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How rhymes help your child

toddlers singing

Key points:
1. Nursery rhymes prepare children for learning to read by teaching phonemes and spelling.
2. Phonological awareness is the first step in reading and writing.
3. Familiarity with rhymes in kindergarten aids reading skills.
4. Rhymes are fun to teach and can be incorporated into everyday activities.

If you’ve ever sang a nursery rhyme to your child, like Baa, Baa, Black Sheep, then you’ve unconsciously been preparing your little one for when they lear to read.

Words that share a common sound, or rhyme, can be used to teach children about phonemes (the individual sound units in words) and spelling. Take for example, the “-at” family: mat, cat, and hat. Your little one can learn to identify that they all end with the same sound. Phonological awareness is considered the first step towards learning to read and write, because with it a child can discern the differences between individual sounds. The great thing is that rhymes are not only fun, but they train children’s ears to hear the differences and similarities between word’s sounds. By identifying different phonemes, they learn how sounds combine and blend together to form a word.

Research has found that children who have been sung nursery rhymes, and are familiar with them by the time they enter kindergarten, often have an easier time learning to read. This may be because rhyming helps children discover the common patterns that exist within words, making it easier for them to recognize them when they see them in print.


The great thing is that rhymes are actually fun to teach! Consider trying some of these activities with your little one:

  • Sing all the time! You can come up with songs for different moments of your day –like brushing your teeth or getting dressed. If they rhyme, even better!
  • Get into the rhythm of it. Add rhythmic clapping or specific movements to your songs. This will help your little one remember the words of the song because they will be able to connect the movement with the words.
  • Get in the habit of coming up with rhyming words when you’re passing the time. Try it during a car ride or when waiting in line at the supermarket. For example, try the “-og” family: dog, log, and what can come next? Get your child to help you out!
  • Finally, don’t forget to add rhyming books to your child’s library. Look for books that are fun to read out loud and are easy to memorize. After you’ve read it a couple of times, your little one will be able to join in on the fun and help you finish the sentences from the story.

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