How to Teach Phonics to a 3-Year-Old

by Karen Hollowell

    Phonics is a method of teaching children to read. It involves learning the sounds associated with each letter of the alphabet then blending these sounds to make words. If you introduce your 3-year-old to basic phonological concepts now, he will have an easier time when he begins kindergarten. According to Child Trends Data Bank, phonics skills, along with vocabulary acquisition, are indicators of future academic success.

    Step 1

    Teach letters and sounds simultaneously. This teaches your child letter/sound correspondence, which is the knowledge that each letter has an associated sound. This is an important early reading skill. Before your child can read, he must recognize the letter and its sound at the same time. Although knowing letter names is beneficial, recognizing and producing sounds is the essential skill. Reading is dependent upon sound mastery.

    Step 2

    Target just a few letters at a time. Begin with the letters that are in your child's name because they will become more familiar to him over time. However, don't overwhelm him with too many letters at once. Proceed to other most-commonly used letters like S, T, R, D and the vowels.

    Step 3

    Teach letters and sounds with a variety of activities. These can be simple and inexpensive. Write a targeted letter on a post-it note. Have your child attach it to an item in the house that begins with the sound for that letter. Make letters with Play-Doh or let your child trace them on a plate covered in Cool Whip. Several online games that are animated and interactive allow your child to play and learn at the same time.

    Step 4

    Point out letters in books when reading and ask your child to name them and say the corresponding sounds. Do the same whenever you encounter environmental print such as restaurant signs, traffic signs or food labels. Encourage your child to look at books at home or the library. Frequent exposure to print will reinforce alphabet recognition and concepts of print, the awareness of left to right word progression and an understanding of book features.

    About the Author

    Karen Hollowell has been teaching since 1994. She has taught English/literature and social studies in grades 7-12 and taught kindergarten for nine years. She currently teaches fourth grade reading/language and social studies. Hollowell earned her Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Mississippi and her Master of Arts in elementary education from Alcorn State University.

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