Combine Toys and Play with Hands-On Phonics on iPad

Combine Toys and Play with Hands-On Phonics on iPad

Ready to transform early literacy education with hands-on phonics using iPads? Start fostering phonemic proficiency and early writing skills today! Equip yourself with simple manipulatives like Pop It fidget toys or playdough, paired with any writing app on the iPad. Whether you're an educator or a parent, engage children in fun and effective learning experiences that build fluency and confidence. Discover how this innovative approach can accelerate learning and create lasting educational impacts. Get started now and watch as children thrive in their phonics journey! 

As early childhood educators, we routinely use hands-on activities to strengthen mathematics concepts but seldom in the teaching of early literacy. By combining a simple manipulative with a writing app on the iPad in your small group work, phonemic proficiency is accelerated. This also serves as a jumpstart to early writing.

What Do I Need to Get Started?

Pop It fidget toys or playdough serve as a manipulative and any app on the iPad that allows the student to write. Freeform is a native app on the iPad and there are numerous whiteboard apps that are available for little to no cost.

Introduce the steps for tactile phonics practice

Once students demonstrate basic recognition of alphabet letters and sounds, you are ready to begin. In a small group, give each student a Pop It or 3 small balls of playdough. Tell the students you will give them a word and they are to sound it out by pressing down a bubble on the Pop It for each letter sound or press down on a ball of playdough for each sound. For example: Give the word “sad”. Students will either pop it or press each playdough ball as they say /s/ /a/ /d/. Then, they will write it on their iPad screen.


Young child using a Pop It fidget toy to press a bubble for each letter sound as she sounds out the word "sad".
Using a Pop It to sound out the word "sad".


2 students are using 3 small balls of playdough to press one at a time as they sound out and write the word "sad" on the iPad
Using playdough to press while sounding out a word

Once three letter words are mastered, move on to four letter words where each sound can be heard. 

Doing this for a few minutes each day in small group builds fluency and confidence. When students are ready, dictate short phrases or sentences. It is helpful to incorporate high frequency words as well. I start this by drawing a line for each word but soon I have the children count the words and draw their own lines. 


The sentence  "The cat is big." has been written by a child on the iPad after sounding it out using a Pop It or playdough.
Use the iPad to write short sentences or phrases after mastering short words.

The value of using the iPad in this instructional method is two-fold. It brings immediate engagement and interest to the student as well as creates a digital artifact for tracking learning progress and sharing with parents.

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