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5 Ways to Teach Rhyming

Preschooler hugging All About Reading Pre-reading readers

Did you know that rhyming is one of the best predictors of how easily a child will learn to read? That’s because good rhymers are better equipped to notice that rhyming words often have shared letter sequences, such as all in tall, ball, and small, which in turn gives them a considerable head start in learning to read.

Most children enjoy hearing and participating in rhyming activities, and when they are exposed to rhyming, they usually pick it up naturally.

But if your child isn’t good at rhyming yet, don’t worry! There are many things you can do to help. Read on!

Does Your Child Know How to Rhyme?

Use this simple test to find out whether your child knows how to rhyme. If your child needs help in this critical area, read on to discover how to teach your child to recognize and produce rhyme.

click to download a rhyming test

Three Stages of Rhyming Ability

It’s helpful to know that children don’t just start off rhyming. In fact, they generally go through three stages. In the order of easiest to hardest, those stages are:

the 3 stages of rhyming ability chart

Recognizing rhyme is a skill your child must master before he can produce rhyme, so you’ll first want to focus on helping your child recognize rhyme. Here are some activities that can help.

5 Simple Ways to Teach Rhyming

teach rhyming with rhyming picture books

Read rhyming picture books together.

There are hundreds of great rhyming books, and this Rhyming Picture Books Library List is a good place to start. As you read, occasionally point out words that rhyme. (“Oh, goat and boat rhyme! They sound the same at the end. Goat, boat.”)

Teach rhyming with Get Out of the Wagon rhyming game

Play “Get Out of the Wagon” with your child.

“Get Out of the Wagon” is a popular Stage 2 rhyming game. In this downloadable activity, three word cards—like rake, cake, and king—are placed in a wagon. The child determines which word doesn’t rhyme and tells it to “get out of the wagon.”

teach rhyming with nursery rhymes

Share nursery rhymes with your child.

Nursery rhymes are conducive to reciting again and again. After your child knows the nursery rhymes, let him fill in the rhyming words to work on Stage 2. On this downloadable library list, you’ll find some wonderful nursery rhyme collections to enjoy together.

teach rhyming with What's in My Bag? rhyming game

Play “What’s in My Bag?” with your child.

Once your child can successfully recognize rhymes, this activity will help him learn to produce rhymes (a Stage 3 skill). Just fill a bag with several common household items (here are some ideas) and you’re ready to play “What’s in My Bag?”

teach rhyming with Dinner Time rhyming game

Play “Dinner Time” with the whole family.

For more advanced Stage 3 rhyming, download this fun “Dinner Time” game. But make sure to play “Dinner Time” with the whole family. It’s guaranteed to provide lots of giggles for kids and parents alike!


Teaching Rhyming to Preschoolers - All About Reading

The Bottom Line on Teaching Rhyming to Your Child

It may not happen overnight, but with repeated exposure, your child will learn to rhyme. Most importantly, keep your rhyming practice fun and light—it shouldn’t feel like a “lesson” to a young child.

Is there a rhyming activity that your child enjoys? I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

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Photo credit: Rachel Neumann

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Leave a Comment

AbbyGale

says:

Love the correlation with rhyming and poetry. I feel so strongly about rhyming and learning early to appreciate the musical nature of poetic composition. These are such great activities which I plan to use over and over. Thank you so much for these tips.

Michelle

says:

My preschooler is actually better at rhyming than my kindergartener. Any tips to help her or will these work well with her too?

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Michelle,
I know this post is titled “Teaching Rhyming to Preschoolers”, but the tips and activities outlined in it would apply to a wide range of ages. I used similar techniques with my son when he was 6 and 7 and still struggling with rhyming. The activities in this post come from All About Reading Pre-reading Level, which I have used with Kindergarten aged children twice now.

So, yes, these will work well with your Kindergartner too.

Kara

says:

This was so helpful–really inspired me to do more rhyming reading/activities with my preschooler. Thank you!

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Kara,
You are welcome. Have lots of fun with it too!

Renae B.

says:

I am always looking for additional hands-on ideas for preschool. I appreciate the fun printable activities from the program.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Renae,
Glad to help you make it fun!

Karrie

says:

Love it!

Kristin

says:

Thank you! This was a good reminder, as my older kids get older sometimes the younger games get moved aside and rhyming games get forgotten.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Kristin,
I experienced this too, especially right around the time my older two started into high school. I found setting aside a time just for younger activities every day was necessary to get it in, and give the youngers the attention they needed.

