Syllable Clapping – The Best Way to Teach Kids to Break Words Apart


Are you looking for a fun and interactive way to help your kids learn about syllables? If so, you are in the right place! We’ll look at how clapping syllables can be used as an effective tool for teaching phonological awareness.

Read on to find out why breaking words apart is important, and how you can use syllable clapping to help your kids learn syllable awareness.

kids clapping syllables to develop phonological awareness

Why is it important for kids to learn how to break words into syllables?

Phonological awareness is the ability to notice or manipulate sounds in speech.  Developing phonological skills such as breaking down spoken speech into words, syllables, and phonemes is an important stepping stone to eventually learning to read.  So, working on syllable awareness and syllable segmentation is an essential literacy activity for kids.

The great news is that playing with words can be FUN and PLAYFUL for young kids.

How to teach syllable awareness and segmentation

You may wonder where to begin when thinking about how to teach syllable awareness. Here are some tips:

  • The first rule is to have fun with the syllable wordplay.
  • Start with simple compound words.
  • Slow down and over-emphasize syllables as you say them.
  • Ask kids to put their hands on their chins to feel the different parts of words as they say them.
  • Emphasize each syllable with a clap

Have Fun with Wordplay

Be silly as you play around with words. Say words in funny voices, pretend to be different characters, and get creative.

Start with Compound Words

It’s easier for kids to hear syllables and understand the concept of breaking words down when you use simple compound words. Tell kids that you will play a game where you break a word into two different parts. Begin by slowly breaking 2-syllable compound words apart and then saying the word more quickly. Here are some 2-syllable compound words that you can begin with.

  • lipstick
  • goldfish
  • snowman
  • pancake
  • starfish
  • mailbox
  • football

Feel the Syllables

Overemphasize the syllables as you say them, ask kids to say the words with you, and encourage kids to “feel” the syllables as they talk. You can encourage them to bob their head or, sway their body to feel the rhythm.

You may want to give them a mirror and encourage them to watch how their mouthes move as they say the words. They can also place their hands on their chins to feel the different movements that their lips, jaws, and tongue make as they say the words.

child holding her chin to learn how to recognize syllables as she says words

How and why to clap syllables

Now that your kids have begun to feel that words are made of different parts, you can teach them how to clap the syllables.  Clapping syllables in words is an excellent way for teachers to help young kids learn syllable awareness and phonological awareness. It’s an interactive and fun way for children to recognize syllables, understand how words are broken up into smaller parts, and discover the sounds of language.  

a child clapping syllables to work on phonological awareness and syllable segmentation

Soon, you will be able to ask kids, “How many claps does that word have in it?”

syllable clapping words lists

Once your kids understand the concept of clapping syllables, you can play around with more complex words.  Kids will enjoy counting the claps in the words.  Here are some lists of words with different numbers of syllables to get you started.

Use word cards for a syllable clapping activity

One-Syllable Word List

  • cat
  • dog
  • boat
  • fish
  • car

Two-Syllable Word List

  • monster
  • flower
  • waffle
  • bottle
  • taco

Three-Syllable Word List

  • spaghetti
  • dragonfly
  • applesauce
  • jellyfish

Four-Syllable Word List

  • armadillo
  • elevator
  • macaroni

Five-Syllable Word List

  • hippopotamus
  • refrigerator
  • electricity

Don’t forget the most important words…. their names. Syllable clapping is a great name activity that kids love.

syllable clapping activities

There are a variety of fun literacy activities that teachers can use to help reinforce phonological awareness with their kids. You can stop and clap syllables of words you use throughout the day such as playground, restroom, storybook, etc. Speaking of books, stop and clap out exciting words that you find while you read books aloud to your kids.

If you are looking for a program to teach syllables, check out this article about how to teach syllable awareness. Here are some additional ideas for syllable clapping activities:

Syllable Clapping Clip Cards

These counting clip cards are a fun way to practice syllable segmentation. Kids can say the word on these cards, clap out the parts of the words, and then add a clothespin clip to the correct number of claps. You can easily make the cards self-checking by adding a little dot or sticker on the back of the cards.

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

I Spy

I love the “I spy” game because you can use it to practice many different concepts. To practice syllable awareness, kids can look around and spy something with a certain number of claps. If this proves too difficult, you can specify both the color and number of claps in an object like this, “I spy something that is orange and has two claps.”

If you enjoy this version of I Spy, you will also enjoy the rhyming version. Find the directions in my list of rhyming games for preschoolers.

Syllable Clapping Word Sort

Kids can sort picture cards by the number of syllables or claps. This printable set also encourages more movement by getting kids to clap syllables, tapping their heads, doing leg lifts, squats, etc.

syllable sorting mats and picture cards to use for a syllable clapping activity

Purchase Printable Syllable Clapping Activities Today

Are you ready to start clapping syllables and working on phonological awareness with your kids? My printable syllable clapping activities are perfect for young learners, as they provide them with the opportunity to practice their skills in a creative and entertaining way. Visit the store today and get these fun activities for your kids!

Purchase on TPT

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