Phonics Games – I Spy

This post on Phonics Games – I Spy is part of my 21 Challenge. I am taking The 21 Challenge to raise money to support homeless and at-risk young people in Australia. There are more than 32,000 young people who sleep on our streets every night and I am blogging a kids activity daily to raise funds to go to Open Family Australia who support these youths.

My challenge is to blog daily an activity I do each day with my kids, using only things we have at home or use what we have on hand when we are out. You can see all the children’s activities I have posted as part of the 21 Challenge by clicking on the tag 21 Challenge here.

And it is with great excitement that I can say with the help of some very special readers of the blog, I have reached my $500 goal for the challenge – thank you so much to those who have donated. I am thrilled and so very very pleased that these funds will go to helping young people around the country. Think I might need to set another goal now – so if you haven’t donated yet and would like to, you can donate here.



To begin teaching the child the phonic sounds of the letters of the alphabet.


3 – 5 years old

Materials needed:

  • 3 small household objects the child can name.
  • Once the preschooler has  become skilled at this game, you can increase the number of objects you use.


Phonic Games - I Spy
I was taught this game by my eldest son’s Montessori teacher about 10 years ago. It is simple and targeted version of the traditional “I Spy” game:

  • Find three items that your child will know the name of. Be sure to choose objects that start with letters that sound different to make it as easy as possible for your child. For example, you wouldn’t choose a monkey and a nut as “m” and “n” can be quite difficult to differentiate. You can work up to that, but start with clearly different sounding letters.
  • Place the items in front of the child.
  • Have the child name each item, so you both have the same understanding of what the object is called. For example with our objects I had selected a plaster “egg”, but when I asked the preschooler to name the item he said “rabbit” because it had a picture of a rabbit on it.
  • Once the preschooler can name all the items correctly you can start the game by saying “I spy with my little eye, something beginning with D”.
  • The child then needs to tell you from the three items in front of him, which one starts with “D”. This was the first time we have played this game together and he had no idea what I meant at first. He pointed and said the name of the snake.
  • If they say the wrong object, simply say “Snake starts with S, what can you see that starts with D?” Our preschooler then said “egg”. So I just kept going and said “Egg starts with E, what can you see that starts with D?”. He of course said “dog” as it was the only one left.
  • It takes time for the process of the game to set in. I alternated between asking him the question and letting him ask the question. He would say “I spy with my little eye, something beginning with dog”. I would just point to the dog and say “Dog starts with D, I can see a dog starting with D”.
  • I would then ask him another question and we kept going for about 15 minutes. In the last game, he did get S for snake first off (it of course still been a guess, but he was super excited by this)!

Phonic Games - I Spy
I have popped the three items in to a ziplock bag and will continue to use these items for the next week or longer until I think he knows their starting sound. I have placed the ziplock bag in my bag, so when we are waiting places we can have a quick game.

Playing this phonic game in short bursts regularly will help build up his phonic awareness gradually in a way that he isn’t even aware he is learning phonic sounds. We will take it quite slow and eventually make our way through the all the letters in the alphabet.

Additional resources:

  • Beginner Phonic Activities – an older post of mine, which is for older children who are closer to reading and has a more advanced version of this game.
  • 10 Online Games For Learning The Alphabet – at this age, the games would need to be played with the guidance of a parent, but it can be good to mix up the medium you expose a child to when teaching them new concepts.
  • Alphablocks – by far my favvourite phonic free online game for kids. My three year old isn’t ready to play the games yet, but they have some great videos he can watch.
  • Starfall – is a fantastic site which takes a systematic phonics approach to early literacy.

What phonics games do you play with the kids?

If you enjoyed this post, you are welcome to sponsor me in my 21 Challenge. Donations are tax deductible and can be made securely online here. Thanks!