Phonics for 2-year-olds: How to teach toddlers to read

Why Phonics is your new BFF

Oooh boy, parents – teaching young children to read can be a doozy! Weather you are a Montessori teacher or just a concerned parent ready to roll up your sleeves and give your baby a head start. As parents we all have been in the same shoes, questioning how to help our little ones figure out the wild world of fine motor skills, learning new words, reading and talking.

Phonics for 2-year-olds Can a 2 year old learn phonics?

Yes, but it’s a long road ahead from phonics to sight words. While some toddlers are flat out stars when it comes to reading phonics for 3-4 year olds is still going strong. So take a deep breath, grab some caffeine, and let’s dive in. 

We all want our tots to be bookworms, but where’s a mom or dad to start? Phonics is your new BFF for cracking the reading code. Helping your mini-me connect letters to sounds lays the groundwork. Start with short vowels, then consonant blends. It’s tedious at times, but push through and make a game of it.

There are two types of reading: “whole language” and “phonics.” But, research shows that fluent readers rely on sounding out, and this process is vital to understand how we should teach kids to read.

Luckily we have you covered when it comes to teaching your toddler to read and the key to unlocking all their amazing potential is phonics. Phonics is a wonderful technique to teach reading by matching letters with their sounds or phonemes.

When your child masters phonics it simply means they understand the individual letters’ sounds and how to blend them together to pronounce words. A phonics based method is a solid  foundation to learning letter sounds. In our article what is phonics we explain in more detail. We have also created a step by step system that takes the guesswork out of teaching any of your children’s age 0-12 how to read.

Crack the Phonics Code

Phonics is like the secret decoder ring of reading and writing. It’s the magic key that unlocks the relationship between sounds (phonemes) and their spellings (graphemes). The goal is to teach kids the most common sound-spelling relationships so they can decode, or sound out, words. This decoding ability is the golden ticket to reading proficiency. 

It’s always amazing to see young kids when start sounding out words. The day will come when they point at a sign and say, “M-o-m, that says ‘stop’!” Its like watching a little bird take its first flight. The joy of seeing 2 and 3 year olds apply their phonics knowledge in the real world is priceless, let me tell ya!

With a little bit of knowledge, you’ll be well on your way to helping your child crack the reading and writing code. Before you know it, they’ll be sounding out words left and right. And seeing that lightbulb moment when it all clicks? Well shucks, that’s what it’s all about!

Step 1: Introduce them to letter sounds

This is a crucial step as many parents and teachers often start with the, letters of the alphabet, the alphabet song but these just teach letter names, which, while beautiful and fun, will not teach your children to read. Instead, focus on the letter sounds, particularly the short vowel sounds.

You can start by using phonics flashcards or creating index cards with lowercase letters. The reason for using lowercase is because lowercase is what is mostly seen when reading. The uppercase letters they learn intuitively as you teach the letter names and as you teach writing.

The ABCs of phonological awareness 

Using phonics sessions we teach young’uns to associate letters (graphemes) with their sounds (phonemes), and use this knowledge to read and spell words. Sounds simple, right? Well, English ain’t a phonetically regular language, meaning that letters and sounds don’t always have a one-to-one correspondence. But don’t let that scare ya! Understanding and teaching phonics is crucial, and I promise it’s not as daunting as it sounds once you get the hang of it.

Focus their attention on the letter sounds.

For next step you can use a whiteboard and marker, or you can use a card with the sound on it. The key is to get your little one’s focus and attention on this sound as much as possible.

You can make this process more engaging by incorporating your child’s interests. For example, if your child likes trains, have the train drive to the sound when they say it right. If they like stuffed animals, have the stuffed animal say the sound. The key to learning is their focus. It’s not about them sitting still or being perfect, it’s about them focusing on the one sound that you’re teaching them.

Building phonemic awareness skill 

Let’s start with the basics. In phonics, there are two main things we focus on – phonemic awareness and phonics instruction. Phonemic awareness is recognizing that spoken words are made up of individual speech sounds called phonemes. It’s understanding that cat is made up of three distinct sounds, /k/, /a/, and /t/. Phonics instruction builds on this by teaching the relationships between those sounds and written letters/letter combinations. 

