How to Develop Phonological Awareness in Children

In this article, discover simple activities that you can do at home to develop phonological awareness in children.
How to Develop Phonological Awareness in Children

Last update: 19 April, 2019

Phonological awareness is the recognition of spoken language. As human beings interact with others through words, they develop this skill. Over time, children learn that spoken language is made up of words, words of syllables, and syllables of phonemes.

“Phonological awareness is a metalinguistic capacity that develops gradually during the first years of life, from the awareness of the larger and more specific units of speech, words and syllables, to the smallest and most abstract ones, or phonemes.”

–Malva Villalón–

Once children develop this skill, they can begin to manipulate sounds in their speech. When this happens, they become able to visually recognize letters. For this reason, printed figures shouldn’t be used to develop phonological awareness to ensure that no steps are skipped during the process.

The following activities help develop recognition of sounds before beginning literacy exercises.

Exercises to develop phonological awareness

The listening game

The first sounds that a child will learn to recognize are those of everyday life.

  • Ask children to sit in silence for a couple of minutes.
  • Then, ask them what they heard during this time.
  • They’ll possibly mention the noise of cars, doors opening and closing, the air conditioning, etc.

The onomatopoeia game

How to Develop Phonological Awareness in Children

This game is perfect for family time.

  • Sit in a circle and have your child sit in the center with his or her eyes closed.
  • Then, someone else has to stand up and then stop at a place and make an animal sound.
  • The child must point to the place where the sound came from. These games are important because they help improve auditory acuity and concentration.


Rhymes are great tools to develop phonological awareness. They help children realize that there are very similar sounds and also help them imitate language patterns.

The best way to use rhymes in everyday life is by singing songs and reading poems and riddles. Don’t hesitate to articulate certain words, as this will make the activity a lot more fun.

The pictures game

Once children are familiar with the concept of rhymes, you can challenge them even further

  • Grab a box and put some pictures of pairs of objects whose names rhyme inside it.
  • Your child should take the pictures out of the box and match them according to the sounds of their names.

The syllables game

Understanding how to break down words into syllables is important to lay the groundwork for good spelling and understanding of the units of speech. The entire family can participate in this activity.

  • Sitting in a circle, each family member has to say their name while applauding the syllables that comprise it.
  • Then, you continue with larger words.
  • You can also use pictures to name things or look around and say the names of the objects you see around you.

Syllable songs

How to Develop Phonological Awareness in Children

Syllable songs help children practice breaking down words into syllables. A great example is the famous song “Clap, Stomp & Chomp.”

As you can see, phonological awareness is a fundamental skill for the proper development of other communication skills. Therefore, it’s essential to stimulate it through very simple activities like the ones we shared in this article.

Remember that it’s extremely important that you try to improve your children’s listening skills, as this will allow them to develop their literacy skills.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Grant #90HC0001 for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Head Start, by the National Center on Cultural and Linguistic Responsiveness
  • Villalón, M. (2008). Alfabetización inicial: claves de acceso a la lectura y escritura desde los primeros meses de vida. Ediciones Universidad Católica de Chile.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.