Headstart for Life

Transforming Indoor Games into Reading Tasks

Dear Readers,

HeadStart for Life’s Beyond Therapy blog leads you to understand that a nurturing and literate environment is to create love and genuine interest of young children in reading.

My previous blog post presents insights and ideas useful for children to become aware of phonological awareness – how the sounds in words work, which is one of the prerequisites before children learn to read print. But one of the keys to meaningful literacy learning is knowing what truly drives children to be engaged with enthusiasm.


In order to facilitate the development of reading, we have to carefully capture reading tasks through enjoyable forms, that is linking literacy and play activities. In fact, play is children’s life! It motivates them to explore and learn from the world. Thus, in this blog, we will present how some of the common indoor games can be transformed and reconstructed to be literacy-oriented in nature.

Below are some of the “kid-captivating” class games/activities that are easy and fun to do while varying the mechanisms in order to tap literacy skills:

Activities Targeting Phoneme Blending

Phoneme Blending – ability to orally blend individual sounds to form a word


Preparation: Make a list of simple words (e.g. d-o-g, m-a-n, r-e-d) separated into letters or sounds. Draw a tic-tac-toe game on the blackboard.

Procedures: This can be played with 1 child or with teams. You can also involve siblings! The teacher/parent pronounces the word according to letter or sounds. Each team or player is given a turn to name the word from the sounds provided. If the word is named correctly, they may place an X or O in the block of their choice. The team completing three squares in a row wins.



Preparation: Make a “poncho” using a paper big enough to cover the body of the child. Use a paper preferably 3 – 4 feet long.  To make a poncho, fold the paper and cut a half circle from the folded edge to make a poncho-type covering. Write a letter to each poncho-type paper. Choose letters that will target the words you want to teach.

Procedures: Ask each child to wear a poncho with the written letter. He/She will be the “It”. In this game, the “It” has to tag specific players in order to form a word (e.g. tag). To form the word “tag”, the “It” will be the player with the letter “t”. He will then tag the player wearing the next letter of the word, which is “a.” After tagging, the two immediately join hands and the second player becomes the “It”. The new “It” then has to tag the player wearing the last letter, which is “g.” Invite the players to blend the letters to make the complete word.


Photo credit: https://i.ytimg.com/vi/mXc1VXIEiU0/maxresdefault.jpg

Activities Targeting Phoneme Substitution

Phoneme Substitution – the ability to substitute a new sound for the beginning, middle, or ending sound of a word


Preparation: Write your child’s name on a card and attach his/her photo next to them. Place cards in a pocket chart

Procedures: Write the letter target on a card and make few copies. For example, if the target letter is S, write S on the card and make 5 more pieces of it. The card should be enough size to cover a letter on their written names. Cover the first letter of the child’s name with the target letter. Then, ask students to read the new silly names. Repeat the activity with a different letter.



Preparation: Write a letter consonant on a separate apple or banana cutouts and place them in a basket.

Procedures: Ask your child to pull an apple out from the basket. Then, sing “Apples and Bananas” song substituting the new letter sound. Pass the basket to another student to choose an apple/banana with a new sound to substitute.

Activities Targeting Phoneme Segmentation

Phoneme Segmentation – ability to break apart a word into individual sounds


Preparation: Make a drawing, similar to the picture below, on the chalkboard, chair, etc.

Procedures: Say the target word to the child, and have him/her repeat it. The child then arranges the letters of the word under the head, body, and tail of the drawing.

WhatsApp Image 2018-01-22 at 11.18.34 PM

Activities Targeting Phoneme Isolation

Phoneme Isolation – the ability to identify the beginning, middle, and ending sounds of the word


Preparation: A group of 4 or more children will sit in a circle and choose one person to be “It”. The rest of the group picks one word consisting of three sounds.

Procedures: With a chosen word (e.g. c-a-t), each player has part of the word – the first person would be c; the second person, a; the third person, t. Each person sings his or her letter sound to the tune of a simple melody (e.g. “Row, Row, Row Your Boat”) all together to the same melody. The It person must listen carefully to find the player who is singing the letter he needed to form the word.


The most important question to ask is “What kind of play does my child like?” It is always helpful to be mindful of identifying, understanding and addressing your child’s strengths and weaknesses. Feel free to tweak some of these games/activities shared here in HeadStart For Life’s blog post and let us know how you did in the comments below! We sure would love to hear them!


Thank you for joining us today and hope to see you again soon!



Diaz, L.E. Transforming literacy experiences into child’s play. The RAP Journal,  July 2004.

Gregson, B. (1982). The incredible indoor games book. Torrance, CA: Fearon Teacher Aids.

Jordano, K. & Callella, T. (1998). Phonemic awareness songs and rhymes. Cypress, CA: Creative Teaching Press, Inc.

Osterink, C. (1997). Auditory and visual discrimination (fun with phonics). Jefferson City, Missouri: Scholastic Teaching Resources

"All the information on this site is for educational purposes only and does not replace the assessment and intervention of a registered speech-language pathologist, occupational therapist or any other medical or education professional."

About Dianne

Dianne has 7 years of teaching experience in both special education and early childhood settings. She has always maintained with her the three P’s as an education practitioner – perseverance, patience, and passion. In her teaching practice, she likes to explore on read aloud stories, multi-sensory instructions and music and movement activities.

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