How to Teach Rhyming Words and Why They’re Imperative for Language Learning

by | Aug 14, 2023

As teachers or parents, it’s always necessary to think of creative and stimulating ways to teach children. One of the most effective, and often underutilized, methods is teaching rhyming words.

Rhyme is an important aspect of the English language and can help kids learn language skills in an enjoyable and fun way. Rhyme opens up a whole new world of learning for kids, so let’s dive in and explore the power of rhyming words for kids.

What are Rhyming Words?

Rhyming words are sets of words that have similar ending sounds. The last syllable of the words (i.e., the vowel and the consonant sounds that follow it) should be identical in sound.

For example, cat and hat, ball and tall, book and hook.

Rhyming words are a delight for children who are learning to read and write.

Benefits of Learning Rhyming Words

Rhyming isn’t just all fun and games. The benefits of rhyming words go beyond silly poems. Here are a few:

1. Rhyming Reinforces Memory

When rhyming words are said or sung, it requires children to remember the previous word and match it to the next word.

They may be able to pronounce a word that they wouldn’t normally know, simply because they have an idea that it rhymes with a previously read word. This improves their cognitive abilities and memory.

For example, a child reads “The girl went to the store because she said her life’s a bore.” If the child was having trouble sounding out “bore,” they will probably pick it up quicker knowing that it probably rhymes with the previously stated word “store”.

Furthermore, when kids learn rhyming words, they also learn how to put sounds in the correct order, which helps them remember new words.

Children particularly enjoy familiar stories and can even memorize parts or whole books through rhymes. Rhyming words are easier to remember as they stick in the child’s brain more readily.

The connection between words formed in the mind helps in future recall. The impact of rhyme is such that many adults can still recite poems or songs learned in elementary school.

2. Improves Speech Skills, including Phonemic Awareness

When children are familiar with rhyming words, they start to recognize and memorize the patterns of the words.

Recognizing the sounds and spelling patterns of different rhyming words puts children on the path of developing phonemic awareness, the ability to hear and identify individual sounds within words, which is crucial for learning to read and spell.

By exploring and playing with rhyming words, kids can expand their vocabulary, improve their pronunciation, and enhance their communication skills.

This foundation leads to improved reading comprehension, literacy, and overall language proficiency. Therefore, rhyming helps young children build their vocabulary and understand the meanings of words in a fun and memorable way.

Studies show that using rhyming words at an early age helps children understand phonetics, improves literacy, and nurtures creativity.

3. Lays the Foundation for Problem Solving Skills

For a child who is struggling in reading or writing, rhyming words can help them problem solve how to read an unknown word.

They have to use their brain power to figure out what sounds are in the word that they’ve heard before and what that word could be using previously learned rhyming words.

4. Improves Self-Confidence

For a child, being able to read a new word tremendously improves their self-confidence. If they can decode a new word simply because it rhymes with another, they will feel much more confident in their abilities.

These are just a few reasons why parents and educators should include rhyming words in their daily activities with children. Not only will it make learning fun, but it also has a long-lasting positive impact on a child’s development.

5. Provides a Fun and Memorable Way to Learn

Rhyming has always been a fun way to engage kids and encourage creativity, and often it feels like a game where the winner is the one who can come up with the most exciting rhyme.

Instead of just reading and decoding words (which can boring and redundant for kids), rhymes let them get a little silly and have fun while learning.

6. Improves Listening Skills

Children can hear rhyming words way before they can actually hear them. Even toddlers can identify rhymes that are spoken!

Therefore, hearing a pair of rhyming words or a story that uses rhymes, can help to keep your child focused and engaged while listening for those rhyming sounds.

7. Reinforces Reading and Writing Skills

As previously mentioned, rhyming words improve children’s language and speech skills. This is the foundation for reading and writing.

If they learn certain word families (which are typically rhyming words), they will be better able to read and write new words.

Reading comprehension can also improve as a result of rhyming words being easier to decode. If child can read faster, they will comprehend more.

