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Help, My Child Can’t Blend Sounds!

Updated: Feb 21


parent holding help sign

Are you tearing your hair out because your child is struggling to learn to blend sounds? Do you feel like they aren't moving forwards with their phonics? Are you struggling to keep your patience when they sound out b-i-g, yet say 'cat'? This is more common than you might think, and I can guarantee that your child isn't the only one struggling to blend! Here we take a look at how to blast off with blending!



What is blending?

Blending is when children say the sounds which make up a word and then merge them together until they can hear what the word is, e.g. s-u-n = sun. Blending is really important in learning to read.


My child knows their sounds but still can't blend

If your child can confidently look at a written letter and say its sound but is unable to then blend to read words, we need to do a bit more work on oral blending. In other words, develop their ability to hear the sounds in spoken words. Give these blending ideas a go:

  • When you're out for a walk or in the car, you should sound out things which you can see. Say the sounds and then say the word, so that your child can hear you modelling how to blend. When they start to gain confidence with oral blending, you could then play a game of I Spy, for example, I spy a sh-o-p.

  • Alternatively, you could play a game at home: place 3 objects out at a time and then sound out one of the words. Ask your child if they can work out which word you're blending to say.

  • Another idea is to go on a scavenger hunt. Hide objects such as a pen, sock and hat around the room and then sound out one of the words. Can your little one blend the sounds and hunt for the correct item?


playing phonics games on a car journey
Sound out things which you see on a car journey


My child can't blend to read written words

If your child can already orally blend, that's fantastic - they're already well on their way to blending to read words! Here are three handy tips for you to follow next:

  1. Start by asking your child to blend to read 2 letter words: use vowel-consonant words such as 'it' and 'on'. When they can confidently do this, move on to blending words which contain 3 sounds.

  2. Encourage your child to say the first sound the loudest: sometimes children sound a word out, blend it together and then miss off the first sound in the word. An example would be sounding out t-i-n but then saying 'in'. By saying the first sound louder, children usually start blending with it.

  3. Ask your child to say the sounds faster: say each sound in the word slowly to start with and then get faster each time. Eventually the sounds will be so close together that your child will hear the word which they make!



How can I make blending fun?

As you know, I'm a huge fan of making learning fun! Here are some simple ideas for you to try, using items which you hopefully already have to hand:


Puppet problems

  • Use magnetic letters to make a word.

  • Place pom-pom sound buttons underneath the word.

  • Make the puppet press the sound buttons and say the sounds.

  • Blend to read the word, making deliberate mistakes.

  • Can your child correct the puppet and blend to read the word?


phase 2 phonics blending activity

Train Tracks

  • Write sounds on stickers.

  • Stick the sounds onto the train track to make a word.

  • Move a toy train along the track and say each sound aloud.

  • Blend to read the word.


phase 2 phonics blending train activity

Blending slides

  • Draw a slide on a piece of paper or whiteboard.

  • Write sounds or add magnetic letters to make a word.

  • Send a toy down the slide and say each sound aloud.

  • Blend to read the word.


phase 2 phonics blending slides activity


What next?



  • The activities shown above and many more can be found in my phonics book on Amazon. ‘Blast-Off with Blending’ is available in paperback and ebook versions - just click the link to take you there!






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