Topic | Phonetic spelling @ play time

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  • Is it okay to allow children to try to spell words out phonetically during their play time – when they often end up spelling it wrong?

    I’ll explain: My 7 year old son often makes signs, or lists, or somehow incorporates writing for fun during his play time. He will spell words out without asking me; he simply sounds them out himself. Then he’ll come to me all excited to show me a cool sign he has just taped to the wall, or an important list he has made. I’m just not sure how to react! Up until now I have praised him, and only casually pointed out the errors. Should I ask him not to write anything down unless he firsts finds out the correct spelling? Or should I leave him alone? I am worried about him seeing the words spelled wrong, although he doesn’t usually write the same misspelled word over and over.

    Thank you for your consideration,

    Katie Wise


    Hi Katie, My 7.5 yr old ds did the exact same thing.  I mostly let him figure it out himself and praised him, same as you, rarely correcting or stepping in except when he was struggling with a particular sound (like “th”, “sh” or “ch”).  Some were right, others were close, and a few were waaaay off!  At any rate, he hasn’t developed any bad spelling habits because of this.  It wasn’t until the last few months that he’s begun taking the time to stop playing and ask if he’s actually spelling things correctly.  Now I say “Okay, sound it out” and he is usually right on or very close so I let him know.  If we run into a funny spelling exception I just say something like “Okay, this is one of those funny times when the letter G is making the J sound (like in giraffe)”.  I don’t make it a lesson, just a passing tidbit, which is probably what you’re doing. My 6 yr old middle child is a different story however.  She is on the autism spectrum and has a photographic memory so if she sees a word spelled one way, even if it is wrong, then that one way sticks in her mind as the only way to write that word (or letter or number).  I have struggled with her time and again, trying to convince her of the right way to write letters and numbers (as in, NOT backwards, upside-down or mirror-image) because if I let it slip with her it is an uphill battle to get her “unstuck”.  It doesn’t sound like that is an issue with your son at all! I think you’re probably doing just great, if you’re asking this kind of question now I doubt very much if you will be idle and let bad spelling habits form!  Building confidence is so good for him right now, spelling rules and mastery are just around the corner in a couple years.  It’s so neat that your ds enjoys working with words and implements them into his playtime!  

    Rachel Smile

    P.S. Just as a funny side note, I recently found a piece of paper while changing my son’s bed sheets.  It had written in big wobbly letters ” STA IN BED. STA IN BED.”  I asked him about it and he said he wrote it a long time ago to remind himself to obey and “stay in bed” when it was time to sleep.  Now he knows to put a “y” on the end of “stay”, but it made perfect sense to him at the time Smile

    Thank you, Rachel, for your help on this spelling matter!

    He is writing me notes more and more, and sometimes he does check on the spelling.  For example, he wrote me a perfectly written note that said, “I do not care for soup.  Could we have something else to eat?  Love, Cody.”  But then there was the note, “Ma I ples hav a donut?”  I am saving them b/c they are so heartfelt!

    Best wishes with your children.



    How precious your children are!!!! That is the cutest thing. I have no imput for the right or wrong of correcting their spelling but just as a side note…

     I encourage you to write back responses to your child and you can model in your response the proper ways of spelling..but at the same time you will be mirroring their “love language” of writing notes. I have one out of five children that like to write notes and when I write her back it seems to feed “love” into her..just that I took the time to write her..the others could care less but for her it is a precious gift.

    Just a thought,



    I let playtime spelling like this go. I’ve noticed that as the kids learn to spell, their playtime lists and signs reflect it. Let them figure it out and giggle at their own “baby” mistakes when they discover them…and not feel bad about the wrong spelling.

    I LOVE this kind of writing. So precious.

    Thank you all for your input.  Shelly, I appreciate your comment about his writing notes (even though they are misspelled) being part of his love language.  It helps me put a more eternal perspective on what he’s doing and to stop what I’m doing and write back and enjoy.  I think sometimes I get wrapped up in details I miss the forest for the trees.  And how quickly I forget that my love language is words of encouragement and I love to recieve praise!!  And the spelling will come w/time. 


    I mean “recEIve”

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