Children discover the magic of rhyme at around four-and-a-half years of age. Standing firmly on their newfound knowledge of syllabification, these active listeners discover that words can sound the same at the end, even though they mean different things. And so the enjoyment of rhyming one-liners begins.
As pre-schoolers near their fifth year, not only do they enjoy a mighty rhyming tale, they relish the chance to predict a word that will rhyme with the starter phrase before them. Dr Seuss caters to this age group in his Green Eggs and Ham, One Fish, Two Fish and other rhyming classics, especially when the word that will rhyme causes a giggle at its preposterousness, or is hidden on a page not yet turned.
Old mother Hubbard went to the …? ‘Cupboard!’ comes the shouted reply.
The cat in the hat sat on the …?
You get the idea.
Immersion in the world of rhyme is also a wonderful way to wake up listening ears for pre-reading. Rhyme detection and production usually comes before the ability to hear the first or last sound in a word, so pull out your favourite nursery rhymes, rhyming picture books or other favourite tales and get into the rhyming hilarity. Your little ones won’t suspect you are priming them for reading: they’ll be having far too much fun to notice.