33 Fun Phonics Activities and Games for Early Readers

Phonics is the foundation for reading success.

Phonics activities including rolling wooden phonics dice on the grass and hacking pool noodles into phonics tools

Phonics is one of the five essential components of the science of reading, along with phonemic awareness, fluency, vocabulary, and reading comprehension. Phonics activities help young learners break words into their constituent sounds so they build their literacy skills, bit by bit. Here are some of our favorite ways to teach these key skills.

1. Sing a phonics song

Still shot from a phonics song video for kids
We Are Teachers/Phonics Songs for Kids via weareteachers.com

Singing songs is such a fun and effective way to learn! Kids will love to watch and sing along, and might not even realize they’re learning along the way.

Learn more: 15 Phonics Songs for Kids at We Are Teachers

2. Color in the beginning sounds

Coloring pages for the letters A and B with pictures of things that start with those letters
The Measured Mom/Beginning Sound Coloring Pages via themeasuredmom.com

Most kids start learning phonics by mastering the beginning sounds of words. Have kids color in the words that start with the matching sound on these cute and free worksheets.

Learn more: Beginning Sounds Coloring Pages at The Measured Mom

3. Use Google Slides

Google slides activity to help kids learn diagraphs like br and sh (Phonics Activities)
Fun Learning for Kids/Ending Digraph Word Building Activity via funlearningforkids.com

Google Slides has tons of fun phonics activities kids can use in the classroom or at home.

Learn more: 18 Interactive Google Slides for Teaching Phonics and Sight Words at We Are Teachers

4. Hang phonics anchor charts

Anchor chart showing vowel pairs (Phonics Activities)
We Are Teachers/20 Perfect Anchor Charts for Teaching Phonics and Blends via weareteachers.com

When it comes to phonics, there’s a lot to learn. Post anchor charts around the room to help kids remember important rules like silent E, vowel blends, and hard and soft C and G. 

Learn more: 20 Perfect Anchor Charts for Teaching Phonics and Blends at We Are Teachers

5. Build words with a chart of beginning sounds

Colorful chart showing beginning sounds of words, with pictures of items starting with those sounds (Phonics Activities)
This Reading Mama/Beginning Sounds Chart via thisreadingmama.com

Grab this free printable chart and print out copies for your students to use with their phonics activities. There’s a version for rimes too.

Learn more: Beginning Sounds Chart at This Reading Mama


6. Learn digraphs with clip wheels

Child using clothespins to mark words that include the "sh" sound on a diagraph clip wheel
Playdough to Plato/Digraph Wheels via playdoughtoplato.com

Combine fine motor skills practice with phonics work with these free beginning digraph wheels. Tip: Add small dots on the back to mark the right answers so kids can self-correct their work.

Learn more: Digraph Wheels at Playdough to Plato

7. Slap the letter sounds

Alphabet magnets and a flyswatter laid out on a carpet (Phonics Activities)
Frugal Fun for Boys and Girls/Letter Sound Slap via frugalfun4boys.com

Sounding out words letter by letter is a lot more fun when you slap each letter with a flyswatter! This is a great idea for active learners.

Learn more: Letter Sound Slap at Frugal Fun for Boys and Girls

8. Walk the word

Student walking along the letters of the word SPLIT spelled out with sidewalk chalk
Coffee Cups and Crayons/Gross Motor Phonics Game: Walk the Word via coffeecupsandcrayons.com

This one will also keep active learners moving and happy! Write words in sidewalk chalk, then walk (or hop or skip) along them, sounding the word out along the way. Simple but fun!

Learn more: Gross Motor Phonics Game: Walk the Word at Coffee Cups and Crayons

9. Fill in the missing letters

Elementary student using sticky notes to fill in the missing letters in CVC words (Phonics Activities)
Busy Toddler/Missing Sounds Reading Activity via busytoddler.com

This active game combines a scavenger hunt with phonics! Hide sticky notes around the room with various vowels. Then, write CVC words with the vowels missing. Have kids hunt for the missing sounds and fill them in. Fun!

Learn more: Missing Sounds Reading Activity at Busy Toddler

10. Just swap one letter

Child using letter tiles to spell out words on a pictorial worksheet (Phonics Activities)
This Reading Mama/Just Swap One via thisreadingmama.com

As students move from box to box, they change one letter to make the new word represented by the picture. They might need to change the first, middle, or last letter, so it’s a real challenge!

Learn more: Just Swap One at This Reading Mama

11. Make magic spoons

Child holding a spoon with ending letters written on the back next to beginning letters to spell words
Education to the Core/Activities To Teach Phonics and Math via educationtothecore.com

Pick up a pack of plastic spoons at the dollar store, then use them to practice building words by combining beginning sounds with word endings.

