There are a few wonderful things about this activity. First of all, it teaches left-to-right orientation, which is an important pre-reading skill. Secondly, it is great for the relationship between a sound (phoneme) and its corresponding letter (grapheme). Finally, it’s a wonderful way for kinesthetic learners to begin decoding (or sounding out) words.

Big Brother has known the majority of the letter sounds for several months, but he has just now started showing interest in starting to put those sounds together. He started attempting this himself in books and on signs he sees, so I figured it wouldn’t hurt anything to start working with him a little here and there. Let me clarify, however, by saying that we are not pressuring him to “read” as a 4-year old but we are piggy-backing on his natural curiosities!

I love to repurpose toys for educational games and this was certainly no exception! There are two toys we used that essentially worked exactly the same way:  This Whacky Ball Maze and this Pound-a-Peg from Melissa & Doug. In addition to one of these toys (or something similar), you’ll need some dot stickers (like what you use to price garage-sale merchandise) and a permanent marker.



1. Write your letters on the dot stickers. I chose to do a 3-letter consonant-vowel-consonant (CVC) word to make it simple.


2. Place the letter stickers on the pounding toy.


3. Show your child the left side of the toy and ask him/her to say each sound that the letter makes while he hits the ball.


This is Big Brother’s kind of learning!


“Can we do it again???”


Version #2 (with the Melissa and Doug Pound-a-Peg)

Attach the letter stickers to the toy. Remove the remaining pegs to prevent confusing your child.


Let your child pound…


…and pound!




  1. This is a great activity. My understanding of phonemic awareness (via NICHD) is that it is a purely sound activity with no letters involved. “Phonemic awareness is one’s sensitivity to and ability to manipulate sounds within a word.” This activity would be perfect for my active daughters early decoding skills. Thanks for the post!

    1. Yes, it is a sound activity (we reviewed the sounds prior to the activity itself). In my years of teaching, I found it helpful (and beneficial to the students) to combine SOME activities focusing on phonemic awareness (the ability to hear, identify, and manipulate individual phonemes) with the visual representation of the letter itself. :)

  2. Fantastic idea!! You are so creative. This will certainly capture a child’s attention and keep him learning in a fun way. I agree with pairing phonemic awareness with the letter representation when children are ready. Thanks so much, Renee

  3. What an interesting and engaging idea! I’m a mum and an English teacher too, and I think I could introduce something like this is my classes, somehow…

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