One of the most important concepts in learning to read is recognizing the sound each letter in a word makes. Also called phonics, most letters in the alphabet -- consonants -- make the same sound all the time while vowels can make different sounds, depending on their placement in the word. Teaching your child to recognize when to make the short or long sound of a vowel will help him excel in reading words instead of just reciting words from memory. There are several activities you can do with your preschooler to help him identify vowel sounds.
All About Vowels
There are five vowels in our alphabet: a, e, i, o and u. The letter "y" is also sometimes considered a vowel because it makes an "i" or "e" sound when placed in a word. Vowels are vital to making words in the English language, and most words contain at least one vowel. A vowel's sound is made when there is no blocking of passage of air through the throat.
Short Vowel Tips
Most of the beginning words that your preschooler will learn will contain a short vowel. Short vowels make a different sound than the vowel’s name and are more difficult for children to distinguish than the long vowel sounds, according to Bright Hub Education. To teach short vowels, use visual aids to help your preschooler remember what the short vowel sounds are. On a flash card, print the vowel and include a picture of a word that uses the short vowel sound as the first letter of the word. For example, print an astronaut, elephant, insect, octopus and umbrella. Work on sounding out these words with your preschooler, and then move onto other short vowel words like cat, net, sit, hot and hug. Work on the short vowel sounds for several days before you move onto the long vowels' sounds to reinforce the information.
Long Vowels Tips
Long vowels make the sound that the vowel name suggests. A long vowel also takes more time to sound out than short vowels, hence the name. Teaching long vowels might be much simpler than teaching the short vowels because the sound is the same as the vowel name, making it easier for your preschooler to remember. You can use the same activity of using flash cards with long vowel words -- such as bat, tree, iron, boat and cube -- on the card to help your preschooler recognize the long vowel sound.
One of the best ways to introduce new words and sounds to your preschooler is to talk about the world around you. When you are reading a book, shopping at the grocery store, watching a video, playing a game or doing any other activity, point out the words you are seeing and using and talk about whether the words make the long or short vowel sounds. Have your preschooler help you sound out words she sees in her everyday world.