Nursery rhymes are perfect little songs for encouraging language development. Although they aren’t always sung, nursery rhymes do have a rhythmic lilt, encouraging that sing-song cadence that helps ingrain things into little brains. They are short, sweet, and easy to remember, and, as their name suggests, the words usually rhyme.
Hearing rhyming words – long before your child is ready to read – will introduce the idea of word families and help your child understand that some words may sound the same, but are different. For example, “bat” sounds like “cat” – but it has a different initial sound, and the words have a different meaning.
When your little one is ready to read, it will be easier to find patterns in the letters on the page if they already know how words can be related. If he already knows that “bat” and “cat” have rhyming sounds, it’s only a small step to seeing that they also share the same letters on the page (-at). From there, reading a new word like “fat” or “sat” is only a matter of identifying that initial letter and sound (“f” or “s”) – because the “-at” is part of those familiar words that he already knows.
You can start now by reading or reciting nursery rhymes and singing songs with rhyming words (which is most children’s songs!) to your baby or toddler. Check out children’s music CDs from the library, or find music on Hoopla. When singing a familiar song or rhyme, pause to let your child fill in the rhyming word: “Little Bo Peep has lost her ________...”
As your child gets older, you can continue those nursery rhymes and songs, but also just play with rhyming sounds – maybe make up nonsense sentences, being sure to point out how they match (rhyme). “I have a hat. Should I put it on the cat? Or on the bat? Let’s not just leave it on the mat. Oh, do you hear all those rhyming words? H-at sounds like C-at, B-at, and M-at! Do we know any other words that sound like that?”