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A syllable is “a unit of pronunciation having one vowel sound, with or without surrounding consonants, forming the whole or a part of a word.”
Do young children need to know this definition? No.
Do young children need to know how to identify and count the number of syllables in a word? Yes!
Note: For more early language and literacy ideas, see my Literacy Activities for Kids Page.
Why is learning to count syllables important?
To count the number of syllables in a word, children must be able to syllabify, or separate a word into its component syllables.
Indeed, syllabifying and counting syllables are now skills that children are expected to learn in preschool or kindergarten.
Learning to syllabify and count syllables is an important pre-reading skill because:
- Dividing words into chunks (aka, syllables) helps the process of decoding
- Knowing the rules for syllable division helps students read words more accurately and fluently
- Knowing the rules for syllable division helps with spelling (I use All About Spelling with my kids and syllabification is a required skill for kids to have before learning to spell multi-syllable words)
How to count syllables
The main method my kids have used is to clap out syllables. They learn to say the word and clap their hands for every chunk (aka, syllable) in the word.
However, I have put together a whole post with ideas for teaching kids to count syllables. At the bottom of the post you’ll even find some printable resources for practicing syllable counting.
Counting syllables using miniature objects
One item I purchased a few years ago to support Montessori-based language learning in our homeschool was the Language Object Starter Set sold by Montessori Services.
We have used the Language Object Starter Set to learn letter sounds with activities I have shared here and here.
On this occasion, we also used the miniature objects to work on counting syllables.
I selected a variety of miniature objects whose words contained one, two, or three syllables. I then wrote ‘1,’ ‘2,’ and ‘3’ at the top of a sheet of paper. I placed a bowl of miniature objects next to the paper and invited my daughter to play.
She selected one object and used the clapping method to determine the number of syllables in the word.
She then placed each object under the correct number depending on how many syllables the word had.
She adores playing with the miniature objects, so this was all fun and games for her.
But I knew she was developing some important syllabification skills that would support her reading and spelling skills down the line.
Here is a picture of her finished work.
If your child enjoys playing with miniature objects, give this activity a try!
You might also be interested in my Syllable Counting Activity Pack with syllable counting strategies, word sorting cards, and several hands-on games and activities to practice syllable counting.
More ways to teach to early language & literacy skills
More early language activities from Gift of Curiosity:
- Sight word ball toss game
- Sight word tic-tac-toe
- Shaving cream writing
- Blending practice with pipe cleaners and letter beads
- Learning to alphabetize
- Language activities using miniature objects
You can find more ways to teach early language and literacy skills on my Literacy Activities for Kids page and my Letter Learning Pinterest board.
I have Montessori Language Objects from my days in Montessori. I have added to the set using miniature objects from Hobby Lobby and Michaels. I use my Montessori numeral cards to label my columns for sorting syllables!