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7 Phonics Play Activities for Tricky Words

When it comes to teaching tricky words in phonics, it can seem like a challenge! This is because tricky words do not conform to normal phonics rules you cannot sound out the word. In fact, if you did sound out the word, it would sound rather nonsensical. Children must therefore learn to recognise the whole word rather than breaking it down into parts. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to make learning tricky words fun! This blogpost will be focusing on the tricky words present in Phase 3 phonics. Start by watching the above video for some activity ideas, then explore these activities in more detail below. 

1. Sensory Phonics Play for Free

If your children love hands-on learning, there are wonderful sensory activities to boost development. Discover at-home phonics play for free with shaving foam. First, find a sensitive brand to protect little hands. Then, spread the foam onto a wipeable surface, such as a tray or laminated piece of paper. Children can practice forming letters and spelling tricky words in the foam. Simply smooth the foam over when it is time to practice the next word! To make it increasingly visually stimulating, mix with food colouring. The more drops, the brighter the colourbut the messier the hands! Using more food colouring may stain fingers – to avoid this, you can also use a paintbrush. If you have plenty of food colours, try using different colours for the various letter sounds. Read about more sensory activities here.

2. Free Phonics Worksheets 

Discover hundreds of free printables to support the National Curriculum on WordUnited’s Free Resources Hub, including phonics worksheets. For example, Phase 3 Tricky Words Game encourages children to practice reading the word they land on and create a sentence using the word. It is suitable for 2-8 players, with a DIY die and counters included. This printable game is an excellent example of phonics play for free, either at home or school. Similarly, these cute Phonics Flashcards and handy word mat help children to read and spell tricky words. Display in the classroom or on the desk to be used as prompts or flashcards. Simply laminate and cut out the cards to use again and again!  

3. Phonics Books for Kids 

For children learning to read, a knowledge of phonics is super important, as it teaches children to decode, blend and recognise words. Letterland’s Magnetic Word Builder is a fabulous board book that helps children practice new words with ease. The book holds 52 magnetic foam letters, with vowels and consonants distinguished by colour. This would be a brilliant resource for learning tricky words, as children can practice building and reading each word in an interactive way. Flip Flap Phonics also enables children to construct words – both real and made-up ones! For a complete phonics reading set, try WordUnited’s very own Let’s Read series, packed with vibrant, realistic images and easily readable text.  

4. Phonics Kids’ Learning Toys 

Here at WordUnited, we believe learning and playing is one. You can browse thousands of kids’ learning toys that promote cognitive, emotional and physical development – all whilst having fun! Helping kids to understand phonics is no exception. Practice tricky words with alphabet beads. Lacing and threading the beads to spell words not only improves word recognition, but it also develops dexterity, fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. Moreover, try using phonics cubes to create tricky words in a versatile and engaging activity. Shop more phonics kids’ learning toys here. 

5. Phonics Flashcards for Kids 

Flashcards are an excellent way to improve recognition, as they can be visually appealing and incredibly adaptable to fit children’s needs. For example, they can be used for improving memory, matching or a game of snap. Alternately, they can be used in a methodical way to encourage children to quickly recognise tricky words. Check out textured flashcards such as these from Letterland.

6. Online Phonics Games for Kids

In addition to learning with resources in the physical world, children may also benefit from virtual phonics games. BBC Bitesize has learner guides for Phase 3 Phonics, progressing through the letter sounds. There is also an animated song with Phonics Wizards to teach Phase 3 tricky words. Online phonics games and resources may help children to develop their knowledge without feeling like it is a difficult task. You may also find TopMarks useful for educational phonics games for kids online.  

7. Phonics Teaching Resource Kits 

To help with phonics play 3 planning, why not try teaching resource kits? No Nonsense Phonics Skills is a programme providing logical, step-by-step content to guide teachers and children through a series of carefully designed systematic phonics routines. This includes high frequency and tricky words for kids in Year 1 and Year 2. Moreover, Fix It Phonics Level 2 is a teacher’s guide that may make phonics play 3 planning a little easier! Including Phase 3 tricky words, this guide helps to structure lessons and provides free resources.  

Read more about teaching Phase 3 Phonics in this blogpost and take a look at the thousands of resources on wordunited.com to support learning. Plus, get 10% off for home learning with code: wu4kids!