Word games to boost early literacy skills: Counting syllables

Fun with book

When a child is getting ready to learn to read, word games offer a great way to have fun and start making connections between sounds, letters and words. These connections create the building blocks for reading and spelling. Try this activity involving syllable counting.

Syllable Counting Fun

Four and five-year-old children can learn to count the parts, or syllables, of words. Most children at this age are able to listen for and count two, three and even four syllables in a word. Distinguishing the separate parts of words will help your child to read new words later on by teaching them to break words down into smaller and more manageable parts.

Children enjoy learning how to break down words by using music and movement. Try these fun activities to begin counting syllables:

  • Walk around your home and neighborhood, labeling people, places or things. It’s also really fun to play this word game in the supermarket if your child still fits in the carriage. Focus on one word at a time (ex:  “cloud,” “air-plane,”  “sun-shine,” “neigh-bor-hood,” “ba-na-na,” “cer-e-al,” etc.).  Say the word slowly while tapping out the syllables on your child’s arm or shoulder.
  • Do it again. This time, tap your child while you count the parts (e.g., “cloud; one.” “air-plane; one-two.” “neigh-bor-hood; one, two, three.” etc.).
  • Do the same with your child’s first and last names, as well as with names of favorite people in your child’s life.

Over time, ask your child to tap out syllables on your arm and have them count the syllables.

Read the whole series on word games, including posts on Rhyming funAlliteration activities, and Listening for sounds, all found on the Mass Literacy blog.

Jean Ciborowski Fahey, PhD is a 2014 Mass Literacy Champion. She is the author of Make Time for Reading: A Story Guide for Parents of Babies and Young Children. Learn more about Jean here.