All three of our children love playing with the ball pool, we play with it both inside and outside and all year round so I decided to make some phonics games using the ball pool or the balls from it. We have a ball pool that I bought from Morrisons in the sale last summer and a couple of bags of balls to go with it. We also have a portable play pen which has a pack of balls in it. I tend to get the play pen out when I need to keep Charlie contained and out of trouble now he is on the move and into everything. Both Megan and Isabel love getting in there with him and they all end up throwing the balls out of the pen which gave me the idea for the first game.
- Have a few balls in a bowl or ball pit in the middle of the room (you can play this indoors or outdoors). Dotted around the room have a pieces of paper with the sounds you want to practice written on them (four works best).
- Adult to call out a sound and your child throw the ball at the sound called.
- You can add an element of competition to it and give points for each sound hit correctly.
- You can then swap and your child calls out a sound and the adult can throw the ball at the sound.
This game focuses on sound recognition. When your child is throwing the ball they are reading and recognising the sounds they need to practise. When your child is calling the sound they are practising pronouncing the sound correctly as well as recognising the sound. Any sounds can be used for this game including single phonemes, two letter sounds (digraphs) and three letter sounds (trigraphs). It can also be used as a fun way to practise tricky words (words that cannot be sounded out) for example I, no, go, to, the.
- Select four sounds you want to practise. Write these sounds on the balls with a marker pen, approximately four balls per sound.
- Dotted around the room have four buckets or bowls with the corresponding sounds written on them.
- Adult to say a word that starts with the sound you want to practise. Your child finds the correct sound on a ball and runs to the bowl and places it in, or throws the ball into the bowl. If you want to make it easier you can just say the sound rather than the word.
Again this game focuses on sound recognition. Your child is reading the sound both on the ball and on the bucket and matching them together reinforces the sound. They are hearing, seeing and matching the sound.
- Write the sounds your child has learnt so far onto balls and place into the ball pit. If they know fifteen sounds then that will be fifteen balls. Mix in the rest of the balls which have not been written on.
- Adult call out a sound and your child goes ‘fishing’ for the sound. When they have found it throw it to the adult.
- Continue until all fifteen sounds have been found.
This game is simple but effective. Children have to remember what the sound they are looking for looks like and either reject or select the sound they have picked up. This game can also be adapted to practise ‘tricky’ words.
When we have played these games Isabel has loved throwing the balls and running around. She is definitely an active learner and likes games where she is up and moving. What is also great about these games is that the other children can join in without ruining the game because they can have their own pile of balls to throw randomly, so everyone is having fun together.
I hope you find these games as much fun as we do.