Aspect 4: Rhythm and rhyme

Find here some ways you can support children’s play to help them develop their understanding of rhythm and rhyme. These suggestions are followed by activities and ideas that you can use to develop your practice and further children’s development.

Supporting children’s play

  • Help children to build a stock of rhymes by repeating them over and over again.
  • Help children to see books as a source of pleasure and interest through sharing them; and providing opportunities to enjoy them.
  • Children enjoy listening to rhymes and inventing their own; create opportunities for this during play.
  • For children learning English as an additional language (EAL), you can use songs and rhymes to help them to tune into the rhythm and sound of English.
  • Encourage children’s word play by inventing new rhymes with them. For example, ‘Hickory Dickory Dock …’ becomes ‘Hickory, Dickory Dabble, the mouse ran up the ...’
  • Remind children of rhymes they know when you join them in the role play area. For example, ‘Miss Polly had a dolly’.

Developing your practice

  • It is important for children to experience a rich repertoire of poems, rhymes and songs. They benefit from a stock of rhymes through hearing them repeated in different contexts. Parents and carers can play a valuable role in developing this repertoire; let them know of any new rhymes you are learning with the children so they can join in when the children sing them at home.
  • For children learning English as an additional language, songs and rhymes offer an effective way to remember whole sentences and phrases. Children can tune into the rhythm and the speech patterns of the language. It’s important to attach meaning as they do this, so they understand contexts.
  • Encouraging nonsense rhymes is a good way to help children begin to generate and produce rhyme. While a child is developing speech sounds, the normal immaturities in their speech may mean their version of a word is different from that of the adults in the setting. For example, you might sing ‘You shall have a fish on a little…’ The child may complete the sentence with ‘dit’. You can then repeat back the correct articulation: ‘dish’.
  • When children experiment with nonsense rhymes they are not confined by their own learned versions of words. This helps them to tune into and produce rhyming patterns.
  • Keep songs slow so you can emphasise the rhyming patterns.
  • Collect a set of objects, or produce pictures of objects, with rhyming names to build children’s essential experience of rhyme. A set of cards from a commercially available rhyming lotto set can be a versatile resource for many different activities.
  • Generating rhymes is a difficult skill for children to master. Accept all the children’s suggestions. When they provide the target rhyming word, congratulate them and draw attention to the rhyming pattern.
  • Children who are learning English as an additional language often internalise chunks of language; they may not hear where one word starts and another ends. Be aware that they may continue to use many of these chunks of language for some time before they begin to segment the speech stream to use the constituent words in new contexts.
  • When children can supply a list of rhyming words and non-words, they are mastering rhyme. For example, if you say ‘cat, mat, sat’, they continue with ‘fat, pat, mat, rat’. However, they may not achieve this until a later phase. You don’t need to wait for them to achieve this before beginning phase two.