Phonics Game Ideas

Michele Meleen
phonics games for kids

Phonics game ideas make learning letter sounds fun and exciting for kids. You can use phonics games to teach the relationship between letters and sounds, help kids understand phonics, or to review phonics skills kids have already mastered. Since your aim is educational fun, look for games that are competitive but don't have a singular winner.

Letter Sound Dots and Boxes

Modify the classic pencil-and-paper game Dots and Boxes by adding letter sound recognition. The game is made for two players who can write their letters, but you can have up to four players on one board or use multiple game boards.

What You'll Need

  • Paper with a dot grid spanning about twelve rows and twelve columns
  • Colored pencils
  • Letter cards

How to Play

  1. Each child picks a different colored pencil to use for the game.
  2. Hold up a letter card.
  3. Each child shouts out the sound that letter makes.
  4. The first person to shout out the correct answer gets to choose if they want to go first or second. Each player draws one line to connect two dots on the game board.
  5. When a player completes a box by enclosing it with their line, they write the last letter that was shown inside that box.
  6. Gameplay continues until the grid is full of boxes.
  7. Each player counts their completed boxes out loud by calling out the sound of the letter inside the box.
  8. The player with the most complete boxes wins.

Blend or Digraph Tic Tac Toe

Take your classic Tic Tac Toe game to the next level when you introduce digraphs and blends. Forget the Xs and Os, in this game two kids ages four and up will be writing in letters.

What You'll Need

  • Paper
  • Colored pencils

How to Play

  1. Set up a standard Tic Tac Toe grid with two horizontal lines intersected by two vertical lines.
  2. Each child chooses a different colored pencil.
  3. Choose either consonant blends, consonant digraphs, vowel digraphs, beginning blends, or any other specific type of blend or digraph for the game.
  4. Call out a letter.
  5. Player One chooses an empty space and writes in any letter that fits with the one you called out and the type of blend or digraph you chose for the game.
  6. Player Two does the same.
  7. Call out one letter at a time and let each player take their turn after that letter. If a child writes an incorrect letter, it should be erased so the square is empty again.
  8. Gameplay continues until one player gets three letters in a row.

Vowel Sound Swap

Kids in preschool and kindergarten can play this simple talking game to reinforce the differences between long and short vowel sounds. You can make the game more challenging for advanced students by including all the vowels instead of focusing on just one.

What You'll Need

  • Open space where the group can sit in a circle
  • Examples of the vowel sounds written where everyone can reference them

How to Play

  1. Sit the group in a circle and choose one person to start.
  2. Select a vowel to use for the game and review the different sounds it can make. For example, "a" can make the long "a" sound like in the word "ape" or the short "a" sound like in the word "cat."
  3. The first player says a word that contains either the long or short sound of your chosen vowel.
  4. The next player to their left then says a different word that contains the other sound that vowel makes. So, if Player One says "cat," Player Two could say "ape."
  5. Game play continues to the left until every player has said a different word and alternated the vowel sound.
  6. Treat this as a group challenge where you keep track of how many words the group was able to come up with before someone used the wrong vowel sound or repeated a word.

Fidget Spin and Spell

Kids in kindergarten and first grade who are actively working on making words can play this fun spelling game. This can be an individual game if you time your child or a group game with points.

What You'll Need

How to Play

  1. Tape each individual vowel, including "Y" to one wing of the fidget spinner. You'll use two fidget spinners to get all 6 vowels.
  2. Select six of the most common and versatile consonants like R, S, T, N, H, and C. Tape each of these letters on one wing of the other two fidget spinners.
  3. Set all four fidget spinners in front of the first player.
  4. Say "On your mark, get set, spin!" and the child spins all four fidget spinners as they sit on the floor or table.
  5. Once all the spinners stop, the player uses each of the four letters on the wings pointing toward them to spell out a real word. You can allow three-letter words to make it easier or allow the addition of other letters.
  6. If there is only one player, keep time from the moment the first spinner stops until they spell out a word.
  7. If playing as a group game, each player takes a turn to spin then all players race to spell out a word first. Kids can either write down answers or shout them out. The first person to spell a real word gets a point.

