a phrase; they notice that the pronunciations of several words (like “dog” and “dark” and “dusty”) all begin the same way.

Although younger preschoolers rarely pay attention to the smallest meaningful segments (phonemes) of words, gaining an awareness of these phonemes is a more advanced aspect of phonological awareness that becomes increasingly important as school approaches, because these segments are what letters usually stand for. That’s the alphabetic principle. A child who has attained phonemic awareness, for example, understands that there are three phonemes in the spoken word “mud.” Many activities can nurture phonological awareness in the preschool years.


Songs, rhyming games, language play, and nursery rhymes—these are all excellent ways to spark children’s awareness of language and sounds.

For example, sing the Teddy Bear song.

Teddy bear, Teddy bear, turn around.

Teddy bear, Teddy bear, touch the ground.

Teddy bear, Teddy bear, show your shoe.

Teddy bear, Teddy bear, that will do.

Teddy bear, Teddy bear, brush your hair.

Teddy bear, Teddy bear, climb the stair.

Teddy bear, Teddy bear, reach for the sky.

Teddy bear, Teddy bear, wave goodbye.

Take advantage of everyday activities to talk about words and sounds. For example, when buying fruit at the market, you might ask the child which sound is the same in the words peach and pineapple, or in peach and tea.

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