Introducing Clever Caitlin’s phonics playing cards

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This year I have some excellent new colleagues, and one of them, Caitlin Stephenson, is queen of making therapy fun for kids.

She grew up playing cards with abundant siblings, and came up with the idea of phonics playing cards.

For an affordable, fun, social, portable phonics activity that can be tailored to a range of ages and abilities, they’re hard to beat.

Caitlin and I have so far collaborated to create over 50 decks of downloadable phonics playing cards, and so far I’ve put 30 of them in the Spelfabet shop. (April 2020 update: there are now 57 decks in the shop, I’m about to add another dozen, and there are still a few more to come).

My mum in Warrnambool fell over and broke her hip just over a week ago, so I’ve been spending time visiting her that I had planned to spend working on these cards. Sorry to everyone I told I’d have them all done by now. Hopefully this week.

There are 5 free decks of phonics playing cards in the shop so far, which I hope you’ll download and try out. The other decks cost $2 each including GST if bought separately, but I’m going to put up some discounted bundles, so if you think you’ll want a few of them, I suggest waiting for those.

Below are some videos of games you can play with these cards, but you can play any other game that uses a standard deck of cards.

Our cards are a bit smaller than the standard size, making them easier for kids to handle. They have words printed facing in two directions, so they are easy to read from either side of a table. Most decks have lots of similar-looking words, so you must look closely at every letter to read them accurately, and not just look at first and last letters, as many kids do.

Thanks a million to Caitlin as well as Tessa Weadman and Renee Vlahos for all their work designing, printing, laminating and cutting up cards, trying out games, starring in the videos, and I think Renee suggested the Benny Hill style video theme music, which I’m sure you agree adds a certain je ne sais quoi. Enjoy!


14 responses to “Introducing Clever Caitlin’s phonics playing cards”

  1. What a boondoggle!! Thank you so much. So helpful. Reading games have been a life saver for some very resistant readers I’ve taught. So amazing to have this many options!

  2. Susan Kokir says:

    Hello Spelfabet Team!

    I am keen to purchase one set of each group of cards produced. I understand each set is $2 plus GST? Can you let me know when all the cards have been produced and prepare an Invoice for the amount I owe you?
    I prefer to wait for all the cards are ready and purchase as a complete resource. I run my own Specialist Tutoring Service. Once term begins I will get busy and may not get around to putting an order in!

    Wishing Alison’s mum a quick recovery… my mum has been in and out of hospital also and I know how worrying and time-involved it can be.

    • alison says:

      Hi Susan, I’m just working on a set of 18 basic code decks at a discount price now, please watch this space. Doing it between clients and various crises. Thanks for your kind words about my mum, she was doing a little better yesterday. Alison

    • Renee Vlahos says:

      Hi Susan,
      The cards and are a digital download and DIY kit. If you create an account with us and purchase the sets, they will appear in ‘My Account’-> ‘Downloads’ and you can print them from there.
      Because there are 50+ decks of cards, I can’t make them all for every order – I wouldn’t be able to keep up! That’s why they’re digital download only.


  3. Linda says:

    I have recently downloaded the free sets of Caitlin’s word cards to add to the phonic games used with my SLD students – word games always do a wonderful job in developing and applying word recognition skills!
    Before purchasing other sets, is there a way to change the font? I tend to prefer using comic sans or similar.
    Thank you.

    • alison says:

      Hi Linda, thanks for the nice feedback. I will ask Caitlin about putting a simpler, more handwriting-like font on the next edition of the cards, and also whether a bit more space can be put between the right-way-up and upside-down words, and whether the right-way-up one can be at the top and the upside-down one at the bottom, since that’s how we scan text. Things you realise after you try something and get feedback on it! When you buy things from my website you get three chances to download them, in case of computer crashes, distractions etc, so if you buy the cards now and only use one download to get them, when we put up the next edition you should be able to re-download them, but of course then you’d have the laminate-and-cut job to do again (can the kids do the cutting?). Sorry I can’t promise that a different-font version will be available in the very near future, we just have a lot of other things on right now. Thanks, Alison

  4. […] Go here to see the game and ideas: Clever Caitlin’s phonics playing cards […]

  5. Wendy says:

    Is there a younger version of phonics cards for kinder/first grade?

    • alison says:

      I don’t know how I’d make a younger version with 52 cards, sorry. I was scratching for words for the first deck. I am about to release the flashcard version of my embedded picture mnemonics, and I guess you could print two sets of those and play snap with them, starting with just a handful of them?

  6. […] these cards to play any of the games shown in videos in this previous blog post, or any other game you like requiring a standard deck of playing […]

  7. Bronwyn says:

    Hi Alison,
    Are there written instructions for the games from the videos above?

    • alison says:

      Hi Bronwyn, sorry, all the games are mainstream card games so there are instructions for all of them in many places on the internet, see for example Since the rules are not new, only the cards are, we haven’t included written instructions, but you can play any kids’ card game that requires a standard deck of playing cards with them. All the best, Alison

  8. […] cards, from very simple games of chance like War to complex strategic ones like Mancala.  See this previous blog post for videos of other suggested […]

  9. […] you don’t have favourite childhood card games you can teach kids, we have some videos of how to play games we like, and there are heaps more here, or just put “playing card games for kids” into a search […]

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