Prep: 10 Minutes / Activity Time: 10-15 Minutes

In order to be able to play word games, children need to hear the sounds that make up a word. Playing with the sounds in words can help your child understand that words are made up of smaller units of sound. Being able to hear those individual sounds within a word is an important prereading skill.

  • turtle stuffed animal or puppet (you can make one with a brown paper bag)
  • a variety of objects (e.g., hat, cup, pen, book, ball, sock)
  • box with a lid (for the present)

Step 1: Before beginning, place an object in the box. (e.g., hat)

Step 2: Introduce your child to the turtle (puppet or stuffed animal). Explain that Turtle loves to give out presents, but he just can’t keep a secret! He always tries to tell people the names of their presents before they can open them!

Step 3: Tell your child that Turtle has a funny way of talking. He says words one sound at a time. He calls this “turtle talk”; it is a slow way of saying a word.

Step 4: Without showing your child the object, have Turtle sneak a peek inside the box and “say” the name of the object in the box, one sound at a time. For example, if Turtle is giving a present of a hat, he would say /h/ /ă/ /t/.

Step 5: Say to your child: “Can you figure out what Turtle is trying to say? He is giving you a hint about what is in the box. He gets really happy when you figure out what he is trying to say!“

Step 6: After your child guesses the word, invite him to open the box to see if he guessed correctly. Give specific praise. You might say, “Yes, you figured out what the turtle was saying! Turtle was saying the word hat!”  

Step 7: Continue the game using different words.

Place two objects in the box (example: hat, cup) and leave the lid off so your child can see what is inside. Have Turtle say the name of one of the objects in “turtle talk.” (example: hat= /h/ /ă/ /t/). Have your child choose between the two objects. If he is unsure, provide the word for him. Providing the answer alleviates anxiety and the stress of not knowing the answer.

Ask your child to play the part of the turtle. Close your eyes and invite your child to secretly place one of the surprises in the box. Then ask your child to use “turtle talk” to say the word very slowly while you try to guess what is inside the box.