Deana

says:

We love to play “Rhyming I Spy.” It is a great game for when you are waiting, like at the doctor’s office. I say “I spy something that rhymes with bear.” And they have to find the chair. So fun.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Deana,
Great game idea! It’s always great to have an activity or two at the ready for when you have to do some boring waiting, and this one lets them work on an important skill at the same time. Thanks for sharing.

Deborah

says:

I think the first song my kids knew by heart was 5 Little Monkeys! We read tons of Dr Suess, and other rhyming books from birth also.

joanne altom

says:

rhyming is fun for the little ones!

Melissa Ford

says:

I downloaded the rhyming wagon game and have been playing it with my struggling reader this past week. My four year old loves it and colored some of the pictures for us. The large and easy to recognize pictures make my struggling reader feel confident and happy to join in the fun!

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Melissa,
It’s great to hear that this activity has been so good for your struggling reader!

Anne

says:

I loved this post and it was so helpful to me.
For some reason I always associated rhyming with poetry and as I don´t like classical poetry very much I never put much emphasis on rhyming. But after reading this article I will for sure ;).
We leave abroad, speak 2 languages at home and all together our kids grow up with 4 languages.
Next summer we will have to start with homeschooling so this summer while being State site I had to decide on a curriculum to take back with us. Not an easy task, considering our uncommon situation.
I as a not native speaker will have to teach a native speaker growing up with 4 languages, help ;).
Well I feel God led me to AAR and AAS and I am so excited.
I also love all the Freebies and helpful Blogg Posts.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Anne,
We have had great reports from parents whose first language is not English using AAR and AAS.

Rhyming is a lot more than classical poetry. Here is a blog post about books that explore fun, non-traditional poetry.

However, you might consider rethinking some classical poetry. Forget analyzing it to death (which is pretty much the only way most schools do poetry) and just read some once a week for a while. There are some great anthologies out there to help you explore poetry with your kids. Even my engineering minded students found at least one or two classic poets that they enjoyed, and there are plenty of more modern poets that are wonderful. Lord Byron, Longfellow, Emily Dickinson, and Banjo Patterson are all favorites here. Classic Poetry by Michael Rosen (Editor) is a great book to start with.

Kim Starr

says:

Ziggy is great! I tried it out today with Kindergarten students who are learning to rhyme. We got dramatic when we responded to Ziggy’s incorrect names for body parts, such as: tin for chin, lace for face and deck for neck. Fun. Funny. Fabulous. Thank you very much!

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Kim,
You are welcome. :D Ziggy is almost always a huge hit!

Dawn Brown

says:

We love All About Spelling & are looking forward to using All About Reading as well! :) Great products!

Rachel

says:

I love rhyming! Although I’m not sure my five year old loves it. Some days it seems like she totally gets it, others I’m not so sure. ;-) She loves making up nonsense rhymes though.

kate

says:

this is so helpful!

Anna

says:

Not only could my son not produce a rhyme, he became angry when I would read a rhyming book to him, like it hurt him. He was the only kid I know who hated Dr. Seuss. We started homeschooling last year, and my sister started a game with him, a ‘nursery rhyme challenge’ or nursery rhyme battles. She lives far away, so they would write letters, or talk on the phone. She commented last week after seeing him that he can remember the nursery rhymes, and a year ago he could not. He just turned 10.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Anna,
I haven’t heard of a child become angry when listening to rhyming books, but I do know some dislike them a lot. Your sister did a wonderful thing with your son.

Thank you for sharing his struggles.

Pyra

says:

Similarly, my son strongly disliked rhymes and rhyming books. He never enjoyed Dr. Seuss and was constantly annoyed at books that rhymed. We did many rhyming activities such as singing Miss Mary Mack. He would participate, but he enjoyed the story line and the movement of the songs instead of the rhyming. He is also 10.

We would go through the alphabet, subbing different consonants at the beginning to create words that ended with –ack, –ing, or something similar. It was OK for the words to be nonsense words as long as they rhymed. Later, we would go back through and determine which words were real and which were nonsense. This was helpful when he had poetry assignments where rhyming couplets were required.

Angela

says:

Thank you for the activity. Printing it now and look forward to seeing more All About Spelling products.

