Aside from being fun (and trust me, it is!) clapping or tapping out syllables is also an important pre-reading skill. It helps children notice that words are made up of sounds. The word “elephant”, for instance, has three syllables: /el/ /e/ /phant/. The word “cat” has just one: /cat/.
“We’re Going on a Syllable Hunt” gives children the chance to burn off some energy as they practice tapping out the syllables in different objects. To play, pull out two paper towel tubes from your recycling bin. Tell your child that you are going to break words apart into special sounds called syllables. Then, place one paper towel tube in each of your hands and tap out several words for her. For instance, you might say, “/goat/” and tap your tubes down once. Or you could say, “/hel/ /i/ /cop/ /ter/” as you tap your tubes down four times.
Give your child the tubes and work together to tap out the syllables in several more words.
Note: I should mention that I invited C (age 2.5) to model for this activity because he’s just so darn cute. He’s still not yet ready to tap out syllables though. If your child is frustrated after she tries breaking apart several words, I encourage you to stop the activity and try it again in a few months.
Now comes the fun… Send your child on a syllable hunt in your backyard, the park or (on cold rainy days) in your house. As she wanders around, encourage her to tap out the objects she sees. For example:
“Hunting” for syllables will help your child burn off a little energy, practice breaking words into separate sounds and show her that every word she can think of is made up of syllables. It’s a winning combination!