Have you ever wondered or been asked by your child why ‘a’ in ‘cat’ and ‘cake’ sound different? Or why words like ‘cub’ and ‘cube’ are pronounced differently though their spellings are almost similar? Well, you are not alone!

The sounds of the letters of the English alphabet can vary quite a bit. In some cases, it can get tricky. Not all letters make the same sound in all words. Teaching preschoolers to read English can be challenging as the letters can make different sounds depending on how they are used. A case in point is the short and long vowel sounds for preschoolers. Read on to find out how your child can learn vowel sounds and recognize their differences.

Learning short and long vowel sounds- what are they?

Learning phonics sounds is getting to know all about all vowel and consonant sounds that make up the 26 letters of the English alphabet. Each of the 5 vowels (a, e, i, o, u) can make at least 2 sounds. For example, the vowel ‘a’ sounds different in ‘cat’ and ‘cake’. How we spell with vowels does not always determine the sound it makes. 

Each vowel makes two sounds- a short sound and a long sound. In some cases, they can be silent too! When a vowel makes the sound of a particular letter, then it is a short sound. However, when the vowel sounds like the letter’s name, then it makes a long sound. The sound the vowel makes depends on its position in the word and the letters that surround it. 

For example:- the ‘a’ in ‘fat’ and ‘e’ in ‘bed’ make short vowel sounds. While in ‘fate’ and ‘wheat’ they make the long vowel sounds. 

So, based on where and the vowel is placed in a word, its length and sound can change. When teaching preschoolers to read, you must help them understand the rules for what sound the vowels make in different instances. Yes, short and long vowel sounds for kids can be confusing at times. However, regular practice with them to recognize the distinctions will help.

Rules to bear in mind while learning short and long vowel sounds

Here are some basic rules to help you introduce short and long vowel words for preschoolers. Do remember that rules have exceptions too.

Rule No.

Vowel Position

Vowel Sound



When a word has only one vowel and ends with a consonant

Vowel makes a short sound

‘a’ in ‘jam’

‘e’ in ‘west’

‘o’ in ‘hot’

‘i’ in ‘fish’

‘u’ in ‘cup’


When a word has two vowels separated by two or more letters

The first vowel makes a short sound

as in ‘apple’

as in ‘octopus’

as in ‘basket’

as in ‘elephant’

as in ‘umbrella’


When a word ends with the letter ‘e’ (magic ‘e’/ silent ‘e’)

The first vowel makes a long sound

‘cap’ becomes ‘cape’

‘kit’ becomes ‘kite’

‘tub’ becomes ‘tube’ 

as in ‘game’

as in ‘time’


When a word has two vowels walking together the first one does 

the talking

The first vowel makes a long sound

The second vowel remains silent

as in ‘tie’

as in ‘boat’

as in ‘rain’

as in ‘value’

as in ‘feet’

Here's a long and short vowel sounds list: few more examples


Short Vowel

Long Vowel


‘fat’, ‘map’, ‘hand’, ‘lamp’, ‘glass’

‘fate’, ‘pain’, ‘game’, ‘mail’, ‘whale’


‘egg’, ‘red’, ‘nest’, ‘bell’, ‘smell’

‘ear’, ‘sea’, ‘heal’, ‘weak’, ‘three’


‘pig’, ‘rib’, ‘fist’, ‘milk’, ‘swim’

‘hide’, ‘tile’, ‘lime’, ‘wipe’, ‘prize’


‘fox’, ‘hop’, ‘rod’, ‘drop’, ‘pond’

‘road’, ‘goat’, ‘bone’, ‘note’, ‘roast’


‘bud’, ‘gun’, ‘hug’, ‘dump’, ‘puff’

‘rule’, ‘true’, ‘dune’, ‘flute’, ‘fruit

short and long vowel sounds for kids
short and long vowels for kids

Ways to teach short and long vowel soundsHere are some simple long and short vowel activities to introduce and practice the vowel sounds with your kids.

  1. Fun with Songs

Learning the different vowel sounds can be more fun with songs. They are one of the best ways to teach short and long vowel sounds, as their catchy rhythms can help kids learn vowel sounds and remember them easily. Check out Kutuki’s ‘Short and Long Vowel Song’ . This song is great for kids learning short and long vowel sounds.

short and long vowel sounds

For more such fun and engaging songs, download the Kutuki kids learning app now!

  1. Use hand motions or movements

Use simple gestures for every vowel. This can help kids associate the vowels with the motions and the sound they are making. In addition to working on their muscle memory, the kinesthetic activity makes learning more engaging for kids. For instance, have your child bend their knees when they hear a short vowel sound. For a long vowel sound, ask them to jump up and clap. 

short and long vowels for kids
  1. Mark the vowels

It is useful to place a mark on top of the vowels. It indicates the vowel sound to be used. For instance, a short vowel sound is indicated by a curved symbol above the vowel-like ‘ă’ in ‘măn’. While a long vowel sound is represented by a small horizontal line above it, like ‘ā’ in ‘māin’. Such symbols will reinforce your kid’s ability to recognize and use the appropriate vowel sound effectively. 

  1. Create Practice Sheets

Have your child practice the short and long vowel sounds using activity sheets. These help kids recognize, understand, and distinguish words with a long vowel sound from those with a short vowel sound.

short and long vowels for kids

Please Note: These worksheets are subject to copyright. They are exclusively available only for students enrolled in Kutuki’s Phonics Program. 

Kutuki’s Live Phonics Program has an extensive collection of such worksheets. For instance, one such activity has kids circle given pictures that match the vowel sound. While another, have them add magic ‘e’ to the given word and match the word with the right image.

These are just a few activities to help you get started with short and long vowel sounds for preschoolers. If your child is struggling to learn vowel sounds, do not stress or overwhelm the child about it. Remember, every child learns at their own pace!

If you are looking for expert guidance on phonics for your child, enroll in Kutuki’s Live Phonics Program today. 1000s of students have become active readers. Your child could too! The Kutuki kids learning app offers interactive stories, engaging rhymes, and games with attractive animations and illustrations to meet the learning needs of preschoolers