Introducing the Short “u” Sound
“U” is the last of the vowels in the English alphabet. Like the other vowels, it has both a short vowel sound and a long vowel sound. The short “u” sound says “uh,” as in “umbrella” and “bug.” The long “u” sound, on the other hand, is a little less common. It’s heard in words like “huge.” When teaching phonics, start with the short vowel sounds first. They are more common and are less confusing to kids. When working on the short “u” sound, start with words that begin with “u”, so your child can hear it. After they have the hang of that, move on to short, simple words with a short “u” sound in the middle, like “bus,” “mug,” or “hut.”
Phonics should be fun for you and your child! Pick a time when you both are relaxed and happy, and have fun reading books and singing songs together. These short “u” activities are a start, but feel free to create your own, too.
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Gus on a Bus
Write a story together about a boy named Gus riding a bus. This is a great short “u” rhyme that really captures kids’ imaginations! Try writing some simple sentences together about Gus’s bus ride. Write each sentence (or even simple phrase) on a separate page, then let your child illustrate the story once you have finished writing. Read your story together when you are finished. You could even staple your “book” together and read it as a bedtime story!
Umbrellas are colorful objects that are eye-catching to kids and adults alike. While you are working on words that begin with the short “u” sound, umbrellas are the perfect fit! If you live in a rainy climate, use the next rainy day to point out all the different umbrellas to your child. Look at all their colors together and talk about your favorites. If you don’t live in a rainy place, or the forecast is sunny, check out a book about umbrellas or watch a video online together. Look at the word “umbrella” together and show your child which letter makes the “u” sound at the beginning.
Allow them to express their creativity by coloring their own umbrella. If appropriate, they could also practice writing the letter “u” on their paper, but hearing the sound is the most important step at this point, so don’t force it if they aren’t on board. They can color different umbrellas in different colors or patterns. You could even hang them in the window on a rainy day!
Snug as a Bug in a Rug
This game can be active for physical learners or a restful before bedtime activity. The game relies on the rhyme “snug as a bug in a rug,” which kids can repeat with you. Before bed, try tucking their blankets tightly around them and repeating, “snug as a bug in a rug!” Many kids find this very silly and soothing.
Alternatively, you can get a large sheet or even a sheet of Lycra from your local fabric store. During a more active time of day, stretch the sheet out flat on the ground. You will hold one long side flat to the ground. You can either anchor the other side under heavy furniture, such as the legs of a couch, or ideally, have another adult hold it down. If you anchor it under furniture, please use good judgement to avoid tip-over accidents! Essentially, your goal is to create a “tunnel” for your child to crawl through under the sheet. As they enter the “tunnel,” call out, “Snug as a bug in a rug!” Allow your child to go through as many times as they would like. Some kids really love the pressure of the sheet on their body and find it calming. Play around with how tight you pull the sheet and how your child responds.