Phonological Awareness Activities to Build Essential Early Literacy Skills


Are you ready to up your game in helping young kiddos develop the skills they need for a successful future? Well, buckle up because I’ve got a secret sauce for you – phonological awareness activities!

phonological awareness activities for preschoolers
Rhyming practice activities for kids

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What is Phonological Awareness?

But wait, before we start talking about phonological awareness activities, let’s talk about this question….what exactly is phonological awareness? Simply put, it’s all about understanding the sounds of language and how they come together to form words. Think of it as having a musical ear for language. So teaching phonological awareness with phonological awareness activities is like giving your kids a superpower that will make reading and writing super easy.

Why is It Important To Teach Phonological Awareness?

Why teach phonological awareness? Because it’s a crucial building block for young kids on their journey to becoming rockstar readers and writers. Think of it as laying the foundation for their future reading success.

And guess what? The research agrees – studies have shown that having strong phonological awareness skills can make all the difference in becoming a successful reader. In other words, teaching phonological awareness is like giving kids a secret weapon for their reading and writing journey. So, let’s give kids a head start and make learning about phonological awareness a fun and exciting part of the preschool curriculum!

The Phonological Awareness Umbrella

Now, let’s dive into the secret sauce a little deeper. Phonological awareness is an umbrella term that covers several different skills, and we’re going to break each one down for you.

phonological awareness umbrella including the following concepts under the umbrella:  Words in Sentences, Rhyming, Alliteration, Syllables, Onset and Rime, and Phonemic Awareness

Words in Sentences

When it comes to phonological awareness, a beginning skill is the understanding that a sentence is made up of individual words. You can bring words to your kids’ attention while reading aloud or you can play with words in sentences. For example, teaching kids to identify the first and last word in a sentence, or teaching them to say a sentence backward, are both ways to build their word awareness skills.

And the best part? It’s super fun! Kids love playing around with language and rearranging sentences. So, let’s put on our silly hats and start making sentences!

Rhyming Awareness

Get ready to rhyme, because developing rhyming awareness skills is also a big part of the phonological awareness umbrella! This skill is all about helping kids hear and recognize the patterns in words that sound alike, like the fact that “cat” and “hat” sound the same at the end.

When you teach rhyming words to kids in preschool in kindergarten, they have a blast! Who doesn’t love a good silly rhyme? So, let’s break out the word-rhyming fun and get ready to giggle!

kids laughing as they are participating in phonological awareness activities


Hold onto your heavy hat, Harry because alliteration awareness is also a part of the phonological awareness gang! Did you catch that alliteration at the beginning of this paragraph?

This skill is all about hearing and understanding when words start with the same sound, like “Hold onto your heavy hat, Harry.” Can you hear the repeated “h” sound?

By teaching kids to identify alliteration, we’re helping them develop their phonological awareness skills and their love for language. Plus, it’s just plain fun!

Syllable Awareness

Syllables are also part of the phonological awareness party!

Syllables are like the beat in a song; they help us break words down into smaller parts. By teaching kids to count syllables and clap them out, we’re helping them develop their phonological awareness skills and their understanding of how words work. And the best part? It’s a fun way to get moving and grooving, so syllable awareness activities are FUN!

Check out this article about how to teach syllable awareness.

Onset and Rime

Kids having fun as they participate in phonological awareness activities

Onset and rime awareness is also a critical aspect of building phonological awareness skills. This skill involves breaking words down into their building blocks.

Onset refers to the first sound in a word, and rime refers to the remaining sounds. By teaching kids to blend onsets and rimes together, we’re helping them develop their phonological awareness and their reading and writing skills.

Phonemic Awareness

The final part of the phonological awareness umbrella is phonemic awareness. This is a big skill, and it’s all about playing with individual sounds in words. a phoneme is the smallest unit of sound in a word and by working on phonemic awareness, kids learn to recognize, segment, blend, and manipulate phonemes This is important because it helps kids make connections between sounds and letters, which is the foundation of reading and writing.

Phoneme Recognition

Phonemic awareness begins when kids can recognize or hear the phonemes in words. It’s like a game of “I Spy” with sounds!

The easiest phoneme for kids to hear is the beginning phoneme such as the /k/ sound at the beginning of the word cat. The next easiest is the ending phoneme. In the word “cat”, the /t/ sound is the ending phoneme. Where phoneme recognition gets the trickiest is identifying the middle phoneme. In the word “cat”, the middle phoneme is the short a sound.

Segmenting Phonemes

Once kids get good at recognizing sounds, they’re ready to move on to “segmenting phonemes”. This is when they learn to break words apart into their individual sounds. It’s like taking apart a puzzle!

Blending Phonemes

Next up, we have “blending phonemes”. This is when kids put the sounds back together to make a word. It’s like putting the puzzle back together!

Manipulating Phonemes

Finally, we have manipulating phonemes. This is when kids change the sounds in a word to make a new word. It’s like playing with words!

