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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.

What Is Rhyming?

That may seem like a silly question, but it can be difficult to explain the concept of rhyming to a child who just doesn’t “get it.” Here’s a simple definition. When two words sound the same at the end, like duck and truck, they rhyme.

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.

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

Hearing and recognizing rhyme are important skills your child must master before he can produce rhyme, so be sure to focus on these skills first. Modeling can be a great way to help your child hear rhyme.

Here’s an example of modeling: “Duck and truck rhyme! They both end with uck! Say it with me: uck-uck, duck, truck!”

But hearing rhyme is just the beginning. The activities below were designed to help you teach your child all three stages of rhyming!

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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Nelia Guajardo

says:

I absolutely loved this information about rhyming! Very insightful!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Glad you liked it and found it insightful, Nelia! Thank you.

Vaishnavi Gupta

says:

teaching class in nursery

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I hope you find this helpful for your class, Vaishnavi!

Toni Miller

says:

The kids enjoy singing and playing acting, they would love more rhyming games to play.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Rhyming games are great fun, Toni!

Keineth

says:

Thank you for sharing these ideas. They will be very helpful and fun for my kiddos 6to play while they learn.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Keineth! I’m glad these will be helpful.

Phuntsho Choden

says:

acting out the words
musical chair

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Interesting, Phuntsho. I hadn’t thought to use musical chairs for working on rhyming! Thank you for sharing the idea.

Macrina

says:

Any suggestions for children with special needs that just don’t seem to be catching on to the concept of rhyming?

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I’m sure we can brainstorm suggestions with you, Macrina, but it would be helpful to know the ages and what sorts of special needs they have.

It’s important for any learner to have lots and lots of exposure to rhyming language before they will be able to identify rhyme. Spend lots of time reading rhyming picture books (see links in the above blog post for book suggestions) and children’s poetry. Sing lots of rhyming songs, especially those that have movements for the children to do to participate. Surround the children in rhyme!

Then, choose a book with a simple rhyming pattern and read it daily for a week or two. Then, after they are very familiar with the language of the book, start pausing for the children to say the rhyming word. So, if the rhyme is, “I will not eat them in the rain. I will not eat them on a train.” (from Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Suess), then you would read, “I will not eat them in the rain. I will not eat them on a …” and see if they will say “train.” (Note, you would probably want to choose a shorter book than Green Eggs and Ham to start with, but I’m just using it as an example.)

Once the children can start providing the rhyming words for books they are very familiar with, then they are ready to start working on Stage 2 of rhyming, Recognizing Rhymes. The Get Out of the Wagon free activity printable here is great for working on Stage 2 of rhyming.

I hope this helps you help your students move through the first two stages of rhyming. Please let me know if you need more help or suggestions.

Tulisha Scott

says:

The folk song “Down by the Bay” is a fun way to practice rhymes.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I love that song, Tulisha!

Tamara

says:

I’d never thought about rhyming as a pre reading skill before.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Tamara,
Rhyming is often overlooked, but it is an important reading readiness skill. Both rhyming and blending sounds into words require children to be able to notice the individual sounds. Rhyming, of course, focuses only on the last sounds, but it is a precursor to noticing all the sounds in words.

Meagan Held

says:

Interesting article. My Kindergartner isn’t a very “creative” rhymer-he will think of 1-2 rhyming words and then move on. While he’s gotten a good start to reading, it hasn’t been as instinctual as it was for older brother. On the other hand, my preschooler will spend a few minutes thinking of ALL the words that can rhyme with another word. (We were playing the dinner game, and he wanted a turn asking for “bickles”). It will be interesting to see how he does when introduced to reading. :)

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Interesting observations, Meagan. Some children do enjoy rhyming more than others. I wouldn’t be too concerned with your kindergartner’s wanting to rhyme just a couple of words before moving on. It shows he has mastered the skill, but may not be a favorite activity.

Karen

says:

I am enjoying the new Uppercase Letter Crafts book with a special little person!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you for letting us know you are enjoying the new Uppercase Letter Crafts book, Karen! We appreciate the feedback, thank you!

Holly DiBella-McCarthy

says:

I made a Rhyming Memory (or Concentration) game! It’s free to download on my website! Lots of fun to play- hollydibellamccarthy.com

Nancy Martin

says:

Thank you for sharing these games. Let’s keep it fun!

Vanesia D

says:

My 12 year old struggles with rhyming. These are great tips.

Crystal

says:

Great information!

Shanna

says:

Love all the ideas for games.

Thank you!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

You’re welcome, Shanna! I’m glad you like these.

Stephanie

says:

Very interesting!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Stephanie.

Jhk

says:

Still working on this with my pre-reader!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

I hope this is helpful. Let me know if you have questions or need additional suggestions.

Brittany

says:

I’ve been wondering if I’m teaching rhyming right, so this was helpful! My daughter is learning to read at 4 but hasn’t gotten the hang of rhyming yet. All in time I suppose.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Brittany,
Yes, some children just need more time and more focused attention on rhyming to master this skill. I hope you find the stages and tips in this blog post helpful. However, if you have concerns or questions, please let me know.

Aly

says:

This is one of my favorite programs. Even years later.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Aly!

Stephanie Rasmussen

says:

‘Get out of the wagon’ is a simple yet fun way to practice identifying rhymes.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Glad you like this activity, Stephanie!

Brooke

says:

This is so interesting! I had no idea but will start with some of these ideas with my 3yo.

Michaela

says:

Love all these ideas! My 3.5 year old makes up silly songs and she will naturally create her own rhymes and make up words that rhyme. She seems to do it naturally without thinking about it but if I ask her directly for a word that rhymes with cat, for example, it takes her some time to think of something.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

It sounds like your child is doing very well considering her age, Michaela! She may need more practice with stage 3 of rhyming, but it sounds like it won’t take much. Keep up the great work!

Amy Ludwig

says:

We love playing rhyming games, and even singing rhyming words! Glad to know this is going to help my son succeed at spelling!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Amy,
Rhyming is important for reading too. Plus, as you have found, it’s fun!

Julie Herd

says:

I love all the fun games that reinforce the skills taught. These are great ideas for rhyming!

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Thank you, Julie! Glad you like these ideas.

Jordan Shepherd

says:

Thank you! So excited to start this program.

Robin E.

says: Customer Service

Wonderful, Jordan! Let us know if you have any questions or need help with anything.

Rebecca

says:

We love playing “Get Out of the Wagon” thank you for the tips!

Laurie Bradshaw

says:

Thank you for such good reading materials!

Brittany N

says:

Love all the free resources on top of these wonderful programs from All About Learning Press 😃

Jennifer

says:

Nursery Rhymes were our favorite way to learn rhyming!

Angela

says:

My son loves to just pick a random word, and then make up silly, nonsensical words that go with it!