Put Your Child on the Road to Writing and Reading with these Decoding Activities

A child and adult sit and read together in Port Discovery's Oasis exhibit

Decoding is an essential aspect for future writing and reading. When we isolate the sounds within words and begin associating them with letter symbols, we offer the tools for decoding or sounding out words. Start by introducing the idea that words are made up of sounds.  Here are some quick tips to encourage sound and symbol associations and letter recognition.  

Play a Sound Game  

In order to help your child associate sounds and symbols, start with a sound game that focuses on the beginning sounds of words. 

  1. Hi, my name is Shelby. Sssshhhhelby, can you hear the first sound within my name, Ssssshhhhelby?   
  2. I hear it, I hear the sound SH. Do you?   
  3. You are not going to believe this! Did you know, all words are made up of sounds?   
  4. Let’s try another word, how about cat. What is the initial sound in the word cccccat?  

Once Your Child Masters that Game… 

  1. You can play the same game with the final sounds of words too!  
  2. If your child can hear initial and final sounds, it’s time to introduce middle sounds. Begin this process with CVC words (three-letter phonetic words that are made up of a consonent, vowel and consonent).  
  3. Next, listen for all the sounds within a word. What are the sounds within the word watermelon? W-Au-T-Er-M-E-L-N, Cool!!!  

Once your child hears initial, final and middle sounds within words, it’s time to associate sounds with symbols.   

Make it Fun – Write It in Shaving Cream  

Associate your child’s knowledge of sounds with symbols by tracing them in shaving cream.   

  1. Trace the letter in the shaving cream  
  2. Say the sound after you write it  
  3. Invite your child to say the sound  
  4. Erase your sound by smoothing out the shaving cream  
  5. Repeat this process over and over 
  6. Invite the child to trace over your writing too   
  7. Invite your child to independently write the letter in the shaving cream and say the sound  

Introduce one sound/symbol relationship at a time. For example, one day you may present the letter/sound association s. The next day, you can check-in with your child. Bring out the shaving cream. Write the letter s. Ask your child, what sound does this letter make? If your child remembers s, you can keep s in the rotation and bring a new sound/symbol association. If your child does not remember, simply repeat the activity with the same letter. Keep playing the writing in the shaving cream game, until your child has sound/symbol associations for all the letters in the alphabet to establish the basis for decoding words.

Practicing these activities with your child, along with engaging in other pre-reading activities such as spending time together reading books aloud, will put your child on the road to reading!