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Poetry & Rhyme

Dear Debi,
My infants and toddlers love to recite nursery rhymes, but sometimes they don’t get all the words right. I was thinking, would it be OK for me to let them to make up their own rhymes?
Kandi, Bakersfield, CA
Debi's Tips
Debi Gutierrez
Debi Gutierrez
  • Fill the day with rhymes
  • Use songs, nursery rhymes, poems and books
  • Use rhyming as the basis for other activities
Expert Advice
Deanne Phillips
Deanne Phillips
Pre-K and Kindergarten teacher
A nursery rhyme is a short rhymed tale or poem for children. When people think of nursery rhymes, they usually think of Mother Goose rhymes, but you can lump in anything appropriate for children – anything that’s a simple rhyming verse that appeals to young children.

Nursery rhymes and poems really appeal to kids because they enjoy their silliness and repetition. They also enjoy the way nursery rhymes sound. It’s soothing to them. Also rhymes are easier for them to memorize. They can’t usually do that with a book, but repetition helps them master a language.

Poetry and rhymes are important in language development because rhymes help children pay attention to the sounds of words. Poetry, which sometimes includes rhymes is also rhythmic, so children are also attending to and distinguishing the different sounds that make up words. This is called “phonemic awareness” and is an important literacy skill.

It is great for children to make up their own rhymes. We make up nonsense rhymes all the time. Rhyming is a difficult process. I have 5-year-olds that sometimes has difficulty with it. But they get it once they hear it a lot. A big help is doing a rhyme like, “A Hunting We Will Go.” Get them to sing the verses the way they were written then encourage them to make up their own verses.

It’s important to remember that filling the day with rhymes makes your day fun and it’s a great thing to do when your kids are winding down. It reboots them and reenergizes them so you can move on to the next activity. Also, if you don’t have their attention and you need them to do something, it makes them take notice.

Poetry and rhymes can also help children with development delays. Repetition and predictability are important for children with developmental delays. Remember to pace yourself, slow things down a bit, and wait for children to respond. When something has a pattern, it helps a child that may not be able to master it otherwise.

Child Care provider Comments
Family child care provider for 4 years
I use Mother Goose nursery rhymes because they have very predictable rhythms. The children know what comes next when you say, “The cow jumped over the…”. Sing-songy rhymes seem to appeal to children the best, like “Willaby Wallaby” and “Anna Banna Fo Fanna” because they use humor and children are naturally drawn to humor, which also stimulates their interest in the rhyme itself.
Child care provider for 8 years
If it’s time to eat, we will sing a song. My granddaughter loves plums, so she’ll sing “Me and my grandma, we’re going to eat plums. Grandma, what color plums would you like to eat?” I also like to get books with rhymes and songs that she can understand. We read Dr. Seuss books, like “Green Eggs and Ham.” My granddaughter and the other kids will read along and rhyme with me as I read it to them.

Storytime with Rhymes Featured Activity:
Storytime with Rhymes
Poetry & Rhyme Featured Video:
Poetry & Rhyme
Topic: Early Learning Areas
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1-800-545-2433, Ext. 5752
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