Rhymes Have Reason - Part 1 - Five Ways to Grow Your Child's Language Skills with Rhyming

2 May 2018

5 Ways to Grow Your Preschooler’s Language with Rhyming

Mother Goose is back in style! Research has shown how nursery rhymes directly contribute to a child’s vocabulary and understanding of language. Your child’s ability to recognize that two words rhyme shows that they know something about the sounds that make up words, called phonemes.  A phoneme is a distinct unit of sound in a language that distinguishes one word from another, such as p, b, d and t in the English words pad, pat, bad and bat. This phonemic awareness is an important precursor in learning to read. Your preschooler’s awareness of phonemes will eventually foster their ability to hear and blend sounds, encode and decode words, and to eventually spell phonetically. And nursery rhymes are great fun for practicing rhyming words. In fact, the better your little one is at detecting rhymes, more quickly and successfully their reading progress will be in the future.

When children have fun rhyming, it's drawing their attention to the fact that words have parts. When most of us hear a word, we don’t pay attention to the fact that even a simple word like cat has three sounds: C, A, and T. When you rhyme the last part of a word, like the T in cat, your child can begin to realize a distinct part of the word and what the sound is. In order to read, your child must also appreciate that words are made up of different sounds. It’s really the same ability. Rhyming is essentially helping your child learn to break the code of written language.

So, let’s get to having a bit rhyming fun with your little one. You can boost their literacy development in these 5 easy, everyday ways:

  1. Use rhymes all day long.  Throughout your day you can find words to rhyme in lots of places. When it’s time for something in your daily routine to start, like your afternoon snacktime, recite, “Hickory Dickory Dock, the mouse ran up the clock. The clock struck one and down he run, Hickory Dickory Dock.” This ties the idea of time, a clock, as well as uses rhyming words together. And getting those shoes on is a perfect time for the rhyme, “One, Two, Buckle My Shoe.”  Whether you are out on errands with your little one, or reading a book together, you can find creative ways to have rhyming fun. For example, when you are at the store, ask your preschooler if they can find a word that rhymes with something you are looking at or buying. For example, “Look at this box. Can you say a word that rhymes with box?” Or when you’re reading a book together, pick out a word and ask your little one to say a word that rhymes with it. And if they don’t know one, it’s perfectly ok. Helping them discover a new rhyming word is part of the fun!
  2. Have your child recite nursery rhymes along with you as you read them aloud. Start off by reading a rhyme aloud to your preschooler. Then read it again, pausing at the end of each line and let your preschooler chime in with the rhyming word. For example, “Jack and Jill went up the … ” (Hill!)  Or “Little Miss Muffet sat on a … ” (Tuffet!)
  3. Enjoy your own rhymes. If you love it, your child will like it too. If you read or say rhymes in a dull, boring way, your child’s won’t relate to it. It’s all in the presentation. So have fun with rhymes and your little one will, too. You can find more ways to make early reading a joyful experience for you and your child in our article, Tips for Reading to your Preschooler.
  4. Challenge your little one to be a Super Rhymer. Surprise your preschooler and have a rhyme challenge. “You are so good at rhymes, so can you give me a word that rhymes with cat?” or “What’s a word that rhymes with dog?” Then let your little one challenge you next.  Playing with words doesn’t cost anything-- but has does have great rewards in the future, such as encouraging your little one’s emergent reading. You can get more information on emergent reading, the process of children becoming literate, right here in our article, Support Your Preschooler’s Language Development, Part 2-½, Emergent Reading.
  5. Act out nursery rhymes. Mother Goose rhymes are a collection of childhood rhymes, jingles, songs, and riddles that originated centuries ago. You can find these traditional rhymes online right here at Poetry Foundation. They're are full of action and scenes that are naturally fun for preschoolers to act out. For example, “Humpty, Dumpty sat on a wall,” is an easy and very exciting scene to bring to life.“It’s Raining, It’s Pouring,” is another rhyme for that's fun preschoolers to dramatize. Plus, these are great for letting loose all that preschool energy and imagination, too! Our Skilly-do Dramatic Play and Pure Imagination activities for even more ideas on encouraging your preschooler’s natural, creative ability to pretend. And if you’re wondering why your child is so darn energetic, you can find answers in our article, Awesome Energy - 5 Reasons Why Preschoolers Have So Much Energy.

Go ahead and give these a try! You will definitely grow your little one’s early language skills with these simple ways to have rhyming fun in your everyday. For more ideas and information about your child’s developing language skills, you can read my 3 part series, Support Your Preschooler’s Language Development, starting here with Part 1 - Speaking. 

And just in case you’re in need of more rhyming inspiration, here are 3 recommendations for nursery rhyme book collections found on Amazon: 

Stay tuned! Next up in Part 2 of this series, I’ll focus on the importance of poetry in your child’s early childhood years. Let us know what you think! We’re always glad to get your feedback right here.

+ Inspiration/illustration credit goes to Boyd Smith’s Mother Goose Melodies, published in 1920 and scanned in full here at archive.org.