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Introduction to Phonics

For children in reception,  we use the Sounds-Write synthetic phonics scheme, a clear sequential programme which clearly combines the matching of sounds to symbols in conjunction with blending and segmenting sounds.

We support children to develop their early phonological awareness in a variety of ways:

All about Rhymes

Nursery rhymes help your child to develop as a communicator and a storyteller. Sharing nursery rhymes with your child is a great way to support their social listening skills and develop their memory for things that they have heard (auditory memory). Understanding and identifying rhymes is an important step in developing literacy skills in reading and writing. There are many different types of nursery rhymes which help children to make sense of the world and to develop gross and fine motor control while they ‘tune in’ to the rhymes

Rhymes that use the whole hand

These rhymes using the whole hand help your child to look, listen and respond, which will help them understand the conventions of conversation and create a sense of anticipation and lots of fun and laughter too!

Open them, shut them

Open them, shut them, open them, shut them

Give a little clap, (clap, clap)

Open them, shut them, open them shut them

Put them on your lap (lap lap)

Creep them, creep them, creep them, creep them

Right up to your chin (chin chin)

Open up your big wide mouth….. But don’t you put them in!


I have ten little fingers

I have ten little fingers and they all belong to me.

I can make them do things, Would you like to see?

I can shut them up tight, I can open them wide.

I can put them together, I can make them all hide.

I can make them jump high, I can make them jump low.

I can fold them together, and hold them just so

Rhymes that cross the body

Rhymes that encourage children to stretch across their body (crossing the mid-line) help develop tracking skills and stimulate the left and right side of the brain.

Wind the bobbin up

Wind the bobbin up, wind the bobbin up

Pull, pull, clap clap clap.

Wind it back again, wind it back again

Pull, pull, clap clap clap.

Point to ceiling, point to the floor

Point to the window, point to the door

Clap your hands together, 1,2,3

Put your hands upon your knee.

Roly poly

 Roly poly, Roly Poly up up up

Roly Poly, Roly Poly down down down

Roly poly, roly poly out out out

Roly poly, roly poly in in in

Roly Poly ever so slowly

Roly Poly, ever so fast!

Rhymes that have a steady beat

Sharing nursery rhymes which have a steady beat will help your child to tune into natural rhythms of their own language.

Higgledy Piggledy My Black Hen

Higgledy Piggledy My Black Hen

She lays eggs for gentlemen

Sometimes nine and sometimes ten

Higgledy Piggledy my black hen.


To Market, to market to buy a fat pig

To Market, to market to buy a fat pig

Home again, home again, jiggedy jig

To market, to market to buy a fat hog

Home again, home again, joggedy jog

Tuning into sounds 

Discriminating between different types of sounds helps your child develop their ability to ‘tune in’ to the different sounds in their language. When learning phonics, your child will need to hear and say the different letter sounds correctly in order to blend them together to form words. The skill of hearing initial sounds in words can be developed with games which use letter sounds instead of letter names. (For example the sound ‘a’ in ant instead of the letter name ‘ay’ in ape.)

Initial sound activities to try

Playing “I spy”

Start the game with the simple sentence

“I spy with my little eye, something beginning with…”.

Encourage your child to look around the room and say any words which begin with the letter you have chosen.

For example: The sound ‘t’ could be ‘television’.

When you have a sentence with words in that start with the same letter sound, this is known as ‘alliteration’.

A perfect example of this is:

Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled pepper’.

Use the initial letter of your child’s name to form a sentence:

‘On sunny Saturdays, super Suzie sits and sings’.

Lovely Lidia likes lemonade and lollies.’

See if you can make up a sentence with same initial sound as your child’s name together. Ask your child to copy you and see if they can come up with any other words which have the same initial sounds.


Go on a listening walk

Walk outside (if possible). Stay very quiet and listen very carefully to all the sounds you can hear.

 ‘Tune in’ to the sounds that are far away (such as a police car in the background) and those that are nearer to you (in the foreground, such as someone standing next to you and whistling.

 Can you record any of the sounds that you hear and listen to them again when you get home? Hearing the sounds again should help you to remember what you saw and how you felt when you first heard them.