Learn more: Activities To Teach Phonics and Math at Education to the Core

12. Toss and blend with plastic cups

Blue plastic cups with letter blends written on the inside rim
Education.com/Toss and Blend: A Carnival Game via education.com

Grab a stack of plastic cups and some Ping-Pong balls for this fun phonics game. Label the cups with different letter blends and set them out (tape them down if they tend to fall over). Kids toss a ball into a cup, then come up with a word that uses that letter blend to earn a point.

Learn more: Toss and Blend at Education.com

13. Flip the pages

Notecard book with pages divided into thirds, with letters written on each to make CVC flipbooks
Tickled Pick in Primary/Phoneme Substitution Activities via tickledpinkinprimary.com

Divide the pages of a small notebook into thirds, then write letters on each page. Flip them to form new words.

Learn more: Phoneme Substitution Activities at Tickled Pink in Primary

14. Mix and match cups to make words

Child using red plastic cups labeled with letters to spell out simple words
Inspired Elementary/CVC Cups via inspiredelementary.com

If you’ve still got some cups left over, label them with more letters or letter blends, then use them to mix and match words. This is an especially fun way to work on CVC and sight words.

Learn more: CVC Cups at Inspired Elementary

15. Hack pool noodles into phonics tools

Pool noodles cut into letters
We Are Teachers/Pool Noodle Phonics via weareteachers.com

This has got to be one of our favorite phonics activities. Cut a pool noodle into pieces and label it with letters. Then stack and spin for learning fun!

Learn more: Pool Noodle Phonics at We Are Teachers

16. Spin and rhyme

The word fan broken up into first sound (f) and ending chunk (an)
No Time for Flash Cards/Spin and Rhyme Game via notimeforflashcards.com

Here’s a different spin (pun intended!) on Pool Noodle Phonics. All you need is a cardboard tube, a wire pants hanger, scissors, and a marker to make this fun DIY rhyming activity.

Learn more: Spin and Rhyme at No Time for Flash Cards

17. Make some phonics cubes

Large fabric cubes with phonics sounds and images on each side (Phonics Activities)
This Reading Mama/Phonics Cubes via thisreadingmama.com

Slide the free printable inserts into a set of photo cubes, then roll until you get the correct combination of letter and word ending.

Learn more: Phonics Cubes at This Reading Mama

18. Use paint stirrers to make word pull-outs

Paint stirring sticks labeled with letters, tucked into paper sleeves with word endings on them
I Can Teach My Child/Word Family Pull-Out Activity via icanteachmychild.com

These clever phonics tools are easy to make using paint stirrer sticks and paper towel tubes. Simply slide the stick in and out to make new words!

Learn more: Word Family Pull-Out Activity at I Can Teach My Child

19. Play a flip-top phonics game

Flip top lids from baby wipes packages attached to cardboard to help kids learn their letter sounds
No Time for Flash Cards/Flip Top Phonics Games for Kids via notimeforflashcards.com

If you go through packages of wipes like most parents do, you’ll appreciate this idea. Save the flip tops and use them for DIY phonics activities.

Learn more: Flip Top Phonics Games for Kids at No Time for Flash Cards

20. Use a pocket chart for phonics activities

Blue pocket chart with phonics sounds and corresponding word cards (Phonics Activities)
Miss Giraffe’s Class/Short A Activities and Resources via missgiraffesclass.blogspot.com

Here’s another reason teachers love pocket charts: They’re great for phonics centers. Sort and match cards to practice beginning sounds, blends, short and long vowels, and so much more.

Learn more: Short A Activities and Resources at Miss Giraffe’s Class

21. Compete at Blends and Digraphs Bingo

Blends and Digraphs Bingo cards with blue plastic markers
The Measured Mom/Blends and Digraph Bingo via themeasuredmom.com

Every kid loves a good game of bingo! Snag these free printable bingo cards and use them to practice blends and digraphs.

Learn more: Blends and Digraph Bingo at The Measured Mom

22. Toss some phonics water balloons

Child holding a pink water balloon labeled with the letters UG next to a paper target labeled B
Mess for Less/Water Balloon Phonics via messforless.net

This one almost seems too fun to count as learning! Tape up beginning sounds, then toss water balloons to complete the words.

Learn more: Water Balloon Phonics at Mess for Less

23. Race to the Top with blends and digraphs

Printable Race to the Top phonics game on a metal cookie sheet (Phonics Activities)
This Reading Mama/50+ Games for Blends and Digraphs via thisreadingmama.com

Play this free printable game to practice consonant blends. Toss a chip onto the board and say that word out loud. Then move the counter for the correct blend up one space. First to the top wins!

