An important precursor to both reading and writing is learning to identify the sounds in words and to match the sounds with the corresponding letters. When your child begins to read, being able to correctly identify the sound made by the first letter of each word will help him figure out what the word says. Also, when your child begins to write words and sentences, he needs to be able to hear the word in his head, isolate each sound and assign the correct letter to each sound before he can write the word on the page.
Games are fun, interactive ways to reinforce learning. In particular, memory games where players take turns turning over two cards at a time looking for a matching pair of cards have basic rules that are easy for young children to follow.
Children are able to hear and isolate beginning sounds in a word before they can hear sounds in the middle or at the end of a word. So, start by challenging your child with a memory game that focuses on matching two words that begin with the same sound.
Each worksheet includes 8 sets of pictures that begin with the same initial sound, such as bee and bed. (For this game, your child does not need to know which letter represents the sound. He will simply be practicing listening to and isolating the first sound in each word.)
Start by showing your child a pair of cards that begin with the same sound. Say aloud the name of the picture on each card and explain why the cards make a pair. Then check your child’s understanding by turning all of the cards face-up and asking him to match all 8 pairs, explaining to you why each pair goes together.
When your child is able to consistently identify the matching pairs, begin the memory game with 8 cards (4 matching pairs). Turn all 8 cards face-down on the table and take turns with your child selecting two cards, hunting for a matching pair. When either player picks a matching pair, they get to keep the two cards and take another turn. If a player picks two cards that do not match, the cards are turned back over and the game continues. You can gradually increase the number of cards you are playing with as your child’s familiarity with the game increases.
Once your child is able to easily play this game, consider using the cards to create additional games. For example, take turns picking cards from the pile and listing as many words as you can think of that begin with the same sound as the picture on the card. The player that lists the most words in 30 seconds wins.
When your child is able to consistently identify matching pairs of words that begin with the same sound, challenge him to match letters with the beginning sound in words.
As with the first set of memory games, start with all the cards face-up to ensure your child understands how to match each letter with the correct picture. Play the game a few times with the cards face-up, taking turns selecting matching pairs.
As you play with your child, remind him to say aloud the name of each picture (rather than just think it in his head) so that he can actually hear the initial sound of each word. And when he selects a letter card, encourage him to say aloud the sound that letter makes, which will help him when hunting for the matching picture card.
You can help your child further develop the ability to match letters with the sounds they make by playing other simple games during idle moments. For example, when riding in the car or waiting for an appointment, say aloud two or three words that begin with the same sound and ask your child to tell you which letter makes that sound. Or, say aloud a letter and ask your child to give you a short list of words that start with the sound of that letter.
To learn more about why being able to identify the sounds made by each letter and match words that begin with the same sound is an important skill for young children, please read about the importance of phonemic awareness.