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Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down

Bite-sized brain snacks for Chicago’s early learners.


Try this listening game with your child. Ask your child to give you a thumbs up if the two words you say are the same. Give a thumbs down if they are different. Give word pairs that make them really use careful listening skills. For example: cat/cat (thumbs up), cat/bat (thumbs down), book/big (thumbs down).

Why It's Important

Auditory discrimination involves distinguishing individual phonemes in words such as different beginning or ending sounds.


On a piece of paper, write the words “dog” and “dig.” Ask your child to notice if these words look the same or different. Read the words and point out the middle letters that make the two words sound and look different. If your child is interested, provide more examples like cat/cut, pet/pit, fox/fix.

Not Ready Yet

Say the words slowly, carefully enunciating the sounds. Ask your child to repeat the word back to you to make sure that your child is hearing you correctly.

Need a Challenge

Challenge your child to think of two words, and have a parent determine whether they are the same or different.

Book Recommendations:

"The Old Man and His Door" by Gary Soto

Extend the learning:

Substitute one letter of your child’s name to create a name that is very similar but still different. For example, “Jaden” could be “Joden.” See if your child likes the new name better! Play with other family members’ names, helping your child to listen carefully to the sounds.