Manipulating phonemes is also sometimes called sound substitution. This is when kids change one sound in a word to make a new word, like changing “cat” to “fat” or “fat” to “fit” or “fit” to “fin” See how I changed a different phoneme (beginning, middle, end) in each example?

So there you have it, being aware of phonemes is all about playing with sounds and having fun with language and words. By working on these skills, along with the other phonological awareness skills, kids are setting the foundation for reading and writing success.

Phonological Awareness vs Phonemic Awareness

If you are anything like me, you are probably confused about all these ph words. Let’s start with clarifying the difference between phonological awareness and phonemic awareness.

Think of it this way – phonological awareness is like a big, fancy umbrella that covers all the skills related to sounds in language. This umbrella includes things like being able to identify rhymes, putting sounds together to make words, and breaking words apart into individual sounds. Phonemic awareness is just one tiny piece of that umbrella. It’s like focusing on one piece of the puzzle – it’s all about the sounds in words (or phonemes). So, phonemic awareness is a specific type of phonological awareness skill, but it’s just one part of the big picture.

Phonics Versus Phonological Awareness

Here is another set of ph words that cause confusion. Don’t be fooled, phonological awareness is not the same thing as phonics. Phonics is all about the relationship between sounds and letters and how they can be used to decode words. Phonological awareness is more about understanding the sounds of language and how they work together.

2 kids reading a book

How to Implement Phonological Awareness Activities

So, how do we teach this secret sauce of phonological awareness to our kids? If you need a step-by-step guide to simple daily exercises to skills, you can use my program to teach rhyming words and awareness, my program to teach syllable awareness, or you can use other phonological awareness programs.

You can also teach phonological awareness skills by incorporating a variety of games, songs, and literacy activities that support phonological awareness into your daily routines. Whether you use a program, a variety of activities, or both, the key is to make it fun and engaging for your kids.

6 kids with their teachers with an open book.  They are working on phonological awareness activities to develop phonological awareness skills.

You will see that when you start being more intentional about developing phonological awareness skills, you can watch the magic happen.

What Activities Support Phonological Awareness?

Ready to have some fun and boost those skills? Here are a bunch of early phonological awareness activities and ideas that are perfect for preschoolers:

Sentence Word Play

Playing with simple sentences will help your kids learn that words are part of our language. Here are a few ideas for wordplay:

  • Word Count: Extract a simple sentence as you are reading a book. Write it on the board and count the words in the sentence. For example, “The cat jumped over the fence.” has five words. You can also identify the first, last, and second words.
  • Sentence Mix-Up: Cut up simple sentences such as “The cat is black.” into individual words and have kids put the words back together to form a complete sentence.
A preschool teacher and student working on phonological awareness activities.
  • Change a Word: Begin by cutting up simple sentences such as “The cat is black.” into individual words and have kids put the words back together to form a complete sentence. Next, provide additional words such as orange, fat, big, tiny, etc. Show your kids how changing the last word in the sentence can change the meaning of the sentence. You can also add some super silly words such as green, sticky, and squishy to create really silly sentences about the cat. Have fun and get creative!
  • Silly Sentences with a Word Wall: Do you have a word wall or sound wall in your classroom? You can use it to make silly sentences. Give a pointer to one of your kids, and ask them to pick out two words on the word wall. Then make up a silly sentence with those words. For example, if the child points to the words “dog” and “umbrella”, you can make a sentence such as “The dog and the umbrella went down the slide.”

Rhyming Awareness Activities

Need some help introducing the concept of rhyme to your kids? Be sure to check out this article about how to teach rhyming words to your kids Then keep reading to find some great rhyming activities that you can try to reinforce the concept.

Rhyming Card Games

Kids love a good game, and they are going to love playing rhyming games with a deck of rhyming picture cards. Here are some card games that they can play.

  • Rhyming Memory Match
  • Rhyming Go Fish
  • Rhyming Match (an Uno-like game)
rhyming go fish - fun rhyming games for preschoolers to build phonological skills.

To find even more game ideas, check out this article about rhyming games for preschoolers.

Rhyming Name Books

I think that these Silly Rhyming Name Books are my all-time favorite rhyming activity. Are you familiar with the classic kids song, Willoughby Wallaby? Instead of using an elephant like in the song, these books use different animals to create Super Silly rhymes using kids’ names.

A turtle version of the name rhyming book for preschoolers. Use for rhyming and phonological awareness activities.
The page of the lift-the-flap rhyming book says "Tippety, toppety, Tip a turtle sate on ......  Use for rhyming and phonological awareness activities.

Down By the Bay Rhyming Picture Cards

Speaking of silly rhyming songs, Raffi’s Down by The Bay is a great way to practice rhyming skills. Be sure to pick up the free rhyming picture cards that go along with the song.

rhyming game for preschoolers with picture activity to build phonological awareness skills.

Do you want more song ideas? Check out these rhyming songs for kids.

