Babies Walkers to 2 2s to 3s 3s to 4s

Overview and benefit

This unit focuses on just a few different initial sounds in this phonics element. The sounds have been chosen because they start lots of words which young children will recognise. For example ‘b’ was chosen as it starts words like ball, balloon, bat, bowl, bath, bubble – all objects children can relate to and which are easy to represent pictorially. On the other hand ‘i’ was not chosen (although it features in Jolly Phonics stage 1 group of words), as it does not begin many words that children will recognise (igloo, iguana, India, indigo etc) and unlike Synthetic Phonics, we are not teaching children to blend sounds. This activity introduces children to a single sound by looking at different items beginning with a single letter.

NOTE – it is essential that you sound the phoneme (letter sound) purely and correctly. When we say a sound we often accidentally add an ‘er’ sound to the end which is not correct. Please check out the Oxford Owl website and watch the video and listen to how the sounds should be made before you begin.

Equipment required

  • Box full of different objects beginning with the initial sound you have chosen
  • Picture of the initial letter

Training videos

Phonics from MAD Academy on Vimeo.


Two to three weeks

How it works

Choose a sound to focus on from: b, c, f, h, m, p, r, s, t, w. Fill a bag with objects starting with your chosen letter.

What to do in the class

This activity introduces children to real objects which start with the same sound. Have a box or bag. Place in the box objects which all start with the same sound. Gradually pull out each item and get the children to name the items.

You could use a simple rhyme just before you withdraw each item to get the children focused each time, such as:

What’s in the box?

What’s in the box?

Shall we look and see?

What’s in the box?

What’s in the box?

Come and look with me!

It’s a ….

As you name each item, really accentuate the initial sound. Ask the children to say the word with you and then ask them what sound it begins with. As you help them say the sound, show them a picture of the letter and repeat the sound again.

Line up the objects (perhaps the children could take one each to put away) and recap what you have.

What to do in a nursery setting

Work with all the children together as a seated group.

Adaptation for older children

If your children find this activity easy, you could make it harder by asking if they can think of other things that start with the same sound? You could add an ‘odd one out’ – an item that doesn’t start with that letter. If the items were those things mentioned in the relevant song, the children would be more used to sounding out the first letter.