How can I help my child develop phonemic awareness?

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Phonemic awareness includes six key parts. These are manipulating phonemes, phoneme matching, onset and rime, blending phonemes, sequencing phonemes, and segmenting phonemes.

You can see our previous post about What is phonemic awareness? to learn more.

This can be developed in many ways. It is a developmental process, and moving to a level too soon can increase frustration and decrease confidence for the student. A child should not begin recognizing letters or reading words until their ear training and tongue training has been developed. And once that has happened, they are ready for eye training and word building.

“Away with books, and ‘reading to’–for the first five or six years of life. The endless succession of story-books, scenes, shifting like a panorama before the child’s vision, is a mental and moral dissipation; he gets nothing to grow upon, or is allowed no leisure to digest what he gets.” Charlotte Mason, Parents and Children (Volume 5, page 216).

Children before age six need time to explore and discover the world around them. Time spent playing at home and in nature, time to imagine and run and jump. These are not wasted years, they are foundations! Play and speaking and listening is critical to literacy cognition in the future.

This time of preparation for formal lessons does not look like seat work or doing “school,” but it is vital for their educational, emotional, and spiritual development.

Many educational concepts can be taught before actual reading & phonics instruction begins. Ear training and tongue training is critical in those early years before learning letters and building words. Brains are not cognitively ready until around age six and should not be pushed to learn before their brains are ready

Some children may be ready to know letters and sounds, and by all means, do not hold them back from learning! But this is not necessary for their overall skill level or future in literacy.

Let’s look at some easy ways to develop phonemic awareness with ear training, tongue training, eye training, and finally, when they are ready, word building.

Examples of how to develop phonemic awareness through Ear Training:


Can you tell me the whole word I am saying by just hearing the sounds?

  • D – o – g
  • P – i – g
  • C – a – t
  • M – ou – se
  • C – ow
  • B – ear
  • S – k – u – n – k
  • Add your own words!


Let’s do some motions together! Do what I tell you to do by just hearing the sounds!

  • J – u – m – p on both feet
  • C – l – a – p your hands
  • S – t – o – m – p your feet
  • T – o – u – ch your head
  • H – o – p like a frog
  • J – u – m – p on one foot
  • S – t – a – n – d still
  • R – u – b your belly
  • W – i – gg – le your toes

This can be done with any words and any actions. You can act out a story together!

Another simple way to work on phonemic awareness is to read any children’s story and choose some words to separate into their phonemes. This can be a nursery rhyme, timeless tale like Goldilocks (p – orr – i – dge) or Cinderella (s – i – s – t – er).

You can do this when hanging out at home or doing any activity! On a nature walk, talk about r – o – ck – s! 

Examples of how to develop phonemic awareness through Tongue Training:


  • What is the first sound in “p – i – g”?
  • What is the last sound in “n – e – t”?
  • What is the middle sound in “s – i – t”?


  • How many words can you say that end with the /t/ sound?
  • Counting the sounds: How many sounds can you hear in the word s – i – t?
  • Common sounds among words: What sound do these words have in common? Snake, stop, sun
  • Blending sounds: What word is made up of these sounds? N – u – t

Teacher shows a picture of the following words and asks child to separate sounds while naming it.

  • cat
  • dog
  • bird
  • pig
  • mug
  • bug
  • log
  • tree
  • fan
  • pen
  • man
  • boy

Choose any letter of the alphabet (can begin alphabetically with Aa) and ask the child to name some things around the house, or pantry, that begin with that letter.


What words can you think of that begin with the sound “Aa”?

Playing some phonics games will help the child be active, integrating their brains with gross or fine motor skills. Teacher says sounds very slowly. Child does the action and says the word aloud.

  • W – a – v – e at me
  • Ribbit like a f – r – o – g
  • Pretend you’re a b – I – r – d
  • Catch a fish with a n – e – t
  • Pretend you’re steering a sh – I – p
  • Cluck like a h – e – n
  • Squeak like a r – a – t
  • Bark like a d – o – g
  • Jump on one f – oo – t

Examples of how to develop phonemic awareness through Eye Training:

  • Show pictures to the child of words that begin with one letter.
  • Ask the child to name the pictures.
  • What sound do these pictures begin with?
  • Point to the letter and ask the child to say the sound again.
  • Show the child letter tiles or sandpaper cards and to point to the letter again.

Examples of how to develop phonemic awareness through Word Building:

  • After a child knows several consonants and one or more vowels, they can begin building words. For example, if you have taught the child Mm, Aa, and Tt, they can make the word “mat”.
  • Give the child the tiles and have the child say the names of the sounds. 
  • Place the tiles in order to make the word “mat”.
  • Have the child say the sounds and blend the word together.
  • This can be done slowly using phonetic word lists and letter tiles.
phonemic awareness

This post is Post 4 of 10 in our Learning Language Series. See all of the posts, with Teaching Tools packed into each post, here:

  1. What is phonological awareness?
  2. Why is rhyming an important language skill? {free nursery rhyme printable}
  3. What is phonemic awareness?
  4. How can I help my child develop phonemic awareness?
  5. How can I teach onsets and rimes?
  6. What is the importance of counting syllables in words?
  7. How can I help my child create sentences and count words in sentences?
  8. How to create a solid vocabulary from infancy?
  9. What is phonics and how do we begin reading?
  10. How can I help my child grow in language learning before reading?

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One Comment

  1. Thank you for this post! Phonological awareness is an important foundation skill for reading! We are wired for language; not reading. Children need to hear and begin to play with and manipulate language before they can learn that sounds have symbols ( letters). Rhyming is also a great way to help your child focus on hearing and manipulating sounds! As a preK teacher I find your examples are great for most children around the preK age (4-5 ish). ☺️

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