We’re delighted to bring you our very first guest post by Alice from @raising_red_heads. As a former Primary School teacher and Early Years Leader in an inner London School, she left teaching when she had her own children but never lost her passion for play and learning.
She now shares learning through play ideas on her Instagram page and owns her own business, Play Makes Sense, selling phonics activity cards. Head over to her website or @playmakesenseuk to find out more.

As a former teacher and Early Years Leader, I am passionate about getting as many parents as possible to start playing and learning with their children. I understand that we all have incredibly busy lives and time is in short supply, so I want to reassure you that playful learning activities do not need to be complicated, or cost the earth to create. In fact, many of the items I use in our play and learning are things that you probably already have at home.

Many of us have suddenly found ourselves solely responsible for our children’s education, yet we still have to juggle work, cleaning, cooking and ten million other things as well. With this in mind, I am going to share with you five super simple playdough activities that can be used to support your children with phonics.

All of these activities take less than five minutes to set up and are engaging and meaningful for your children. Meaning that once they have completed the activity, you can stick them in front of Peppa Pig guilt free.

Squash the sound

This activity is perfect for little ones who are just starting out with phonics. It supports children with oral segmenting. This is a really important skill which helps children to hear each individual sound in a word.  

You’ll need:

• A ball of dough

• A selection of objects containing three sounds

• A toy hammer

What to do:

Split the dough into three parts and roll into balls. Place the balls in a row.

Choose one object and place it above the dough balls.

Ask your child to sound out the name of the object and use the hammer to smash each ball of dough as they say each sound.

Missing letter

This game helps children with blending for reading. It works especially well for any reluctant writers as children are practising letter formation without a pen or paper in sight! This game can be easily adapted for whichever level your child is working at.

You’ll need:

• Dough

• A selection of objects

• Plastic or wooden letters

What to do:

Show your child one of the objects. Name the object and sound it out together.

Place the letters needed to spell the object underneath, but leave one of the letters out.

Can your child work out which letter is missing and make it out of playdough?

Glue gun stamps

This activity can be a little tricky to set up, but the excitement it provides means it is definitely worth the effort. This game is a great way to practise blending for reading.

You’ll need:

• Dough

• Cardboard

• Scissors

• Pencil

• Glue gun

What to do:

Cut your cardboard into five pieces. Each piece should be approximately 5cm by 10cm.

On each piece of card, write a word suitable for the level your child is working at. This is the tricky bit though, write each word in mirror writing.

Trace over each word with the glue gun and leave to dry.

Once dry, ask your child to print the stamps into the dough and read each word.

Hidden word

Not only does this game support children with blending and segmenting, it also encourages fine motor development. Strengthening the muscles in children’s hands is really important. Children need strong hand muscles to be able to hold a pencil and form letters correctly.

What you’ll need:

• Dough

• Plastic/wooden letters

What to do:

Think of a word suitable for the level your child is working at. Gather together the letters needed to spell the word and place them inside a ball of playdough.

Challenge your child to hunt in the playdough to find the letters and rearrange them to spell the word.

Read and replicate

This game is great fun for both adults and children. If you want to make it a bit more challenging try doing it against the clock or in teams.  

You’ll need:

• dough

• 10 small pieces of paper

• Pen

• Bowl

• Timer (optional)

What to do:

On each piece of paper write the name of an object. Make sure each object is suitable for the level your child is working at. Fold the pieces of paper in half and place them in the bowl.

Ask your child to choose a piece of paper, open it up and read the word. Can they make the object out of playdough?

For an extra challenge try making all the words before the timer runs out.

If you are looking for more simple, meaningful and engaging activities to support your child with learning phonics, head over to @playmakessenseuk or www.playmakessense.co.uk to find out more about our phonics activity cards.

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