How Rhymes Make Stories More Interesting for Kids

Rhymes are one of the best ways to make stories more engaging and captivating for kids. There’s something magical about the way words rhyme and flow together that can capture a child’s attention.

Not only are they fun to read, but rhyming stories also help kids develop their language skills as they learn new words and sounds.

The sing-song rhythm of a rhyming story is also helpful for children who are learning to read and write. It’s no wonder that some of the most beloved children’s stories are written in rhyme, from Dr. Seuss’s Cat in the Hat to Julia Donaldson’s The Gruffalo.

By incorporating rhythmic patterns and playful language, children are more likely to engage with and retain the story they are being told. Rhymes have been used in children’s literature for generations and with good reason.

They stimulate young minds, aid in language development, and add an extra layer of fun to the reading experience. Rhymes truly have the power to make stories more interesting, engaging and memorable for any young reader.

Different Types of Rhymes

Did you know that there are different types of rhymes? Whether it’s used to amuse, entertain, or communicate a message, rhymes come in all shapes and sizes.

End Rhyme

A perfect rhyme or “end rhyme” is when two words sound identical at the end, like “cat” and “hat.”

Slant Rhyme

A slant rhyme, on the other hand, is known as a half rhyme or near rhyme. This is a type of rhyme in which the final sounds of two words are similar but not identical.

While traditional rhymes have matching vowel and consonant sounds, slant rhymes might share only a vowel sound, or a consonant sound that is close but not exact. This gives poets more flexibility in their writing, allowing for a more subtle effect than traditional rhyming schemes.

Slant rhymes can create unexpected connections between seemingly unrelated words. Some famous examples of slant rhyme include “love” and “move,” or “time” and “mine.”

Eye Rhyme

Another type is an eye rhyme, where two words look like they should rhyme, but they’re pronounced differently, like “bough” and “cough.”

With so many different types of rhymes, it’s easy to find a creative way to add some rhythm and fun to your writing.

Stages of Rhyming

Rhyming isn’t just about finding words that sound the same, it’s about understanding the different stages that make it all work.

1. Hearing Rhymes

Allowing your child or students to be exposed to rhymes will help them to pick up on hearing rhymes. If they hear the same pairs of words over and over, they will surely hear how those sounds belong together.

For younger children, this exposure typically comes through songs and books, but rhyming flash cards can also be a big help as well. Make sure you’re placing an emphasis on the rhyming words as you read or sing, and point out those rhyming words to your child.

Read about some fun games below that can help your child hear those sounds like movement games, jumping while shouting rhymes, and more.

2. Recognizing Rhymes

The first stage is recognizing and identifying the sounds that are present in each word. Once the child can identify WHICH words rhyme together, you’ll have to get them to understand WHY those words rhyme.

You’ll have to ask them questions like, What do those words have in common? Why do those words sound alike?

Melissa at Moving Little Minds suggests “Explicitly teach children that rhyming words have the same ending sounds.  Refer to mouth formation‘Watch my mouth as I say the two words.  Is my mouth moving the same way?‘”

Once they recognize the rhyming sounds, ask them What sounds rhyme in those words and then what letters create those sounds?

This way they can identify what the rhyming sound is and what letters create that sound.

Practice with end rhymes first and when they completely have that concept, you can move on to slant rhymes.

3. Creating Rhymes

Now you can experiment with different combinations of sounds to create rhyming words. This is where the magic happens!

Kids will love starting to create rhymes with nonsense word and syllable combinations, like top/fop or noodle/shoodle. Let them do that until you know they can really find sounds that sound alike on their own.

Once they have that down, get them to create real words that rhyme. Perhaps looking at one word will help them to create a match, therefore have them right it down or find it in a book.

Maybe they’ll need to look at a list of all the words in a word family to find a match. Either way, they can experiment with different sounds to create pairs of words.

4. Refining Rhymes

Once your child has created some rhymes, you’ll want to refine them to ensure they fit smoothly into your writing.