Synchronized Syllable Slap

Kids need to work together to show how many syllables are in a word without ever speaking to each other in this loud game. This game is best for kids in first grade and up who are learning about syllables and can read complex words.

Clapping children

What You'll Need

  • Cards with single-syllable and multi-syllable words on them

How to Play

  1. Separate kids into pairs or small groups of three or four.
  2. Hold up a word card for the first team/pair.
  3. The team must clap or slap their legs in unison to show the number of syllables in the word. For example, if the word is "faster," kids would clap/slap two times in unison for the two syllables.
    • Teams cannot talk at all during the game.
    • Teams can hold up fingers to count to three so their group starts clapping/slapping at the same time.
  4. If the entire team does the correct amount of syllables and stays in unison, they make it to the next round. If not, they are out.
  5. The last team standing wins.

Digraph Relay Race

Use vowel digraphs, consonant digraphs, or both for this active phonics game with a Scrabble element. You'll need at least four players in grades one and up, but the more players the better.

What You'll Need

  • Bucket
  • Laminated letter cards
  • Starting line and finish line
  • Large, open space

How to Play

  1. Split the group into equal teams, even numbered teams work best.
  2. Place teams at their own starting lines.
  3. Put the finish line at the opposite end of the space and place the bucket filled with laminated letters here.
  4. On "Go," the first player from each team runs to their bucket and grabs one letter card to bring back to their starting line.
  5. This player places their letter card on the ground behind the team's line.
  6. The next player runs to the bucket and grabs a letter they can use to make a digraph with the first letter their team retrieved.
  7. Each successive player gets a letter from the bucket and places it next to another letter from their team's retrievals.
    • After the first two players, each successive player will have to place their letter card next to any one of their team's previous letter cards in a setup similar to creating words in a game of Scrabble.
    • Each digraph must be touching, but can only be touch other letters that make correct digraphs.
  8. The first team to create five attached diagraphs in a floor display behind their team line wins.

Blend With Me

Have fun with consonant blends in this game of Musical Chairs meets Tag. You'll need a large group of kids ages six and older to play.

What You'll Need

  • Music
  • Large, open space
  • Printable alphabet coloring pages, specifically letters commonly seen in blends like L, B, C, R, S, T, P, H
  • Tape

How to Play

  1. Print and cut out the individual coloring pages for the letters you plan to use.
  2. Tape one letter to each child's back. If you have more letters than kids, some kids can have a letter on their front too.
  3. Turn on the music and let kids run or dance around.
  4. When the music stops, kids must find someone wearing a letter that makes a blend with their own letter. The two should hold hands and stop moving.
  5. Anyone who doesn't find a blend partner sits out and gives their letter to another active player.
  6. Continue playing rounds like this until there is one pair left.
  7. Add difficulty for advanced students by requiring three-letter blends instead of two-letter blends.

Sight Word Four Corners

You can play this active game in a classroom, gymnasium, or large room in your house. Kids in kindergarten who are mastering sight words will need to pay close attention and use strategy to win this game.

What You'll Need

  • Sight word cards
  • Tape

How to Play

  1. Tape a sight word to each child's back.
  2. Let the kids run around the space.
  3. Call out a sight word.
  4. When you call out a sight word, all kids have 30 seconds to run to any one of the four corners in the room and stand along the wall as close to the corner as they can.
  5. The object is to run to the same corner as the person who is wearing the sight word that was called out.
  6. After each sight word is called out, all kids who went to the wrong corners or didn't make it to a corner wall are out of the game.
  7. The smaller the group gets, the easier it will be to find the sight word. You can choose to end the game when it makes the most sense for your group.

Printable Phonics Games and Activities

Free, printable phonics games and activities are perfect when you're short on planning time. You can also find creative ways to use free phonics worksheets as games when you time children or have them compete to finish first.

Have Fun With Phonics

Covering all that's involved in phonics from letter sounds to teaching sight words can be overwhelming for kids. Take some time during your lessons to play fun phonics games to make the concept more appealing to children. Combine these original phonics games with simple phonics activities in your phonics lesson plans for an exciting and comprehensive study unit.

Phonics Game Ideas