For example, we teach that the letter C can make the /k/ sound as in cat. We also teach vowel sounds, blends like st-, digraphs like sh-, and other letter/sound relationships. As young children learn these “sound of the letter” patterns, it allows them to decode unfamiliar words by sounding them out. Pretty nifty, huh?

Step 2: Reading Lessons For Early Reading

One of the very first things in phonics instruction is actually showing kids the starting sounds of words. There are lots of fun activities that can help young kids practice this skill, like coloring in pictures that start with a certain sound, scavenger hunt, or playing fun phonics games. 

Teaching phonics to toddlers may seem like a tough task, but it don’t gotta be. The key is to start simple and make the learning process fun. Songs and rhymes are a great way to introduce phonics to young’uns. They can learn to associate sounds with letters or groups of letters in a delightful and memorable way. Once your little one has mastered the speech sounds, you can move on to blending sounds. This involves combining two individual sounds. For example, if your kid has learned the sounds for ‘a’ and ‘m’, you can start teaching them to blend these sounds to make ‘am’. 

Building a strong foundation with Read Aloud

Reading aloud to younger children on a daily basis  helps a lot, they pick up on patterns in speech and print. The more exposure, the better! So make read aloud a can’t miss part of your daily or nightly routine. A consistent read aloud routine is a great start to their reading journey. During read aloud mix in a variety of book not just phonics books, build a well rounded home library that includes rhyming books, nursery rhymes, books with simple words, simple sentences, silly sentences, beautiful illustrations. Even older children enjoy read aloud time because they get one-on-one attention and intimate bonding moments with their mom or dad. 

Step 3: Practice Phonemic awareness activities and fun games

Making phonics learning fun and engaging is key to helping kids develop their reading skills. There are a ton of  jolly phonics activities and games that parents can use to teach their kiddos. Remember, the goal is to make learning phonics an enjoyable and positive experience for your child. The more they enjoy the process, the more likely they are to stick with it and succeed. Here are a few examples:

1. Phonics Songs: Singing tunes is an enjoyable and helpful way to learn. Kids will love phonics song videos and may not even realize they’re learning along the way! Search for songs that focus on a single letter that match your letter of the day. 

2. Guessing game: Present two letter cards and ask your child to identify which letter produces a specific sound.

3. Alphabet bingo: Use an alphabet bingo game set or worksheet to play ABC bingo with your child.

4. Use rhyme books: Rhyming books are a fantastic combo of picture books that tell their stories in simple rhyme. Rhymes are easy to remember and stress beginning and ending letter sounds. When you child knows the rhymes allow them to finish the rhymes themselves.

5. Practice with Phonics book sets. Choose book sets featuring characters that your child loves such as Peppa Pig Phonics, for example. Practice the different sounds of short vs long vowels.

5. Homemade Flashcards: Create this set of 26 flashcards at home for each of the alphabets. Introduce your little one to each of the letters and the sound associated with it. Choose colorful cards to make these and in fact take your child’s help in creating them. On one side write the alphabet and on the other side the sound associated with it. Go through all of them randomly so the child becomes familiar.

6. Letter Magnets 

Display letter magnets on your refrigerator. From a distance, show your child a sight word flashcard, read it aloud, and guide them to retrieve the matching letter magnets individually. 

Overcoming Challenges in Phonics Teaching: We’ve Got This!

One common problem is helping kids understand that letters can make different sounds depending on their context. For example, the letter ‘a’ makes a different sound in words like ‘apple’ versus ‘ball’. To help kids grasp this idea, you can use visual aids, like sound charts, that illustrate different phonics rules. 

Teaching phonics ain’t without its challenges. English is a complex language, and its many rules and exceptions can be tough for little ones to pick up on. But with patience, consistency, and the right strategies, these difficulties can be overcome, no sweat!

As the parent, remember this journey is a marathon, not a sprint. Celebrate the small wins, like correctly sounding out “cat.”  Each child learn at their own pace and with your support, their reading skills will blossom beautifully. Down the road, you’ll see their eyes light up when reading about magical lands of fairies and talking animals. Your heart will overflow with pride at their accomplishment. For now, keep chugging along – this reading train is leaving the station! Choo choo!

We hear at Kids Read Daily have created system to help you to teach phonics at home step by step. Its a comprehensive system for raising young children and older children to be lifelong readers. Start with the book and audio book bundle below.


Leave a Reply