Examples of Common Rhyming Words

  • Cat/Hat/Rat/Mat/Fat
  • Sun/Fun/Bun/Run
  • King/Ring/Sing
  • Fish/Wish/Dish
  • Hope/Rope/
  • Bed/Red/Fed
  • Book/Look
  • Door/Floor
  • Bee/See

Fun Activities to Teach and Practice Rhyming Words

There are instructions and strategies that parents or teachers can use to teach rhyming words.

Children love coming up with their own silly rhymes, which can make learning even more fun. So, if you’re looking to engage your child while helping them develop their reading and writing skills, rhyming words are an excellent place to start!

Firstly, start with simple words, such as cat, hat, and bat, that have obvious rhyme patterns.

Lastly, you can read rhyming stories, poems, and books aloud to your children, such as Dr. Seuss, Shel Silverstein, and Eric Carle. That way, they can hear and see the patterns in a fun way.

Play Games that Encourage Rhyming

Play games with your children that involve rhyming words. There are many that you can choose from, such as “I spy with my little eye, something that rhymes with…”

Most of these games you can DIY, but I’ve included some links to products to make your life easier!

1. Rhyme Matching Game: Create a set of picture cards or word cards with rhyming pairs. Shuffle them and lay them face down on a table. Students take turns flipping two cards at a time, trying to match rhyming pairs. Encourage them to say the words out loud to reinforce the rhyming pattern.

2. Rhyme Time Bingo: Create bingo boards with different rhyming words instead of numbers. Provide students with word cards or picture cards with the corresponding rhyming words. Call out a word, and students cover the matching rhyming word on their Bingo boards. This game helps students associate different words that sound alike.

Rhyming Bingo adds an element of friendly competition while reinforcing their ability to identify and recognize rhyming words.

3. Rhyme Relay Race: Divide the students into teams. Prepare slips of paper with different words that can be grouped into rhyming families (E.G., Cat, Hat, Mat). Each team takes turns picking a word and running to the board to find a matching rhyming word. The team that successfully finds the rhyme earns a point. This game encourages quick thinking and reinforces rhyming skills.

4. Rhyme Freeze: Play some lively music and have students move around the classroom. When the music stops, call out a word. Students must freeze and find a classmate who can come up with a rhyming word. This game encourages quick thinking and creativity.

5. Rhyme Sort Word Families: Provide students with a variety of word cards and ask them to sort them into piles based on their rhyming patterns or “word families“. For example, they can create piles for words that rhyme with “Cat,” “Dog,” “Book,” and so on. This activity helps students identify and analyze different rhyming word families.

Check out the Apple Word Families Game and other themes in my Teaching Littles Shop.

6. Rhyme Memory Matching: Create pairs of word cards, with one card in each pair showing a word and the other card showing a corresponding rhyming word. Shuffle the cards and place them face down in a grid. Students take turns flipping two cards at a time, trying to find matching rhyming pairs. This game helps strengthen memory while reinforcing rhyming patterns.

7. Word Scavenger HuntHave a word hunt where students search for objects in the classroom that rhyme with specific words. 

8. Rhyming Apps: Use interactive online games and apps that focus on rhyming words. Educational apps like “Endless Reader” focus on rhyming words through interactive games and animations.

9. Time Challenge: Have a “Rhyme Time” challenge where students take turns coming up with rhyming words in a given timeframe. 

10. Rhyming Word Dominos: This game encourages critical thinking and concentration as students match rhyming pairs. 

11. Rhyming Word Jars: Fill jars with objects or pictures that rhyme (e.g.,cat, hat, bat) and have students pick one out at a time and say a rhyming word for it. It’s a tactile way to explore rhymes.

12. Who gets the last word? Pick a first word, then call out rhymes back and forth until someone is out of rhymes. As the grownup, you can mix in lesser-known words to save your child’s core vocabulary for them, and to help them learn new words in the process.

