Using trinkets in phonics teaching

Having a collection of trinkets is a wonderful way to enhance your phonics teaching. It adds a sensory, Trinketskinesthetic dimension to the lessons and provides an engaging stimulus for many different phonics activities.


Children love trinkets and the smaller the better. They love the way they feel in their hands. They love to line them up, knock them down, move them around and play imaginatively with them. 

How should you organise them?

Start your collection by gathering any trinkets you have lying around the house and classroom and store them in one simple drawstring bag or box. As your collection grows you may like to organise them into ‘sound boxes’ or even a storage unit that has small pull out drawers, like those used to store nails and screws. 

How can you use them? 

To introduce letter-sound correspondences:
  • When you introduce a new piece of code to your class you can show them the trinkets. For example, “Good morning children, in today’s phonics lesson we are going to learn about the sound /t/ when it looks like this: ‘t’ (write the lower case letter t on the board or hold up a flash card showing the letter). Here are some objects that start with the sound /t/, can you tell me what they are?” 

  • Then you hold up an item or invite a child to select an item from your bag/box and tell everyone what it is… “Which item did you pick, Peter?” “That’s right, it’s a train. Can you all hear the /t/ sound at the beginning of train?” 

  • Make a display of the /t/ items for children to see during the day. 

  • You could ask the children to choose one of the items and draw it in their sound book (a notebook for practicing phonics) alongside some practise of the letter formation ‘t’. 

To practise letter-sound correspondence knowledge: 
  • Place a variety of trinkets that begin with the pieces of code you asked the children to practise, for example, s – a small plastic snake, a – a picture of an apple, t – a toy train, p – a small plastic pig, i – a small plastic insect, n – a necklace onto a tray. 

  • Children take it in turns to find the object beginning with the sound you call, for example, “Jane, can you find something beginning with /a/?” 

  • Introduce some letter flash cards with corresponding letters to the beginning sounds of the trinkets on the tray (s, a , t, p, i, n) and ask the children to match the letters to the objects that begin with them, for example, ‘a – apple, s – snake’. An alternative is to hand out the flash cards with the letter face down, then ask the children to turn the card over and find the object that starts with the letter they have. 

To practise oral segmenting: 
  • Children can practise oral segmenting with any length word and any combination of phonics at any stage in their development. Oral segmenting practices their ability to hear the sounds through a word that is spoken. It is a skill that underpins their later ability to begin to write and spell words. Using the trinkets, hold one up or ask children to select an object, then ask the children to slowly sound out the word. By saying the word slowly and clearly, most sounds will ‘pop out’. For example, Tessa holds up a small plastic pig and says ‘p-i-g’.

To practise early word building: 
  • This is also a skill that underpins children’s ability to write and spell simple words.  If you have trinkets that contain simple code that has already been introduced all through the word, for example, pig, hen, hat, can, cup, mat, cat etc then you can use small letter cards and the trinkets to spell out the words. Provide a selection of trinkets and the letter cards to match, for example, a toy cat and the letter cards ‘c’, ‘a’, ‘t’ alongside other trinkets and cards (increase the amount as children’s confidence and ability increases). The children select an object and then must find the corresponding letter cards and build the word next to the object. 

Link your trinkets to Rocket Phonics books:The Mat
  • Look at the inside front cover of your Rocket Phonics book or at the corresponding lesson plan in the teacher guide to see which letter-sound correspondences you are practicing in the story. Select some of your trinkets to match those sounds and practise the above activities. As your collection grows you will be able to select trinkets to match the story contents, for example, if you are using ‘The Mat’ (Rocket Phonics, Pink A) you could use two small plastic dogs, a dolls house mat and a small plastic hen. This means that children can practise letters, sounds, segmenting, word building and/or retelling the story using the objects. This will help children to develop their phonics knowledge and skills alongside their love of stories and comprehension skills. 

Ideas for trinkets you can gather: (look for items as small as you can find)
  • Small plastic animals and insects, toy cars and trains, toy people, a small silver spoon, a ring, a necklace, necklace charms, a bracelet, buttons, beads, keys, thimbles, dolls house items, mini pens/pencils, an eraser, a coin purse, a small book or notepad, small doll’s shoes, small plastic dinosaurs, a piece of ribbon, a piece of lace, a hair bobble, a hair clip, coins, dice, a small ruler. 

Abigail Steel is an EYFS/Primary teacher, independent educational consultant, trainer and the series editor of Reading Planet Rocket Phonics. She is passionate about improving literacy skills through the effective teaching of phonics and works closely with teachers and families in the UK and internationally.

Find out more about Reading Planet Rocket Phonics here.


English, English and Literacy, EYFS, KS1, Phonics, Reading, Reading and Ebooks

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