I Spy is a fun and easy game to help develop phonemic awareness. We can start with just two items that the child is familiar with. Above we've used three fruits. "I Spy with my little eye, something which starts with o." "Yes!! Orange starts with o".
To start playing I Spy, I use items in a tray or on a work mat, mostly using small language objects and household items. Below we are using six items.
Below is an example of when we've used six items, but three of them start with c (crab, cow, cat).
Over time we can increase the number of items in the tray, and then we can play I Spy by looking around the room or while out driving or on a nature walk.
Because we were having a lot of success playing I Spy, I made some I Spy alphabet mats. These have been super helpful for Otto in learning about less common letters and for playing I Spy independently. Because the letter is also written on the top of the sheet, we are strengthening the association between the letter and the sound.
Otto will often use these while I am studying, and while he is using them independently, there is no time pressure for him to quickly guess an answer; I can see him taking time and thinking, looking over the sheet to find the right pictures. Above is the I Spy s sheet; there are lots of s words for him to find, boosting his confidence.
Otto will often use the I Spy mats independently with a dauber marking all the I Spy words, or we can play it together, taking turns.
All of the alphabet mats are for the beginning sounds (except for x). Otto finds some letters super easy and still has fun doing them, and other letters he finds more challenging.
Above, Otto puts a token over each I Spy k word he finds; using a token like this is a good way to play and being able to reuse the sheets.
The I Spy alphabet mats are also good to use when you don't have a lot of language materials or the child is learning about a less commonly used letter, or if you are wanting to play I Spy a little differently.
If you are looking for more early learning activities to develop phonemic awareness, I recommend Montessori Read and Write by Lynne Lawrence.