WL

says:

Without rhyming they don’t see the connection of sounds to letter patterns.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Yes, and rhyming is only the beginning of phonological awareness skills needed to be able to manipulate sounds well for reading.

Mary

says:

I absolutely love your downloads! I’m a private reading tutor and have found
them useful, very practical. Your website is user-friendly as well. Thanks so much!

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Mary, you are welcome!

Amye

says:

I have just started homeschooling my daughter (5) who is quite dyslexic. We are using the All About Learning pre-reading program- we ordered the whole kit with puppet and all. We are a little discouraged and frustrated because she absolutely cannot hear a rhyme. We’ve been doing each rhyming activity listed in the book but it’s usually ends in frustration. Should we continue to try or skip these parts and try again later or persevere through the torture of not getting it?!

We love the curriculum!

Thanks.

Sarah

says:

My first dyslexic child always loved rhymes, but the next one can’t get it. We plowed through the pre-reading level, anyway. At six and a half we just recently began level 1. He still struggles with rhyme, but as he learns to read words he is beginning to see how some word endings look and sound the same. He is getting a visual of rhyming words, which seems to help him connect the sounds. Previously, when asked to find words that rhyme, he would pick words that begin with the same sound instead. He has a speech delay and would leave off ending sounds in the early years. His hearing tests fine, so it must be a processing issue. I don’t know whether your child’s issue is the same, but I hope this helps. I was very discouraged, but we are finally making progress. These precious ones of ours don’t all learn the same way or in the same time frame, but they’ll get there. Keep pressing on, mama. You are not alone.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Sarah,
Thank you for sharing your experiences. I just want to add that what you described sounds a lot like Auditory Processing Disorder.

Debbie

says:

Oh my, sounds familiar! My 2.5 year old was leaving off the end of EVERY word too, or should I say only pronounces the beginning of every word – ballon, bunny, blue, baby – all were “BU” – for ever. I’m sure he’s dyslexic, as my 12 year old is – who is working on AAR4 & AAS3…. last year he did AAR2 & 3, and started 4. The 2 year old has had speech therapy for a few months now, and I don’t know if it’s helping to progress any faster, but finally this week he can say ‘mommy’ completely – it’s so sweet, and has begun speaking 2 word or 2 syllables at a time now. I think he will get to read all the rhyming books I’m working with my 4 year old (non-dyslexic)…. anything to not struggle as much as my 12 year old does…. who by the way still barely gets rhyming.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Debbie,
Oh, I know that joy of having your 2.5-year-old finally able to address you. With my son, he had no word for me at all until he was almost 3, when he finally after a couple months of speech therapy said, “Mama,” for the first time. Now he is 14 and I many times I wish he would forget how to talk! (Not really, of course, but sometimes I do wish he would talk less and focus more.) :D

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Amye,
I’m sorry that your daughter is struggling with the rhyming games and getting frustrated there.

The ability to rhyme helps phonological awareness, which in turn helps reading. But the absolute most important precursor for reading is “motivation to read,” so I’d back off on the rhyming activities with a child who was very resistant, and would concentrate on the other skill areas.

Instead of the Pre-reading rhyming activities, try reading lots of rhyming books to her. Nursery rhymes, rhyming games, songs, poems … anything that she wouldn’t mind hearing over and over again. Play (or sing or read aloud) with rhyming for a few minutes each day, but keep it light hearted and fun.

When a child has a problem with a phonological awareness activity, Marie tries to turn it into a kinesthetic activity, when possible. Let them “feel” what we are asking for. This can work with rhyming too: clapping games like Miss Mary Mack can add a kinesthetic activity. Activity engaging kids in a play routine is much more effective.

Rhyming songs are good, because they let kids experience what we mean in a different way. Start with songs she is already very familiar with, and ask her to supple the rhyming word. “Twinkle, twinkle little star, how I wonder what you …?” Since the song is already very familiar, she may find supplying the rhyme easier. If she can’t supply the rhyme, don’t go to the point of frustration. Rather, just sing the song but really stress the rhyming words for her. “The itsy bitsy spider climbed up the water SPOUT. Down came the rain, and washed the spider OUT.”

