Here is an interesting, easy game to help your young ones begin identifying the phonic sounds. All of my children have started their adventure of learning to read with this little game, beginning as early as they are eager to learn their letter sounds (usually 4 years old). They beg for this game over and over.
Gather pictures of each family member, Jesus, friends and pets. These can be pasted onto a 3×5 card (or scrap of cardstock—often free from the printers). Now write the first letter of each picture’s name in big print on a card. Start with just 4-5 letters, and several pictures for each letter. Your little one’s name and picture must definitely be included!
To play the game, lay the letter cards in a line in front of your child. Then let him take turns (with you or another child) picking a picture card out of a box. My little ones think it is more exciting if I have them shut their eyes and reach up high into the box.
As they look at the picture they have chosen, have them say aloud the name and try to match it to the sound made by one of their letter cards. For example, our game has a card with the letter “J”. My child can match the picture of Jesus, and the picture of his dog Joey and his sister Julianna. The letter card “M” collects the picture of Mom and brother Mark.
Since family members names are common to the child and they usually can recognize the beginning letter of each name, this makes it a natural place to start in learning the letter sounds. If you are using Explode the Code primers to help your child learn to read, start with the first letters in that workbook, and continue introducing the letters in the same order for greater reinforcement. Be certain that when you child voices the letter, they are naming the phonic sound, not the letter name! “J” says the breathed sound “j-j-j” not the alphabet name “jay” and “M” says “mmm” not “em”. As the child progresses you can add more letter sounds and pictures. This is a fun way to familiarize your child with the capital letters (and the fact that names begin with capital letters!)