The definition for rhyming is “having or ending with a sound that corresponds to another.” Rhyming seems to be a term that most parents feel quite comfortable teaching. Perhaps it is because they grew up in an era prior to our current technology crazed world, and they played rhyming games to occupy themselves on long car trips; maybe they simply remember singing basic nursery rhymes with their own parents. Do you have a specific memory of rhyming as a child? Whatever your own past connection is with rhyming, you still may have absolutely no idea why rhyming is an important pre-reading skill. Without a doubt rhyming is a fun childhood game, often bringing on giggles and squeals as silly nonsense words are created. Still, the question begs to be asked: does rhyming serve an academic purpose? Or, is it merely a fun way to pass the time and be silly?
Rhyming is a necessary precursory skill for reading.
Rhyming is more than a fun activity—it shows that your child is able to discern the individual sounds in words (the technical term for this is phonemic awareness). Developing phonemic awareness is an important basic skill that your child needs to begin reading. Once your child understands that the words “cat” and “hat” rhyme, they are showing you that they can hear all three individual sounds in each word. Furthermore, they comprehend that the ending sounds in the words correspond with each other. Before your child can begin reading they need to understand that every word is comprised of individual sounds—learning to rhyme helps them practice and master this skill.
How can you teach your child to rhyme?
Rhyming can be done in a fun whimsical way; open any Dr. Seuss book and this will become abundantly clear to you. Most Dr. Seuss books have a lot of rhyming words, most of which turn into silly nonsense words. Although zany, Dr. Seuss-like words are fun to read in a book, you do not want to confuse your child as they are initially trying to grasp the concept of rhyming. When you first begin rhyming with your child you should choose familiar and simple words.
*Which does not belong?: Print from your computer or draw five objects. Four of the five pictures need to rhyme while one picture does not (e.g., cat, bat, hat, pat, ball). Lay out the pictures for your child to see. Say the names of the pictures out loud, and then have your child say them out loud. Ask them which one does not belong. If they do not hear it right away say the list of words again slowly while really annunciating the endings of the words. You can repeat again with a different set of objects.
*Word Family Sort: Word families are groups of words that rhyme. For this activity you will need two hula hoops or sidewalk chalk to draw two circles on the ground. If you are choosing to do this activity indoors then two empty laundry baskets would work well. You will also need 10 objects to toss (bean bags, small rocks, balls, rolled up socks, etc.). Choose two of the lists below, or make up your own word family lists. Place a picture (from the computer or drawn by hand) from two different word families in front of each circle. You will say a word from one of the lists and your child will throw a ball into the circle according to which word family it belongs to. Repeat until you have used all 10 words from the two lists.
cat, sat, pat, hat, bat
hop, mop, pop, top, flop
sit, hit, bit, pit, lit
bug, rug, tug, slug, mug
set, jet, pet, net, vet
Rhyming with your child should be a fun time. The two activities above are good to do at home, but keep in mind that you can practice rhyming anywhere. For example, while driving in the car you can rhyme words back and forth. An important thing to remember with any concept you are trying to teach your child is that if they do not seem to grasp it right away, do not panic or get frustrated. Try teaching them the information again in a few weeks. Learning should be fun!