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When do kids learn how to rhyme?

By Tara Drinks

At a Glance

  • Young kids don’t all learn to rhyme at the same time.

  • Kids often can produce their own rhymes in kindergarten.

  • Trouble rhyming can be an early sign that a child struggles with reading.

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“Try them, try them, and you may!

Try them and you may, I say.” 

— Dr. Seuss, Green Eggs and Ham

Did you grow up hearing the tale of Sam-I-Am and green eggs and ham? To kids, this Dr. Seuss classic is just a fun book of silly rhymes. But rhyming is actually an important skill for reading . It teaches kids how language works.

When do kids learn to rhyme? Some get the idea of rhyming when they’re very young. Others need more time and extra help to develop this skill. Here’s when kids typically develop rhyming skills:

  • Age 3: Able to join in rhyming games

  • Age 4: Recognize words that rhyme

  • Kindergarten: Produce sounds that rhyme

After that, kids can usually come up with their own rhymes.

Rhyming requires kids to hear the sounds and syllables in words. Those are early reading skills that help kids decode  (sound out) words.

Dive deeper

Why kids may have trouble rhyming

Kids struggle with rhyming for different reasons. One is that they have trouble with a skill called phonological awareness. It includes the ability to connect letters with sounds. Difficulty with skills like these can be early signs of dyslexia .

Kids may also be confused by which sounds in a word need to match. If asked to find words with the same sound, kids may look at the first sounds, like the “buh” sound in bat and bed. But for rhyming, the sounds at the end of words need to match, like the “at” in bat and cat.

Attention can also be a factor. If kids have trouble with focus , they may tune out at some point. That’s especially true when they’re asked to produce rhymes.

How to help

Here are some quick and fun things you can do whenever it’s convenient for you:

  • Read a nursery rhyme (or a rhyming story).

  • Sing rhyming songs or point out rhymes in your favorite songs.

  • Play rhyming games and other word games. For example, have kids come up with words that rhyme or words that start with the same sound.

If there are concerns that a young child is having trouble with rhyming, caregivers and teachers should connect and find time to talk. Together, they can sort out next steps to take when helping a child build this skill.

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