Just being quiet

Taking the time to be still and quiet gives you chance to listen carefully to the surrounding sounds that you might normally miss.

Try this activity to see how many sounds you can hear. 

Set a timer for 1 minute.

Close your eyes, make yourself comfortable and sit really still.

What can you hear?  is the sound close to you – in the room that you are in? 

Is the sound far away – outside or coming from another room? 

Take turns to describe the sounds that you heard. There are lots of words you can use to  describe the sounds you might hear:

Whirring, buzzing, clicking, ticking, loud, quiet, humming, sloshing.

Make music

Making music is a great way to hear sounds, and you can easily make your own instruments using items from around the house. 

Saucepans and wooden spoons make great drum kits.

Clean two yoghurt pots and put some dry rice or pasta into one of them. Pop the open tops together and secure with tape, and you have your own maraca. 

Get an empty tissue box, wrap some elastic bands round it, and you have your very own guitar.

Listen to each instrument one by one. Then ask your child to cover their eyes, and you play one for them.

Can they tell you which one they can hear?

Rhythm and Rhyme

Identifying rhyming words helps children to understand patterns of basic rhymes (for example: cat, sat, mat, hat, pat, bat) which will help them with their understanding how to spell words which sound similar.

When sharing nursery rhymes, emphasise the rhyming words to your child to your child.

For example:

Five little speckled frogs

Sat on a speckled log

Eating the most delicious grubs, yum yum

One jumped into the pool

Where it was nice and cool

Then there were four green speckled frogs

Any nonsense word that rhymes demonstrates that your child is beginning to identify the rhyme. Encourage your child to make up some nonsense rhymes of their own – no words are too silly!

Activities that focus on rhyming words

Silly Soup

A nonsense song, which helps children identify rhyming words by using objects (or drawings of objects) which rhyme.

Can you find any of these items in your house:

  •  Fork, cork, shoe, glue, toy frog, toy dog, hat, toy cat, toy car, star.

What other objects can you find which rhyme?

Say the name of one of these objects, and see if your child can find the matching rhyming object.

Pop them into a pan and give them a stir to make Silly Soup!

We’re going to make some silly soup

We’re going to make it silly

We’re going to put it in the fridge

And make it nice and chilly


Rhyming colours

 Find coloured items of clothing, material or paper around the house: the best ones to use are ones which are red, blue, black or white.

 Lay them out around the room.

Call out a word that rhymes with that colour, eg bed, thread, ted, bread, queue, glue, shoe, track, mac, quack, light, kite, night, bite.

 Can your child go to the colour which rhymes with each word?

See if they can think of, or make up any other words that rhyme with the colour they have chosen.

Hearing ‘beats’ or syllables in words.

Hearing large ‘chunks’ of sound within words will help your child to focus on blending these chunks together, which will help develop skills in blending individual sounds later on.

 Try clapping as you say your name. For example,

‘Peter’ has 2 claps Pe-ter. Jessica has 3 claps: Jess-i-ca.

Encourage your child to ‘clap the names of family members 

Can your child ’clap’ the names of their favourite toys, and any other items around the house? How many ‘claps’ in ‘pan’, ‘sofa’, ‘microwave’.

Row, row, row your boat

This is not just a great rhythm activity but also a good physical one too. This needs coordination and a little bit of strength to get down the river! 

Sit facing each other with both your legs in front of you.

Hold each others hands and rock back and forth as you sing the song below: there are lots of versions and you can always make up your own, just make sure it rhymes!

Row row, row your boat gently down the stream,

Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily

Life is but a dream.

Row row, row your boat gently down the stream,

If you see crocodile

Don’t forget to scream.

Row row, row your boat gently to the shore,

If you see a lion there

Don't forget to roar

Row row, row your boat gently down the river

If you see a polar bear

Don’t forget to shiver.

End the song with

"Rock, rock, rock your boat gently to and fro

Wibbly, wobbly, wibbly, wobbly

Into the water you go!

Rock from side to side as you sing.

Printable versions of these activities are available to download here:

  All about rhymes            Tuning into sounds        Rhythm and Rhyme