Rhymes Have Reason - Part 2 - 5 Ways to Grow Language Skills with Preschool Poetry

4 July 2018

5 Ways to Grow Your Preschooler’s Language with Poetry

Lots of parents and caregivers read children’s books to their preschoolers. But if they don’t include children’s poetry as well, their preschooler is missing out on a literary form that can greatly motivate them to love reading. Children’s poetry are poems written for and that are appropriate to young children. There’ve been many educational studies, like National Institute for Literacy’s 2006 study herethat show the positive impact of including poetry reading to preschoolers. You probably first introduced poetry to your child in the form of nursery rhymes or lullabies. As a parent and early educator, I want to share the key benefits and easy ways you can include poetry in your little one’s life and encourage their early literacy.

First, there are two clear educational benefits when using children’s poetry with preschoolers:

  1. It’s playful approach to language helps children think about language forms as well as meaning. As I explained in Rhymes Have Reason - Part 1 - 5 Ways to Grow Your Child's Language Skills with Rhyming, the predictable rhythms and rhymes in children’s poetry books like The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss found here on Amazon, naturally present and highlight phonetic similarities and differences in words in a way that normal speech does not. At the same time, all of these forms come together to tell a story and provide meaning. This is an important-- yet fun-- emergent literacy skill.
  2. Young children take pride in learning to recite short poems. Poetry can be used to stimulate the development of memory, which will aid your child in their future learning experiences. Knowing simple poems also enhances their feelings of competence, which is very important for preschoolers. It is quite appropriate to expect 3- and 4-year-old preschoolers to happily chant short poems like those found in Chicka Chicka Boom BoomThe Giving Tree, or It’s Raining Pigs and Noodles. Being able to recite simple poems by memory encourages your child’s language development and their positive self-concept.


With that in mind, here are five everyday ideas for working and playing with poetry in your little one’s life:

  1. Encourage rhyming. Read a short rhyming poem out loud with your child. Then, read it again-- But this time, stop before reading the second rhyming word and invite your child to finish the rhyme herself. It’s OK if your preschooler suggests words that don’t rhyme or don’t make sense. This is a chance to be creative and explore their own ability to make words!
  2. Try new words. Read a poem that introduces a new word or that uses a familiar word in an unusual way. Then, ask, “Do you know what this word means? What other words could you use instead?” Our Chatty-do activities, like What Squiggly Things Can You Find?, have lots of easy ideas for more fun, everyday practice to help your child learn new words.
  3. Chat about what poems might mean. Some children’s poems describe emotions or moods that children have experienced. Others describe nature or tell a story. Many have more than one meaning. After reading a poem, ask, “What do you think the poet was feeling? Have you ever felt like that?” Or, “What do you think the poet was describing?” For more helpful tips for understanding and supporting your little one’s emotions, check out our article, Your Preschooler’s Social-Emotional Development - Part 1 - Four Basics right here.
  4. Create your own poems together. Spark new ideas by discussing your little one’s interests and feelings. Or, go outside to find inspiration in the world. Write down your child’s words as she says them. Read her words back to her. Then, offer art materials, like crayons, paint or markers, so your child can illustrate her words. Remember, poems don’t have to rhyme and can be about anything at all. The point is to emphasize that words can be fun and expressive. If your looking for preschool materials inspiration, check out our Preschool Materials Guide here. And, our Pass the Rhyme Game is a super easy way to create your own original poems through play with your preschooler.
  5. Seek out inspiration. You can find even more poetic ideas in your local library’s children’s section. Or, seek out more sources online. For example, you can find appropriate preschool poems and educational resources in the Poetry Foundation’s children’s collection here

Including poetry in your preschooler’s life is so easy and so very important. Remember, children’s poetry is an essential part of their literacy. It gives your child an early introduction to the printed word, while encouraging their love of books and reading. Give it a try and let us know if your child enjoyed the experience-- you can give us your feedback right here!


+ Inspiration/illustration credit goes to South African poet Lebogang Mashile’s book, A Ribbon of Rhythm, which includes her poem, "Every child, my child." Here's an excerpt:

"Every child should know the scope of their greatness

Is contained in the weightless

Inconvertible light that is their truest being

My child will know that boxes like race, class and gender

Are fated to be transcended in the face of a limitless self that is free"

You can read the entirety of Mashile’s poem here an learn more about her accomplishments here.