Using language objects to match beginning sounds onto a letter mat is a great way to practice phonemic awareness at home. #montessori

Make letter recognition and phonemic awareness fun and engaging for little ones with this simple matching card game. It’s a perfect low-prep activity with no special supplies needed!

Are you looking for ways to help your child with letter recognition and phonemic awareness? This simple seek-and-find game is easy to incorporate at home or at school and is sure to be a hit with kids of all ages.

What is Letter Recognition?

Letter recognition is the ability to identify a letter by name and know its corresponding sound(s). In order to learn letter recognition, children must be able to visually distinguish the different letter shapes from one another. Letter recognition is a skill that takes both time and repeated practice.

Why Letter Recognition is Important

Establishing letter-sound correspondence is a key component of early literacy. The more readily children are able to recognize letters and intuitively know which sounds each letter is associated with, the more success and confidence they will have when learning to write and read.

When Does Letter Recognition Start?

Letter recognition should begin once a child has begun to demonstrate phonemic awareness. This means when a child is able to discern the different sounds that comprise a word, it’s a good sign they’re ready to begin associating those sounds with the letters of the alphabet. You can help a child develop phonemic awareness by playing a variety of sound games, rhyming games, and blending games.

How to Help Letter Recognition?

Simply put, the optimal way to help children learn letter recognition is to make it fun! Learning through play is best for young children. Thankfully, there are a variety of games and activities that can be used to help children learn the letters of the alphabet.

Printable Letter Recognition Game

How to Introduce the Letters of the Alphabet

First, if you haven’t yet introduced the letters of the alphabet to your child, select 3-4 letters that you would like to focus on at a time. I recommend presenting the letters to your child as demonstrated by InfoMontessori here.

Our printable letter recognition game features (3) separate decks of cards. Each deck is color-coded on the back to make it easy to distinguish between them.

The first two decks each include 13 letters of the alphabet, while the third deck features 13 common digraphs. Here’s a breakdown of which letters are included with each deck.

  • Deck 1: Includes the letters m, c, a, t, s, r, i, p b, f, o, g, d.
  • Deck 2: Includes the letters h, j, u, l, w, e, n, k, q, v, x, y, z.
  • Deck 3: Includes the digraphs ch, sh, th, ai, ee, ie, oa, ar, er, or, ue, ou, oy.

To start, I recommend playing Deck 1 first. Once your child is confident identifying these 13 letters, then you can move onto Deck 2. Deck 3 is great to include in your daily learning rotation once your child begins learning digraphs.

If you’d like a letter tracking sheet, you can download a free copy in the Resource Library.

Read more about the Montessori letter tracking sheet here.

3 Ways to Play the Printable Letter Recognition Game

Letter Matching Game

To play the letter matching game, a child simply draws two cards and then finds the matching set of letters. Yes, it’s really that simple!

First, shuffle the cards. Then flip two cards over and challenge your child to find the matching letters. The child can either say the letter name or the letter sound, depending on which skill you’re actively working on.

A child identifies the matching alphabet letter while playing a letter recognition game.

As stated above, our family starts with letter sounds to ensure a solid phonics base when learning to write and read and then we introduce the letter names at a later time.

This letter recognition game is so straightforward, but kids really love it! If your children are competitive, by all means let them race against each other. For solo play, both my kids like to see how many matching pairs they can collect before the sand timer runs out.

Once the basics of the game are understood, it’s easy to enhance the game’s learning opportunities. For example, in order to collect the matching pair, the child has to say a word that starts with the designated sound.

Increase the difficulty and turn it into a spelling game for elementary children. First, the child finds the matching set of letters. Then you come up with a word for them to spell that starts with that specific letter. In order to collect the matching pair of cards, the child must spell the word correctly.

Sound Games: A Seek-and-Find Activity

Because I follow Maria Montessori’s approach to helping my children learn to read, cultivating phonemic awareness is key. First we play sound games with objects. Once letters are introduced, begin using these cards to play seek-and-find sound games.

To play this game, simply gather a collection of sound objects and then pick 2-4 of the letter cards. Challenge your child to find an object whose beginning sound matches each letter. If they’re unable to find a match in the language objects made available, it can then turn into a scavenger hunt around the house! The object is to try and complete each letter card with a full set of objects.

Child matches language objects to digraphs to work on letter recognition and phonemic awareness using a printable letter recognition game.

Don’t have language objects? Simply grab a set of small picture cards or, better yet, you and your child can draw a set of language object pictures on small 2×2 pieces of paper.

Sound Games: An “I Spy…” Activity

This printable letter recognition game can also be used to play sound games, too. Flip over a card. Then pick a letter and say, “I spy a letter that makes the sound….”. Your child wins the card if they’re able to find the letter!

The printable letter recognition game is available in the Resource Library. Both print and cursive versions are available for your convenience.

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