13. How many times can you rhyme? Pick a word and a target number, then challenge your student to find that many rhymes in a minute. You can vary up the rules: you can challenge them to find X number of rhymes and they can accept or defer (in which case if you can get that number, you earn the point). You can give them a list of words and a longer duration and see how many rhymes they accumulate. And of course you can set the target numbers ahead of time by compiling your own list of words you think they can get (with the last 1-2 challenging their vocabulary).

14. The Magical Wizard’s Box

This is a game that involves a lot of repetitive chanting, which is a fantastic way to get started with rhyme.

Have an old box ready to serve as the wizard’s magical box. You may use a picnic basket, treasure box, a cauldron, or something similar. You’ll also need some sort of magic wand.

Hide an object in the box and has a lot of words that rhyme with it. For example, you could hide a toy cat in the box (but not let the children see it).

Tell the kids you’re going to build a rhyming spell. The box is now empty (not really true! ), but if you all cast a magnificent spell, something will appear in thebox. Aim the wand towards the box and have the kids wiggle their magic fingers’at it.

Then begin chanting magic rhyming words at the box! These words will all rhyme with the object that you selected.

Then, open the box. Oh, my goodness, there’s a cat inside!

You could play the game again with various objects. Choose items that have a lot of rhymes, such as a ‘dog,’ a ‘top,’ or something similar.

Word Puzzles: 

Create word puzzles where students match the beginning sounds of words to their corresponding rhymes. For a more tactile approach, rhyming word puzzles and flip books provide opportunities for students to manipulate letters and sounds to create new rhyming words.

Sing Songs with Rhymes

Kids love music and rhythm, and they can easily remember the lyrics of their favorite songs. Incorporating movement and music can enhance the learning experience.

Rhyming songs and chants are not only catchy but also aid memory retention. So, why not use this to your advantage? You can teach them popular nursery rhymes or create your own rhyming songs.

Encouraging students to listen to rhyming words in songs, nursery rhymes, and poems help develop their auditory skills and their ability to recognize rhymes.

Use Pictures to Match Rhymes

Using rhyming word pairs as picture cards allows for interactive activities such as matching and sorting, fostering a deeper understanding of rhyming patterns.

Draw Pictures of Rhyming Words

Have students draw pictures of rhyming words and create an art gallery. They can tour the gallery, identifying the rhymes and discussing them.

Rhyming Word of the Day

Introduce a rhyming word of the day andencourage students to use it in sentences, find rhyming partners, or createartwork around it.

Make a Rhyming Basket

Use a basket or box and throw in a bunch of items that all rhyme together. Let students explore the basket of items on their own time.

Rhyming Puzzles

Simple and engaging, this feature has interlocking pieces with a self-checking design as each piece has only one match. My kids LOVE these puzzles as they feature colorful, real-life photographs for easy recognition and retention.

Use Rhyming Flashcards

These preschool, pre-kindergarten, and kindergarten flash cards feature 54 word cards grouped by sound. Children will love identifying the colorful pictures with the sight words, then finding new words with the same sound. Answer choices are on the back of each card. Kids quickly learn that same-sounding words can have way different meanings. 

Read books with rhymes

One approach is to immerse students in rhyming picture books, where they can hear rhyming pairs in context. These books not only expose them to rhymes but also offer an enjoyable reading experience.

Act out rhyming words

Bringing in an element of creativity, students can act out rhyming words in charades, promoting verbal and physical engagement.

Rhyming Story or Poem Creation

Encourage students to write their own short stories or poems using a set of rhyming words. Share and celebrate their creations.

Phil at Stoic Simple suggests “writing very short, simple, one-stanza poetry with them. Just start with a simple phrase that your children might get enjoyment from (Once there was a silly dog), and go through the alphabet with them to figure out rhyming words (bog, cog, frog, hog, jog, log, etc) and write them down.”

“Then let them choose the rhyming word they like the most to use in the second line, and help them write it (who tried to hop just like a frog.) You can start with a simple two-line poem, or expand it into multiple lines that tell a fun story and add illustrations.”

