7 Best Phonics Toys – Pre-K, Kinder & Grade 1

chrisAbout the Author: Hi, I’m Chris Drew, a former school teacher and university teacher with a PhD in education. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

My Top Pick: Phonics Dominoes

My pick for the best phonics game for kids is phonics dominoes – it’s an addictive word building game for ages 4 – 6.

The best phonics toys and games for learning to read are:

  • Phonics dominoes
  • Zingo Word Builder
  • Spelligator
  • Phonics Dice Game
  • Phonics Fridge Magnets
  • Reading Rods
  • Phonics Spelling Game Pads

Not Sure How to Teach Phonics? Get this Book.

If you need some guidance on how to teach phonics, it might be worthwhile getting a guidebook for parents. I love this Phonics from A to Z Practical Guide by Wiley Blevins.

Best Phonics Games for Learning to Read

1. Phonics Dominoes (Best Overall)

Quick Review: An addictive word game you can play with your child to help them think about how words are formed.

How it helps your Child Read and Spell:

Follow the rules of Dominoes, but every connection needs to create a word. It requires children to connect onsets and rimes (the first part of a word to the end of the word). Children are confronted with different ways of connecting word parts to create different types of two-part words. It exposes children to a huge range of ways to construct words fro their constituent parts.

What I love about this game is that it encourages children to manipulate the English language while also checking to see if their new phrase formations create words that exist in the English language. It helps children familiarize themselves with language, increase their vocabulary, and learn common words by sight.

This game follows a synthetic phonics approach. This approach involves constructing (rather than deconstructing) words to learn how to read and write. It is widely regarded as the best approach to teaching reading to children.

Children will love this game because it’s social, competitive and involves learning through play.

2. Zingo Word Builder

Quick Review: It’s bingo for word building! A fun and competitive way to get children thinking about how to make words.

How it helps your Child Read and Spell:

It’s a fun way to learn to read and spell 3-letter words. It beats memorization and sight words by keeping your child excited and engaged. Each child gets a bingo card which contains words with missing letters. Press the zinger to randomly generate a letter. The child needs to see if they can fit the letter onto their bingo card to create a word. Complete the bingo card to win! Children can create a mix-and-match of different words, getting them to think about how to construct words using letters and digraphs (letter combinations).

3. Spelligator

Quick Review: A fun and social spelling game where you stack word segments to create new words. Best for children who are already well underway with creating words.

How it helps your Child Read and Spell:

It’s a social game where players compete to create three-part words. Children each get an alligator. You can stack new word parts onto your alligator to create new words (it reminds me a bit of 3D scrabble). This game is a little advanced and good if your child is a quick learner or already creating larger words (e.g. upper Kinder, Grade 1 & Grade 2), but you can simplify it by removing the advanced graphemes (the brown tiles).

4. Phonics Dice Game

Quick Review: A great simple game for creating words. Roll the dice and see if you can create a word to win a point.

How it helps your Child Read and Spell:

It’s such a simple yet compelling way to learn to read. Get your child to roll one of each color (or simplify it by just rolling 3 blues + a yellow) and try to create a word. If they can create a word, they get a point. I play against my students so they enjoy the competitive aspects of the game. As a teacher, I particularly like that the die are separated into vowels, letters, consonant digraphs and trigraphs. This really helps with progressing a child’s learning and development (you don’t really need to know these complex aspects – just use the different colors to teach spelling and you’ll do great! But if you want a glossary of phonics terms, see here).

5. Phonics Fridge Magnets

Quick Review: Put these fridge magnets on your fridge and let your child’s curiosity roam. I find my kids just gravitate to them and start playing, without me needing to do anything.

How it helps your Child Read and Spell:

Kids love to fiddle. I find just throwing these magnets up on the fridge is enough to stimulate interest. Have your child play with the magnets while you are cooking dinner. Alternatively, you can use the flash cards to make a more structured game: have your child draw a flash card and create the words written on the flash card or create words that rhyme with the one they drew (this follows the analytic phonics method). While there are better looking phonics fridge magnet sets on Amazon, this one to me is the best for learning to read and spell. This is because it contains a huge set of different word elements: blends, digraphs, trigraphs, prefixes and suffixes.

