.

Ann

says:

First time user of AAR and AAS…loving it!

Ashley Johnson

says:

We love AAR! I have found it’s a rich program that demands allot of focus, but I think it will pay off in the end!

Ashley

says:

Great information as a reminder for my almost 3-year-old son, as his brothers are already reading.

Erica

says:

This is perfect for my little one. Thank you. Your products are amazing.

Holly

says:

We love AAR! My third child is using the pre-reading books right now. She just turned 3 and rhymes all day long! :)

DeAnna Martin

says:

Nice website and blog. I have an 8 yr old son who still doesn’t read. I need all the help I can get!
Also, my 4 yr old son shows interest in “sounding out” letters and words.

Merry

says: Customer Service

Hi DeAnna,

We’re glad to help any time. If you have questions, feel free to email us at support@allaboutlearningpress.com

Hesed Fourroux

says:

This is just what I’m looking for for my five year old!

Jessica

says:

Great tips and ideas! My daughter has done great with level one and we will soon be needing level 2! She doesnt hate it! Hoping to win the GC to put toward my level 2 purchase!

Sara Johnson

says:

THis is helpful information as I begin to work on pre-reading skills with my 4 year old!

Judith

says:

Looking forward to learning more about your products.They seem fun and engaging!

Amanda Y

says:

This is great information! I am just starting to teach my son pre-reading skills, so this is perfectly aligned with where I am right now. Thank you!

Monique

says:

The games included in these links are so helpful. I’ll be pulling some out tomorrow for my preschooler and reluctant first grader. Thank you!!

Merry

says: Customer Service

I hope it goes well; enjoy!

Amanda

says:

I really love this. Thank you. It’s nice to have something to work on with my youngest that will legitimately help him but that doesn’t feel like pushing him into letters and reading too young.

Merry

says: Customer Service

Exactly! Have fun!

Austin O

says:

This info is so helpful! I’ve been trying to prepare my 5 year old before I start reading with him. I’m going to implement all of these for his “school”

Melissa

says:

Our preschoolers are always wild with enthusiasm, and All About Reading Pre-Reading helps gauge and build these skills that you list. We are going to try some of the fun games now, too!

Carla

says:

This is the best program ever!!! Specially for little ones that have issues with learning how to read!!!

Judy Dickson

says:

I love you ideas. I am sending them on to my daughter-in-laws so they can help my grandsons get started!

Mrs rasmussen

says:

We did all About Reading pre! It was a lot of fun. My daughter desperately wants to learn to read but she just doesn’t get blending yet. She can do all the other phonological skills but she can’t blend. She ends up picking something that rhymes with the last sounds. She’s only 4, I know it will click in time.

Merry

says: Customer Service

Hi Mrs. Rasmussen,

Yes, she’s young yet–it will come in time! Keep playing the Pre-reading activities with her and the games listed above. The tiles are really helpful for sounding out words–make sure she is pointing to and saying each sound before trying to blend them. Use the steps in the article: Helping Kids Sound out Words: https://blog.allaboutlearningpress.com/sound-out-words/. If you try to have her read the word “map,” and she says a rhyming word like “sap,” show her the words with the tiles–“You said this word: sap.” (show her how to sound it out with the full blending procedure. Then move the S away and put the M back in place.) “Let’s try this word again.” Then walk through the full blending procedure with her. Have fun just playing with the word tiles until it starts to click for her.

Siyen Emmert

says:

Love AAS program!

Cathy

says:

Thanks for the fun ideas!

Julie Hudson

says:

My first grader can do most of these and is reading ok but I’m going to try a few I haven’t done just to make sure:-)!

Julie Hudson

says:

Thank you for all of these wonderful ideas…my first grader can do most and is reading but I’m going to try a few I haven’t done just to make sure:-)!

Merry

says: Customer Service

Have fun with your first grader! If you have any questions or want to talk about a specific reading issue, just let us know.

Crystal

says:

Thank you for another great post with specific details so that busy moms like me can easily put these ideas into place. I’m in this pre-reading stage with many of my children but have hope because my 2 oldest are great readers now. As we get back into the swing of things this school year, I’ll be sure to use your great ideas.

Mary Schramm

says:

Going to give this a good read tonight to use with my Kindergartener tomorrow morning. Thank you!

Eileen

says:

Thank you for this!

Audra Talley

says:

Love these ideas. Can’t wait to try them

Angie Rhodes

says:

This is perfect info for me to have as I start preschool in my triplets. Thank you! Link after link in this blog is so helpful I keep sharing them with the other moms in my group.

Merry

says: Customer Service

Hi Angie,

I’m so glad the blog articles are helpful for you! Have fun doing preschool with your triplets!

Alison D

says:

We completed the pre-reading program and it really helped my kids develop this awareness. We had a get experience with it.

Merry

says: Customer Service

That’s wonderful, Alison :-)

Becky Franke

says:

I like the way these ideas are posted together! I’m going to print them all out and make a fun PA binder I can use with my preschoolers!

Merry

says: Customer Service

Great idea to make a binder, Becky!

Natasha

says:

Thanks for this, I’m starting my 3yr daughter this year. She eager to do school too like her big brothers.

Leisa

says:

I’m going to try some of these with my son. He loves having his own school stuff to do, when he wants to of course.

Dawn

says:

I started AAS with my older boys and loved the program. When my daughter was ready to start reading I started using AAR. I decided to invest a little more and buy Ziggy. That was the best decision! Ziggy quickly became part of everything we were learning. My daughter is now eleven and we still sometimes bring Ziggy out. We love AAR and AAS!

