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June 25, 2020

How We Approach Montessori Sound Games + Some Tips

It can feel like such big work to try and support your child's journey toward reading and writing. There can be a lot of pressure to make sure your toddler "knows their letters" or isn't falling behind somehow. Thankfully, there are some things we can do to support the learning journey at home*. One of those things is playing sound games! 

See other posts in this series:

We started sound games with Gus about a year ago at age 2.5! It feels like forever ago, but I want to include that detail because I think sometimes parents can feel like they are failing if their kids aren't interested or don't "get it" right away. There is sometimes a tendency to only share online when something is happening quickly, so the longer, slower cases go unnoticed. 

When we first started playing sound games, we started with just one object. Gus was only mildly interested especially if I tried to play with language objects. He often just wanted to use them for play and not games. I would allow the play for the few minutes and then pack away the objects for next time. 

Sound games are a perfect Montessori activity to help your child learn to read and write. Here are some tips for Montessori parents on using them at home.

I would try to play once a day (not always with formal objects) for a couple minutes at a time. Sometimes, Gus would be super into it and we would play for a long time. Sometimes he would decline my invitation to play at all. Both are totally fine choices for me. 

Now at just over 3.5, Gus is pretty good with beginning sounds and is well on the way to mastering ending sounds. Middle sounds are a mystery to him. I completely respect his path, whether that takes a year or 2 months, I'm just here to support him and make it a point of connection. 

Tips for Playing Sound Games at Home

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when approaching sound games at home. 

It doesn't have to be formal. Don't feel pressured to always sit down and make it a huge formal presentation or work. Play sound games as your gardening "I spy something that begins with /m/! That's right a marigold!" Or while you're eating lunch, "I'm going to eat something that begins with /s/ /s/ /s/ - a strawberry!" These games can be played whenever, where ever, with whatever you have in your environment that is interesting to your child. 

Remember other work is happening at the same time. Sound games are not going to happen in complete isolation. For example, you're still going to have work that helps with preparation of the ears! You should continue to present other work that is interesting to your child. For Gus, we also introduced sandpaper letters while continuing sound games (more on that in another article.) 
It can take awhile; don't force it. Like I said, Gus is still working on this process a year after he started. This is a journey, not a race. Work on these games as your child is ready and interested. This will come at different times and at different speeds for all children. It may also come and go. One month, your child might be really into it, and then have no interest for a few weeks. Try to follow your child. 
Model it. Don't be afraid to notice sounds yourself around your child without directly asking or involving your child in anything. Folding laundry? Sound out some words. "I'm folding this /sh/ /sh/ /sh/ shirt." Or, "Can you pass me that /t/ /t/ /t/ towel?" Put the emphasis on whatever sounds you want to highlight. I wouldn't do it all the time, but just sometimes. 

Don't be afraid to make it silly. Don't forget that these are supposed to be games! Make it fun, make it silly, don't be afraid to laugh. Don't take any of this work too seriously. 

Take it back to the previous step if your child is struggling. Meet your child where they are! If you moved on to quickly (maybe to middle sounds, like I did!) then take it back. It's not a failure. Stay where your child needs and know it will come.  

Sound games are a perfect Montessori activity to help your child learn to read and write. Here are some tips for Montessori parents on using them at home.

Do you have other tips you would add to this list? 

*Just a reminder, I'm a Montessori parent, not a trained Montessori guide. I'm here only to share my experience in supporting the language process with my children at home. My children attend a Montessori school so this process may look a bit different if you are homeschooling or your child attends a mainstream school. 

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Joanna said…
Ooooh, I have a question. I started a bit late w/ my now 3.5yo so we're still solidly on sound games. I noticed exactly what you did in that the more formal a "lesson" I make it the less interested he is. So I've backed off and been doing it more casually as we're doing other things like taking a /b/ bath and we'll find things like /b/ boats and /b/ bubbles that start with /b/. Anyway, he still doesn't have beginning sounds down, which is understandable since we just started. I was kind of feeling (likely internal) pressure to introduce SPL due to his age. But then I read the Muriel Dwyer NAMTA Journal, A Path for the Exploration of Any Language Leading to Writing and Reading, and she states that you need to make sure the foundation is there before moving on to the next step. So I guess I'm feeling now like I need to wait until he's mastered beginning, ending and middle sounds before introducing SPL? Anyway, maybe you're meaning that you're going to write a post on that, and if so I shall wait with baited breath, lol. I'm curious how others are handling it, though, so I can support my little guy as best possible.
Leah said…
I appreciate how you emphasize letting them take them time and not worrying about it. My son didn't even begin talking until 2.5. So sound games at that point were not in the picture at all until he had a chance to build up his vocabulary. In my experience, making it less formal helps engage them and take the pressure off.
I'm interested in the post you alluded to.
When working on counting with him I ended up introducing symbols at the same time as I did the quantity and I found that it stuck with him so much better and he found it more interesting. So I'm considering the same approach with sounds.