“ Manufacturer: Jolly Phonics / Age: 3+ / Type: Alphabet „
When my daughter joined Reception class a few months ago, very quickly she started to talk about sounds and letters. Despite me trying to teach her at home previously, she seemed to pick them up from school easily. At a parent's meeting I found out that the school used The Jolly Phonics learning system, and that some of their products were available at ELC. Keen to encourage her, I called in and Jolly Phonics Picture Lotto was one of the items we chose.
I'd previously been teaching my child the alphabet the same way I had been taught and she could identify any letter by sight easily. However we seemed to have hit a brick wall when it came to relating that letter to words. For example, I had taught the letter M as pronounced 'muh', T was 'tuh', B as 'buh' and so on. The problem is that, actually, that isn't the sound the letter sounds in a word. We don't say Buh-all, for instance. I can now see that this is where my child was getting confused. Phonics teachers the letter as a sound, so M is pronounced mmmm, L is lll, which of course makes more sense. Jolly Phonics also teaches sounds for letters which frequently come together, so children will recognise AI as 'aaay' (spelling out pain for example is easy when the child can sound Pph-Aaay-nn, rather than attempting each letter alone p-a-i-n) as well as sounds such as Ch, Sh and Ing.
The Jolly Phonics Sound & Word Lotto is a bingo style game using these phonics sounds. The set consists of 7 boards, which each have six pictures, and a sound found within the word they are depicting. On one card we may have a picture of a hat and the letter H, a tin of paint and the letters AI, a spoon and the letters OO. Along side this is 42 smaller cards with the word on one side and the sound on the other. To play the game, the boards are shared out between the players (between 2 and seven) and the cards placed on the floor either all word side up, or all sound side up. In turn, each player selects a card from the pile and tries to match the sound or word to their game boards. The winner is the first to have a completed board/s.
As with all Early learning Centre toys, the game is really high quality. It's made with thick durable forest friendly card, the pictures are bright and appealing and the game is simple in its premise. My daughter was able to understand straight away and was keen to get going.
The first few times we played this, my daughter enjoyed it very much. I turned the cards sound side down to begin with, and as each of us turned a card over we would practice the sound and try it against the pictures on our cards, until we found the right one. I felt this game was really useful in introducing myself as a parent to phonic sounds, and was really good in allowing my daughter to relate sounds to pictures. Most children like to play and work things out by deduction, and my daughter is no different. So playing' OO, OO, Mouth? No that's not right' kept her entertained and interested. She very quickly knew all the sounds on the boards and cards and was able to match them up herself.
Once she had mastered this we tried turning the cards the other way, so the word was hidden. I imagined that this would encourage her to work out the whole word, rather then the sound. This is where I discovered a flaw in the game. The sounds would then be face up, and this meant my daughter could look at her board, and deliberately choose the sounds she had there. She then of course knew the word without trying. I feel this issue means that the game doesn't really develop with the child. Perhaps it would be better to have the sounds and words as 2 different sets of cards with one blank side. I felt that really, once my daughter had quickly mastered the sounds in this game, it became unchallenging and easy.
Another slight complaint I have with this game is the uneven number of boards. If used at school with seven children it works fine, as they would have one each. But for home use, seven seems a strange number and can't be shared out equally between the two of us. It may seem like a silly complaint, as you maybe thinking why don't you just leave one board out? My daughter wasn't happy to do this though, and it ended up with one player needing to match more pictures and sounds, making the game unfair. Eight cards would seem a more sensible number to me.
I do really like The Jolly Phonics products and have found them invaluable, not just to enhance my daughters school learning, but to help me become familiar with them too. I think this game is a good introduction to phonics sounds and children will love the fun bingo style game. However I think it could be vastly improved to make it become more challenging as the child progresses. At just £6, it's not outrageously expensive for the quality of toy and enjoyment we got from it, but overall though I feel a little disappointed and if the cards where redesigned it would be much better. It is possible to use the word side as flash cards, but realistically this seems a waste, as we already have larger sets which cost much less. I'd recommend the game to parents of children who were just starting to learn phonics, and it may help to give them a head start at school. However I wouldn't recommend this game for children who have already grasped phonics sounds and would advise looking for something more challenging.