So, focus on the non-rhyming activities (learning letters, aspects of the Language Exploration that don’t require her to have to produce rhyme etc…) and build up her ear for rhyming through ways that don’t require her to respond right now. You could also read through the Pre-reading activities to get ideas for how you can playfully incorporate rhyming into some games later, in a few months. Then, even if she has an aversion to the book in relation to rhyme, you’ll have ideas you can use when she’s ready. You could also try using Ziggy as a model: alter some of the dialog so that Ziggy either models a concept (instead of asking your daughter to answer), or you can answer things instead of her.

My son used to like it if I would give a wrong answer and he could say what the right answer was. You could experiment with that type of approach to see if your daughter responds better. For example, when Ziggy points to a shoulder and says it’s a “holder,” you could say, “No Ziggy, that’s not a holder, it’s a BOULDER! Isn’t that right, daughter?” Then she has the option of just saying no, or saying “no, it’s a shoulder!”

When your daughter starts to have success with rhyming, you can start the Language Exploration activities over again, or you can start your own activities keeping the stages of rhyming explained in this blog post in mind. Let us know how it goes, and if we can help in any further way.

Carol

says:

Great ideas all! Love the body parts misidentification. Fun!
Can be used with older children, too, for spelling: e.g. key/knee, put/foot, sky/eye.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Carol,
Be careful with that, holding off on having students spell rhyming words that are spelled differently until they have already learned, practiced, and mastered the individual patterns. Many kids could assume that all words just have random spellings that must be memorized if they are presented with multiple ways to spell the same sound all at once without having the opportunity to master each one before another is introduced (the way AAS does it).

However, if you did this activity as a review, after the student has already learned the words, then this could be a fun way to practice spelling.

Thanks for explaining the different stages of learning to rhyme. This is so helpful.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

You are welcome. :D

Tracy

says:

Thanks for sharing so much wonderful information! Can’t wait to get started with this with my little man.

Jessica

says:

I am so thrilled with the progress my girls have both made so far this year, with the pre reading level for my four year old and level 1 with my 6 year old. My 6 year old struggled in kindergarten last year with reading and grew so frustrated that she would just sit in class and do nothing. We brought her home this year and haved LOVED level 1, she has just taken off and is flying through her lessons with smiles and so much success. We are using the Phonics Road along side AAR and both curriculums are an answer to prayer! thank you!
Thanks for the rhyming tips, my four year old loves to rhyme and my six year loves joining in the fun with Ziggy too! Your curriculum went way beyond expectations!

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Jessica,
Thank you for sharing your experiences with AAR this year! It’s great to hear how well your 6 year old is doing after the difficulties she had last year.

Cindy

says:

Thank you for your info about rhyming

Samantha

says:

Marie, this is such excellent material. I wish I’d had this post years ago when I needed it for some of my children! Having had my first child (a daughter) who could rhyme well at age 2, I think, I struggled with some of the others who didn’t seem to get it. And yet I knew rhyming was an important l skill for reading. I wish I knew about those three stages so I could have helped scaffold their learning instead of just feeling frustrated when they couldn’t produce rhymes.
You explain things so well. Thanks for sharing this. I’ll be sharing this information as the opportunity arises.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Samantha,
I, too, wish I had this information years ago when my 3rd child was 6 and still unable to produce a rhyme. I didn’t know it had to be taught to some kids; I just assumed it was a natural thing that all kids pick up like walking and talking. I was finally able to teach him to rhyme, and then to read, but things would have been much easier if All About Reading was available then.

Teresa

says:

We love rhyming here. So much so, that when the activity for the day involves dropping the first sound and just repeating the last, my ds throws out a rhyme instead. LOL. He is getting better at it though! Would love the next level. I thought I had it but turns out, I don’t.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Teresa,
When mine were younger, we would rhyme in the car. It was a silly game, with no rules except rhyme and no winners, but it made drive time go quicker and the kids enjoyed it.

Jodie Caillouet

says:

We have just started level 1 Reading . My daughter is excited about reading. I love the way the program is setup, there’s no stress as how to implement the program. I would definitely recommend All About Reading.

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Thank you for your recommendation, Jodie!

Melissa Ford

says:

Thank you for this post and for all of your hard work to create this curriculum. You make the lessons easy to follow and have a simple plan to follow.

Suzanne Filz

says:

My 4 year old loves to rhyme thanks to the prereading program and is already asking for the AAR level 1 that I have sitting in the shelf. You guys make learning so much fun and stress free for both of us!

Robin E. at All About Learning Press

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Suzanne. It’s great that AAR has been fun and stress free for you and your child.

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