7 helpful Phonics Manipulatives for Early Learners

Last Updated on July 14, 2022 by Editorial Team

Please Note: This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure (link) for more info.

Children struggling with reading is a common sight, especially at the pre-school stage. Their read-to-learn skills are under-developed since they are not familiar with the letters’ shape and sound. With regular practice, students acquire reading skills; however, this discomfort continues to stay conspicuous in children with reading difficulties. To children with reading problems, words seem to merge into one another and everything looks blurred to them when they try to read. To overcome this problem, the teachers lay focus on developing phonics skills at an early learning stage.

Why phonics is important?

Phonics, the study of the letter-sound relationship, helps in developing reading abilities in early learners. In the initial stage of teaching reading, the kids try to learn reading by sight. This was called analytic phonics and relied heavily on rote learning of words by sight. In modern times, the emphasis is equally on understanding the sound of the words. That is why; now teachers take the consonant-vowel-consonant (CVC) route and group the words into families such as ‘s’ sound words, ‘l’ sound words, and so on. Phonics based learning offers advantages[1] such as:

  • It helps decode the words into parts and provides learning of sound of each part
  • It improves word recognition skills
  • It helps develop spelling abilities

Making phonics learning easy for early learners is a challenge for the teachers. However, they find reliable teaching support in phonics manipulatives that offer help in imparting learning of various aspects of word sound, decoding of words, the spelling of words, etc. In short, manipulatives make learning phonics fun and interesting.

Let’s take a look at some really helpful manipulatives for teaching phonics to preschoolers or kindergarteners.

7 helpful phonics manipulatives for preschoolers and kindergarteners

1. Flash Cards

School Zone - Phonics Made Easy Flash Cards - Ages 6 and Up, Preschool to 2nd Grade, Short Vowels, Long Vowels, Word-Picture Recognition

The flashcards containing colorful pictures and letters give an engaging tool for kids to associate the letter with their respective sounds and meaning. Early phonics skills acquired by way of combining letter sounds and cards may stay retained in the kids’ minds for a long.

Practicing the letter sounds daily or regularly incites quick concept recall and makes the kids confident in their phonic skills. These flashcards are offering support for learning long and short vowel sounds. The portability allows you to carry them along and keep kids engaged in learning wherever you want.

2. Reading Blocks

The Original Montessori Phonetic Reading Blocks - Made in The USA - Educational Materials for The Beginning Reader - Eco Friendly Wooden Manipulative Toy for Kindergarten, Toddlers 3 4 5 6 Year Olds

Rotate the cube and sound out the words formed! These reading cubes help to know the decoding of the word, first of all. Second, you get to know and practice the vowel sounds.

With a simple way of rotating, while learning the spellings, you go on the path of forming words, the words that actually exist and make sense.

Third, this simple tool allows you to know about the vowel families like ‘i’ sound words, ‘e’ sound words, etc. As a teacher, you can use these cubes to drive a child who is a reluctant reader to practice phonics and groom into an inquisitive reader.

3. Pop Cards

Learning Resources Pop for Letters, Early Phonics Game, Alphabet Recognition

Pop the card out, read the alphabet, and sound it out as well! This pop card set has an element of suspense as kids stay curious about what would come out next. Since the cards are printed singly, there are no blending troubles to deal with.

The primary introduction of alphabet sounds, phonics intelligence, and words’ initial sound learning are some of the big advantages of practicing phonics using these pop cards. You can inculcate phonics fluency by prompting kids to take out cards and sound them out in a given time-frame using this phonics manipulative.

4. Phonics Dominoes

Educational Insights Phonics Dominoes - Blends & Digraphs

Early learners can gain knowledge of digraphs and blends which are essential for gaining the words’ sound-making skills through this phonics manipulative. With one-sided dominoes carrying parts of words like ‘ch’ and ‘ain’, or ‘dr’ and ‘ill’, the kids get ample practice for decoding the words.

Guide kids to arrange these dominoes to make meaningful word sounds, and they gain skills like word building, word pronunciation, and word identification. When the students have grasped the alphabet identification, the dominoes take them one step further and give the practice of how words are formed using letters.

5. ABC Cookies

Learning Resources Goodie Games ABC Cookies, 4 Games in 1, Math Games for Kindergarten, Alphabet, Pre-Reading, Phonics

Enticing alphabet cards made in the form of cookies help drive kids’ interest in reading and learning the letter sounds. These cookies offer requisite practice for learning the initial alphabet sound. The learners join the letters as ‘C A T’, ‘H A T’, etc. to learn spellings with rhyming sounds. Familiarization with sound families, and learning early phonics make this manipulative quite useful to develop emergent reading skills in preschoolers.

Also, this phonics manipulative allows learners to have hands-on practice of vocabulary building, CVC word building, and beginning sounds. By way of putting the cookies together to make letters, children internalize the decoding process of phonics building.

6. Phonics Pocket Charts

PDX Reading Specialist Small 13x17" Standing Table Top and Hanging Pocket Chart

Learn phonics while on the move! Pocket charts can be hung as a classroom learning supply or for teaching phonics at home. The pocket charts carrying the parts of a word such as ‘dr’ and ‘ink’ and others make it easy for the kids to understand the sound formation corresponding to the spelling of the word.

As a teacher, you can create a repertoire of phonemes and blends and store them in this pocket chart. By the way of joining parts of the word together and sounding them out, the kids grasp the word formation, spelling building, and the flow of word sound. A fun-filled respite from printed books, this manipulative allows kids to enjoy building early reading and phonics skills and makes them a confident speller as well.

7. Word Building Letter Cubes

hand2mind 60005CR Reading Rods Phonics Word Building Letter Cubes For Kids Ages 6-10, Learn Letter Patterns, Short Vowels And Long Vowel Sounds, Words Ending With Y, Homeschool Supplies

Parts of words made into cubes give a tangible introduction to building words using the sequence of letters and allow them to understand their sound sequence too. You can sort the cubes into word families and give children ample practice for rhyming words.

This phonics manipulative can help to master the short vowel sound, long vowel sound, word ending with ‘Y’. It also introduces kids to consonants blends and trains them to use them for spelling formation and learning their pronunciation.

How do manipulatives help in achieving milestones in Phonics development?

As soon as kids enter the preschool stage, they can find the support of phonics manipulatives to acquire word-building and sounding out skills. The manipulatives help gain progress in phonics development while achieving the following milestones:

2-3 years: At this stage, kids should show interest in recognizing and making words. Phonics manipulatives help develop curiosity about sounds, rhymes, and syllables to kids belonging to this learning phase.

2.5 – 5 years: Phonics manipulatives help experimenting with word sounds. These boost recognition of rhyming words and word families. At this stage, kids are expected to have built awareness about letter-sound relationships.

Summing up,

Manipulatives prepare kids at the early reading stage fully to move further to long words, words with mixed sounds, and ultimately, to emerge as confident spellers and sentence builders. By way of arranging, sorting, and joining phonemes, digraphs, or blends, the grasping of the letter and word sound knowledge boosts and helps make a solid foundation for reading.


  1. (Importance of teaching phonics, n.d.), <https://www.ipl.org/essay/Importance-Of-Teaching-Phonics-F3EMXJKRC486>

Leave a Comment