Three Ways Nursery Rhymes Build Language Skills

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Nursery Rhymes may seem rather old-timey in our WiFi world, but they still have lots to offer kids when it comes to honing language skills. Here’s a quick look at three ways sharing nursery rhymes with children supports them in becoming effective readers, writers, and oral communicators:

Exploring Sounds

The lyrical quality of nursery rhymes forces certain sounds to jump into the listener’s ear: “Row, Row, Row Your Boat”, “Peter Piper Picked A Peck”, “Diddle Diddle Dumpling”, “Star Light, Star Bright.” This helps children distinguish differing sounds and break language into smaller bits: words, syllables, letters, phonemes. Playing with nursery rhymes makes kids more sensitive to and aware of the sounds that make up language.

Building Vocabularies

Nursery rhymes expose children to new words–and vocabulary is empowering. Among other things, it allows children to express themselves more effectively and ask more nuanced questions. Kids often pick up the meaning of new words from the rhyme’s context. Other times, we adults may find ourselves stopped in the middle of a rhyme to define words: “What’s an Itsy Bitsy Spider?”, “What do butchers, bakers, and candlestick makers do?”, “You said ‘Jack Sprat’–What’s a sprat?” The conversations such questions about nursery rhymes spark are as beneficial as the rhymes themselves.

Understanding Patterns

Children’s brains are always hard at work seeking patterns, sorting, and classifying information. Nursery rhymes are pattern-rich and ripe with information to sort and classify. As they listen and repeat these rhymes, children will identify and understand language patterns they’ll run into again and again as they learn to read, write, and speak: alliteration, word repetition, rhyme schemes, varied sentence length, tone, pacing, and more.


In the end, these old-timey rhymes have a lot to offer and are a valuable tool for supporting early literacy.

If you’re looking for nursery rhymes to share with children, there are a lot of them out there. We’ve started compiling a collection here at Playvolution HQ and will be adding a rhyme a week to the collection through the end of 2023.

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I'm an early learning speaker, podcaster, content creator, author, and founder of Playvolution HQ and Explorations Early Learning.