Merry

says: Customer Service

That’s so cute, Dawn! Ziggy does tend to be a hit–and some kids will do things for “Ziggy” that they wouldn’t want to try otherwise. I’m glad your daughter still enjoys Ziggy!

Erica

says:

It seems like phonological awareness and speech articulation are quite similar? I have been working with my 4 year old on his speech (he has difficulty articulating many consonants). We are focusing on specific sounds right now, but I think I will try incorporating these reading readiness skills as well.

Tracy Duncan

says:

My little one will be so excited to have reading games of her own! As she watches big sister learn to read she often wants to play, too.

Kristin

says:

Thank you so much! I have just begun the dyslexia journey with my 9 year old son. This information helps so much!

Merry

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Kristin. Please let us know if you have questions or if we can help in any way as you work with your son. If you haven’t seen it already, check out our Dyslexia Resources page.

AW

says:

My cousin contacted me about her kindergarten aged daughter whose teacher said she wasn’t learning to read well and had trouble rhyming. I told her to read more rhyming books with her daily. I also told her to play fun rhyming games with her in the car. Wish I had this post to share with her when she contacted me.

Tim Matthews

says:

Hi Marie

Loving the series. A question for you on pre-reading and teenagers. I’m interested as to whether you have ever been asked to think about remedial reading and pre reading for teenagers. Fun as these activities are for younger children, I’m not sure the 13 and 14 year olds I’m trying to reach for phonological awareness would be into them. Any ideas?

Regards

Tim

Merry

says: Customer Service

Hi Tim,

Are the students you are working with reading at all yet? Most older students who need to work on reading are able to start higher in our program, but let me know more about your students and their needs–email me at support@allaboutlearningpress.com

Karen

says:

Love it! So easy to do without it being “school”.

MALyssa

says:

Love All About Reading! My son shows some signs of dyslexia and was really frustrated with the whole word approach that worked so well for his older sister but he is reading now! Very first day of level 1 he was reading and loving it. So happy to have found AAR!

Merry

says: Customer Service

That’s wonderful, Malyssa! So happy for you and your son!

Cari Lockwood

says:

So excited to try these things with my littlest one! I like the idea of doing some fun activities that will just feel like play to him… with the added bonus of working toward reading!

Joy Lockwood

says:

I have a prereader in the house so this is great!

Michelle McGrath

says:

Super helpful! Thank you! Wish I had a known this when my daughter was in preschool.

Merry

says: Customer Service

Hi Michelle,

I know what you mean–my oldest especially would have benefitted from these types of activities! Pre-reading would have been great for him.

Julie

says:

Thanks! The Ziggy kitchen activity book has some great ideas my little guy is going to enjoy!

Amy Wheeler

says:

Can’t wait to try this.

Anna Tester

says:

Thank you for the wonderful resources! I look forward to using them with my two youngest.

Great downloads! Can’t wait to try them out with my 3 year old. One of her favorite things to do is sit with a book in her lap and “read” stories she knows. But the stories she “reads” are from other books we’ve read to her. Funny!!

Merry

says: Customer Service

That’s so cute, Malu!

Emily Meyer

says:

Love these ideas and resources!

Shannon

says:

I love all these ways to be more intentional about developing pre-reading skills with my toddler!

Rebecca

says:

I’m commenting to win the gift card

Meagan

says:

I’m using your spelling program with my oldest and we are loving it! I wish I had taught him to read using All About Reading because as he has progressed I’ve discovered a lot of gaps. But I plan on starting that next year with my youngest!

Tricia

says:

This is our second year using AAR & AAS with three of our children. It’s wonderful. Customer service has gone above & beyond each time we have called with a question or request. Thank you.

Merry

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Tricia :-)

Lindsey

says:

My son is loving the phonological awareness activities with Ziggy from Pre-reading.

Andrea Smith

says:

Thanks for the library list for nursery rhymes, great compilation.

Amber

says:

I love reading a book called “Nanny’s Nursery Rhymes” to my preschooler!

Stephanie

says:

Great practical ideas. Thank you.

Elizabeth

says:

After 3 other phonics/ reading programs, I switched to All about Reading . I never thought my son would become such a great reader! He enjoyed the stories in the readers. I can’t recommend this program enough !

Merry

says: Customer Service

That’s wonderful, Elizabeth!

Amanda Ritter

says:

Thanks for the game downloads!

Sara

says:

Phonological Awareness is so important. As a former teacher (before homeschooling) my inner city students had a hard time learning some of these basic reading skills.

Kristin

says:

This came at such a great time! I was just starting to think about preschool prereading practice with my middle 2 kids!

Callie

says:

We’re just finishing with the pre-reading program and I really enjoyed my children’s enthusiasm for each lesson! I started so intimated and appreciated how each lesson approached reading readiness in a simple and fun way where I could see the progress of my kids!

Merry

says: Customer Service

Hi Callie,

I’m so glad that Pre-reading was helpful for you and your children! Enjoy AAR 1!

Cynthia Hochstetler

says:

My son struggles with Dyslexia and I am excited to try All About Reading with him. We used All About Spelling last year and it was very helpful for him.

Merry

says: Customer Service

Hi Cynthia,

That’s great that All About Spelling helped your son. Please let us know if you ever have any questions–we’d be glad to help. If you haven’t already, check out our Dyslexia Resources page.

Becki P

says:

I don’t have any questions, but we didn’t start at the PreReading with my oldest…my youngest is now ready to get started and we have begun with prereading. I really appreciate this method and how well it works. Thank you!

Mercy

says:

Thanks a lot. I will use some of the tips with my pre schoolers.

Jennifer

says:

I’m going to try some of these activities with my preschooler.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Jennifer,
Please let us know how your preschooler enjoys this.

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