Rhyming Clip Cards

With their bright pictures, these CVC rhyming clip cards are fun and engaging for kids. Plus, using the clothespin clip provides a bit of fine motor practice for your kids.

CVC rhyming clip cards showing a rhyming match with the words cat and bat a phonological awareness activity.

Rhyming books

Add rhyming books to your schedule of read-aloud. Here is a list of fun rhyming books for your kids.

Rhyming Songs

Rhyming activities are always fun and playful for kids, but these rhyming songs will take the fun to the next level.

Additional Rhyming Activities

Here are a few more rhyming activity ideas from around the web.

Syllable Play Activities

Syllable Clapping Activities

I think the best way to start developing syllable awareness is teaching kids how to clap syllables. Once your kids understand how to do this, you can expand this skill to many different fun syllable activities.

kids clapping syllables to develop phonological awareness skills

Syllable Counting Clip Cards

Once you teach your kids how to hear the rhythm of syllables and how to clap syllables, this hands-on clip card activity is a great way to practice the skill.

syllable clapping and counting clip cards to use for a syllable awareness activity for kids

Additional Syllable Awareness Activities

Check out this article to find even more syllable awareness activities for preschoolers. from Early Learning Ideas.

Here are a few additional activities from the web:

Alliteration Activities

Sound similarities

Let’s match words that start with the same sound. “Cat” and “Cake”, anyone? Find opportunities to point out alliteration in books, games, and activities.

Rhyming Name Books

Above, I mentioned that these silly rhyming name books provide a great way to practice rhyming skills. You can also use them to focus on alliteration skills. Plus, when you start reading sentences such as “Zippety, zoppety, zen….a Zebra sat on Ben”, I promise your kids will absolutely love it!

Silly rhyming books for preschoolers. Make these DIY rhyming name books to teach rhyming and alliteration to your kids.

Word Wall Cards

By using a word wall in your classroom, you can point out different words that start with the same sound or phoneme. Add some environmental print cards and some name cards to the word wall to make it even more interesting.

A preschool word wall featuring letter D, E, F, and G.  The wall has words with images, sight words, and name cards.  The wall can be used for alphabet activities and phonological awareness activities.

Letter Books

These alphabet books for each letter include pages that feature three different words that start with the focus letter. For example, the letter D book features a duck, a dinosaur, and a doll.

Learn the letters with your little alphabet books - use the books for letter identification, letter recognition, letter formation, alliteration, and phonological awareness activiteis.

Sound Matching

Sound similarities: Let’s match words that start with the same sound. Give your kids a variety of word cards. Ask them to find words that start with the same sound, such as “cat” and “cake.”

Additional Alliteration Activities

  • Here is a list of Tongue Twisters by My Kids Time. Some are perfect for alliteration exercises.
  • Add some alliteration into your story time with these Alliteration Book Ideas by A Dab of Glue Will Do

Phoneme Awareness Activities

Beginning Sound Clip Cards

These beginning sounds clip cards are extremely versatile and can be used for a variety of phonological awareness activities. They feature simple CVC words and you can use them to help kids segment and blend onset and rime. You use them to demonstrate how to isolate and change the beginning phoneme in words.

beginning sound clip cards featuring the an word family.  Kids can change the beginning phoneme or onset on the cards to create a word.  This is a fun phoneme awareness an phonological awareness activity for preschoolers.

Alphabet Hole Punch & Cut Activity

You can help your kids focus on beginning sounds in words by using these alphabet hole punch printables. In this letter P example, kids can say the words pig, popcorn, and pencil and listen for the /p/ sound in each word.

Alphabet hole punch strips can be used for beginning sound, beginning phoneme, or alliteration activities for kids in preschool - a fun phonological awareness activity.

Sound Segmenting

Let’s break words apart and see what sounds we can find. Like, what sounds do you hear in “cat”? ….. /c/ /a/ /t/.

Sound Smooshing

Instead of pulling words apart, you can have fun when you show your kids how to smoosh sounds together to make new words. Like, what do you get when you put together /c/ /a/ /t/? “Cat”!

Sound Switching

Let’s change one sound in a word to make a whole new word. Like, what do you get when you change the /c/ in “cat” to /f/? “Fat”!

Your Kids will be phonological awareness pros in no time

Well, I hope you try out some of these fun activities with your kids so they will be phonological awareness pros in no time!

Remember, phonological awareness is like a secret sauce for reading and writing success. By incorporating these skills into your classroom, you’ll be helping young kiddos develop the foundation they need for a successful future.

Purchase The Printables Today

Are you ready to help your kids build their phonological awareness skills? You can purchase these phonological awareness activities in the store. Click on the pictures below to check them out

cvc rhyming clip card activity
Rhyming practice activities for kids
rhyming name class book bundle

Purchase on TPT

Do you prefer to shop at Teachers Pay Teachers? You can also purchase the phonological awareness activities in my TPT Store.

Additional Phonological Awareness Articles

Looking for more information about developing phonological awareness? Check out these articles on the website.