Learn more: Blends and Digraphs Games at This Reading Mama

24. Try locks and keys to learn phonics

Simple lock and key, each with a plastic tag labeled with letter blends
We Are Teachers/Unlock and Learn Game via weareteachers.com

This self-correcting phonics activity is also a good way to practice fine motor skills … and a lot of fun to boot! Label keys with beginning sounds and locks with word endings, then match them up and try the key to see if you’re right.

Learn more: Unlock and Learn Game at We Are Teachers

25. Play Phonogram Connect 4

Printable phonogram Connect Four game
Mrs. T’s First Grade Class/Phonogram Connect Four via mrstsfirstgradeclass-jill.blogpsot.com

Draw a word card and find an open phonogram slot on the board. Your goal is to get four in a row!

Learn more: Phonogram Connect Four at Mrs. T’s First Grade Class

26. Teach them the Soft C & G Chant

Printable Soft C & G Chant worksheet (Phonics Activities)
This Reading Mama/No Prep Hard and Soft C and G Pages via thisreadingmama.com

Simple little chants like this will help kids remember some of those confusing language rules. Pair it with other favorites like “I before E, except after C.”

Learn more: Soft C and G at This Reading Mama

27. Mix, color, and spell

pictures, crayons, and a worksheet with a few squares colored in and magnetic letters on a whiteboard in the background
Susan Jones Teaching/Teaching CVC Words in Kindergarten, First and Second Grade via susanjonesteaching.com

We can’t get enough of games that reinforce CVC words with short vowels—it’s such an important early literacy skill! Practice identifying and distinguishing between vowels by coloring in the middle sound from pictures of CVC words.

Learn more: Teaching CVC Words at Susan Jones Teaching

28. Write the Room: Digraphs

Worksheet with digraphs ch, sh, and th, and green dots showing how to complete the activity, and three small pictures
ABC’s of Literacy/Beginning Digraphs Write the Room via abcsofliteracy.com

Use this fun little letter scavenger hunt to move around the room to search for pictures with digraphs. First, mark the ones you find with a dot marker and then use another sheet to write the digraphs.

Learn more: Beginning Digraphs Write the Room at ABC’s of Literacy

29. Use disappearing ink for letter formation

Letter M drawn with water on white paper with a jar of water next to it
Research and Play/3 Simple Play-Based Phonics Activities via research-and-play.com

One of the first keys to early reading success is letter identification and formation. Keep it fresh by using “disappearing ink” (aka water) so students have to trace letters multiple times to prevent them from disappearing too fast. With so few materials and such high engagement, what’s not to love?

Learn more: 3 Simple Play-Based Phonics Activities at Research and Play

30. Do word sorts

word sort with patterns with vowel teams ai and ay, with scissors and two color pencils
Mrs. Winter’s Bliss/Using Word Sorts for Phonics Instruction via mrswintersbliss.com

Word sorts are great for comparing word patterns that make the same sound, like vowel teams. They can also help reinforce so many different phonics skills, making them the perfect activity that can be easy differentiated for learners of all stages.

Learn more: Using Word Sorts for Phonics Instruction at Mrs. Winter’s Bliss

31. Roll and Read

Game with six rows of words with dice numbers 1-6
UFLI/Lesson 79 Roll and Read via ufli.education.ufl.edu

Roll a die and read the word from the corresponding column. Play with a partner or do it solo by coloring in the words as you read them.

Learn more: Lesson 79 Roll and Read at UFLI. While you’re there, check out the UFLI free lesson resources, which include decodable passages and games for almost every phonics skill!

32. Roll letter dice

three cube blocks with letters written on them lying on the grass
Early Impact Learning/DIY Phonics Games via earlyimpactlearning.com

A perfect DIY idea for old blocks! Use three blocks and write consonants on two of them and vowels on the other. Have some fun rolling and blending CVC words.

Learn more: DIY Phonics Games at Early Impact Learning

33. Sort syllable types

stack of words with arrow showing how the words can be sorted into categories
Florida Center for Reading Research/Six-Way Syllable Sort via fcrr.org

If you are teaching the different syllable types, this word sort helps students practice their knowledge of the six types and shows you what they know.

Learn more: Six-Way Syllable Sort at Florida Center for Reading Research. Also, check out the many other phonics resources available by grade level: Kindergarten and First Grade or Second and Third Grades.

Looking for more phonics activities? Learn What Makes a Good Decodable Text here.

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Help kids learn to read with phonics activities that break words into their basic sounds, like phonemes, digraphs, diphthongs, and more.