I am a big advocate of early phonic awareness and the skills that children require prior to learning their letters. It is so important that children can tell the difference between different sounds and when I refer to sounds, I mean every day sounds (rather than letter sounds). A child needs to know the difference between a bus beeping and a bird tweeting. They need to know this prior to learning letter sounds as it means that they will then be able discriminate or tell the difference between a /t/ sound or a /g/ sound. They need to be able to do this in order to read and spell. One of my favourite sound discrimination activity is making your own musical instruments. I like it for several reasons –primarily the kids LOVE it! They’re happy, I am happy! But also because you have everything you need in your house - You can raid your cupboards and your recycling for this activity.
First I raided the cupboards and found some items that I knew would make great sounds – I chose pasta, rice, desiccated coconut and silver balls used for cake decorating (in hindsight I probably wouldn’t have used these but they made a lovely sound). Next, I raided the recycling and found some suitable containers – water bottles, a discarded box, a water bottle and a Tupperware box. I laid this all out on a tray (in the hope that any spills would go there rather than the floor) I then invited the little one to explore. With some guidance he filled each container with different materials. It can be tempting to put the same materials in one container which is fine as an activity but because we wanted to discriminate between sounds it was best that one thing went in one container. Using spoons, picking up that pasta with fingers and pouring and scooping was great to improve fine motor skills and hand eye coordination.
Once the four containers had been filled then we set to playing them. We tried each one and I introduced words such as loud, quiet, soft. The little one loved playing them and talking about the different sounds. We concluded that pasta made the loudest sound and coconut the quietest. Once he’d had a play, we put some background music on and played along to that. Finally, just when I thought his attention might wane, he declared he wanted to do it all over again and so we emptied everything out and started over.