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  • Writer's pictureLaura

Using Science to Make Phonics Fun

Updated: Jan 26, 2021

My daughter has just started Reception and finding out what's happened during her day is like getting blood from a stone!

For some reason though, the one thing she's been willing to tell me is the letter they've been learning each day. I think it was drawing round the dinosaur's bum for 'd' that got her interested.

The most important thing for young children (and frankly all of us!) is to make learning fun. This got me thinking about how some of our activities from Little STEAMers can be adapted to help with letters, phonics or spelling.

Even if your little one isn't the biggest fan of learning their letters, perhaps they can be persuaded with some fun science games.

Here's three simple ideas to have fun with letters and explore science too. All of the activities can be adapted to have younger children recognise single letters only or older children begin to recognise and spell words.

1. Fishing for Letters with Magnets

What you need:

  • Stick or pencil

  • String

  • Magnet (fridge magnet ok)

  • Magnetic letters (or cut out letters with paperclips attached)

What to do:

  1. Create a fishing rod by tying your string around the stick and then attaching the magnet at the other end of the string.

  2. If you don't have magnetic letters, take any letters or cut out your own on paper and attach a paperclip to each one. Lay out your letters on the floor.

  3. Call out letters for children to go fishing for or ask them to fish for the letters to spell words.

If you want to bring in a bit more science, add in some magnetic and non-magnetic items attached to different letters so they can explore items that are magnetic and not magnetic.

2. Mirror Code Letters

What you need:

  • A small mirror

  • Paper

  • Pencil/Pen

What to do:

  • Write some letters backwards (it takes a bit of practice!) on a piece of paper and tell your little one it's a special code that they can only read with a mirror.

  • Show them how to hold the mirror to see the letter the right way in the mirror and then ask them what letter it is.

  • Write words backwards too for them to read in the mirror.

Children often mirror write in the early years anyway so be careful if letting them do the writing themselves that this doesn't confuse them with letters like d, b, p, q.

If you want to extend the science, talk about symmetry and have them recognise which letters you can only write half of to see the full letter in the mirror - o, v, w, x, A, H, I, M, W, T etc.

3. Tracing Letters with Magnets

What you need:

  • A magnet strong enough to work through cardboard

  • Sheet of cardboard

  • Penny (make sure it's magnetic - really old ones aren't!)

  • Pen

What to do:

  1. Draw fairly large bubble letters on the cardboard.

  2. Put a penny on one of the letters. Hold a magnet behind the cardboard so the penny is attracted to the magnet.

  3. Move the magnet for the penny to trace the shape of the different letters. This could be done with the correct letter formation stokes.

If you want to extend the science, see how many layers of cardboard you can add before the penny is no longer attracted to the magnet.


You can try out these and so many other fun ideas and activities to explore with science in our Little STEAMers club.

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