Remember to make these activities fun and interactive, and provide positive reinforcement for students’ efforts. Incorporating rhyming games into regular lessons will make the learning experience more enjoyable and memorable for students.

By engaging them in hands-on and interactive activities, students will have the opportunity to practice identifying and creating rhymes in a playful and enjoyable way.

Age Appropriate Rhyming Activities

Little ones can pick up on rhyming words at 3 years old, but you don’t want to bombard them with too many skills at that age. Here are some perfectly age-appropriate activities to try:

Age 3:

  • Sing songs, read nursery rhymes, and recite poetry – repeat!  
  • Read books that are full of rhyming words.
  • Point out rhyming words in the world around you.
  • Play with a word from a story – Make up list of words that rhyme with that word. 
  • Play Chime Time – Allow children to chime in with words or phrases in books and songs.
  • Play “That Rhymes, That Rhymes!”  – Say two words (may or may not rhyme.)  Children responds with, “That rhymes, that rhymes,” or, “No way, no way!”

Age 4 -5:

  • Sing songs, read poetry, and nursery rhymes – Repeat! 
  • Play “I Spy” – “I spy an object that rhymes with ___.”
  • Play the name game –  “Heather, Heather Bo-bether, Banana Fana Fo-fether…”
  • Play with a word from a story – Make up list of words that rhyme with that word. 
  • Play That Rhymes, That Rhymes!  Say two words (may or may not rhyme.)  Children responds with, “That rhymes, that rhymes,” or, “No way, no way!”
  • Play Food Rhyme – “Eat some cheese, not pat your ___.” 
  • Circle Rhyme – Choose a word family.  All children walk in a circle while the teacher says rhyming words.  When a word is spoken that doesn’t rhyme, everyone sits down.  
  • Guess the Riddle! – Create fun riddles that play with sounds and see if your child can guess the riddle. “It starts like bat, and you sleep in it.”  BED!  “It rhymes with dish and swims in the ocean.”  FISH!
  • Simon Says Rhyme!  Say, “Simon says touch your toes.  Simon says wiggle your nose!”  Discuss the two rhyming words in the game. Other examples: Give one clap, hands in your lap. Touch your lips, hand on your hips. Touch your hair, spin in the air. Touch your knees, stand like trees. Touch your knee, buzz like a bee. Touch your feet, take a seat.”
  • Rhyme Punch: Listen to the key word.  Say as many words as you can that rhyme with that word, moving your arm in a punching motion for each rhyming word. Example: “pack” (punch one arm) “sack” (punch other arm) “wack” (punch again)
  • Rhyme Sit or Stand: Listen to the two words. If the words rhyme, stand up.  Ifthe words do not rhyme, sit down. “Sun.  Fun.” (stand)  “Sad.  Mad.” (stand) “Dad.  Mom.” (sit) “Mom.  Monkey.” (sit)  “Cake.  Rake.” (stand)

Why it’s important for kids to learn to use a variety of words when creating a rhyme

As children begin to learn how to write their first verses, oftentimes they rely on simple and repetitive rhyming patterns.

While this can be a good starting point, it’s important for kids to expand their vocabulary and experiment with different rhyming words to truly elevate their poetry.

Not only does using a variety of words make a verse more interesting and engaging, it also helps to develop important language skills that will benefit kids in all areas of their academic and personal lives.

With a diverse arsenal of rhyming words at their disposal, young poets can express themselves more creatively and effectively, opening up endless possibilities for self-expression and artistic exploration.

Encouraging Creativity Through Rhyming Words

Creativity is an essential element in a child’s development, and as parents or guardians, we need to encourage it. One of the most fun and exciting ways to do this is by using rhyming words.

Using rhyming words in poems, songs, and even storytelling can add an element of enjoyment and creativity to language learning.

The more children practice using rhyming words, the more comfortable and confident they will become at using their imagination and being creative.

With a little patience, a lot of enthusiasm, and a variety of fun rhyming word activities, you can inspire your child to think creatively and have fun while doing so.