6. Phonics Reading Rods (Best for Homework)

Quick Review: Simple and entertaining. Get your child to create their ‘homework words of the week’ using the cubes.

How it helps your Child Read and Spell:

Children connect the reading rods to make words. The reading rods are color coded so you can remove the yellow and green rods to make simple words, or include all of them to make as many words as you want.

I like to give the rods to my students and have them complete the homework words. If they complete that in time, I’ll challenge them to make me 20 words in 5 minutes.

7. Phonics Spelling Game Pads (Best for Beginners)

Quick Review: These game pads can be played alone or in groups. Great for children right at the beginning of their spelling journey.

How it helps your Child Read and Spell:

This game gets children to complete the spelling of three-letter words. There is an image to stimulate a child’s thinking about the word. Then they have to think about the phenome that is required. For ‘hat’, the child would have to reflect on the letter ‘hat’ stands for. Encourage your child to sound out the word and think of the sounds they can hear in the words. This is one of my favorite games for absolute beginners who have just recently learned the alphabet.

Read Also: Best Toys for Learning Spelling & Writing

What to Look for in Phonics Games

Focus on Blending Graphemes (word parts) to Create Words

A grapheme is a part of a word. It might be ‘at’ in the word ‘mat’ or ‘ing’ in the word ‘sing’. A phonics game should be focused on getting students to blend graphemes so that they create words.

Great phonics games (based on the synthetic, analytic or embedded types of phonics) will give children a whole range of graphemes (word parts) and let them play around to see if they can create lots of different words.

I particularly like phonics games that include a range of word parts, including:

  • Onsets – words parts that start a word.
  • Rimes – words parts that end a word.
  • Blends and Digraphs – two-letter words parts, like ‘oo’, ‘ar’, ‘at’, ‘it’
  • Trigraphs – three-letter word parts, like ‘ing’, ‘ong’, ‘ate’

A Play Based Approach

All these games have been selected because they encourage learning through doing and playing. Advantages of play-based learning include opportunities for:

  • Trial and error
  • High levels of motivation, engagement and focus
  • Creativity and analytical thinking
  • Stumbling upon new answers

Room for Growth

I also like games where children can play them from a very early level, but that can also get harder and harder as a child gets better at the English language. Most of the above games do offer this option, including the reading rods, fridge magnets, Spelligator and the dice game. For each of these, start by removing the trigraphs (three-letter word parts) so children can master digraphs (two-letter word parts) before progressing to the harder things!

Age Ranges: Pre-K, Kindergarten and Grade 1

You can start teaching basic phonics from about 3 years of age, but I find many children are uninterested until age 5. This is when we really focus on explicitly teaching phonics to our students.

For pre-K (less than 5 years of age), try to focus on learning the alphabet and rote learning how to spell your own name. Advanced children might also be able to start thinking about what letter a word starts with by sounding it out and reflecting on the phenomes they are creating with their mouth.

For Kindergarten (5 years of age), focus on explicit teaching of digraphs (two-letter word parts) and getting children to connect onsets with rimes (e.g. two word parts to create simple words). In the first half of kindergarten we try to focus on common words.

For Grade 1 (6 years of age), focus on harder trigraphs and get children to play around and experiment to find new and increasingly complex word forms.

Final Thoughts

Phonics is undoubtedly the best way to teach reading and spelling.

Teaching and learning phonics can also be incredibly fun!

But it’s serious business. Learning to read is incredibly important for children’s development and their futures.

Because it’s so serious, we need to make it as fun as possible. When you make learning to read and spell fun, your child will spend more time and focus on reading and spelling – and they will progress faster. As a parent, you have a huge role in helping your child learn!

I hope this list of the best phonics toys for Pre-K, Kindergarten and Grade 1 has helped you find some great toys for helping your child on their reading journey.

Related Article: 15 Best STEM Toys for Kids
Related Article: 15 Best Toys for Learning to Read

Website | + posts

Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *