Singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star or Row, Row, Row Your Boat is a great way to keep your toddler occupied on a car ride. Turns out, these classic nursery rhymes aren’t just a way to pass the time – they also drive speech and language development, improve memory, contribute to early literacy, and much more. Rhyming songs and books for children have been around for centuries, but over the last few decades, researchers have started to recognize the true power of rhyme.


  • Rhyming with your child, through songs, books and games, promotes various areas of development.
  • It builds several speech and language skills, including vocabulary, sentence structure and prosody.
  • It promotes early literacy, including phonemic awareness, or the ability to hear, identify and use individual sounds in words.
  • It supports memory skills, as children use rhyming patterns to recall words.
  • It encourages meaningful connections with parents and caregivers, and helps children learn to socialize with others.

Benefits of Rhyming in Early Childhood

While singing Incy Wincy Spider multiple times in a row may make your head spin, hang in there – all that rhyming benefits your little one in big ways. Here are four:

  • Drives Speech and Language Development – It’s probably no surprise that rhyming promotes speech and language development. When toddlers learn to rhyme, they’re also building unique vocabulary and learning how to combine words, recognize vowels and consonants, and form short sentences. They’re also experiencing the dance of communication! Rhyming exposes your toddler to pitch, inflection, cadence, and rhythm of speech.
  • Literacy Development – Research has found that a toddler’s ability to remember and recite nursery rhymes is a strong predictor of future reading comprehension skills. One reason for this is that rhyming words help toddlers develop phonemic awareness, or the ability to hear, identify and use individual sounds in words. Rhyming helps children learn familiar sound patterns which, in turn, lays the foundation for learning to read and spell. For example, learning ‘Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall…had a great fall‘ helps them learn and use an ‘all’ pattern. And, how can we talk about literacy without pointing out that reading rhyming books is simply a lot of fun, which helps little ones develop a love for reading.
  • Memory and Cognitive Development – Rhyming is also great for memorization and recall skills. In fact, to prove just how powerful rhyming is for cognitive development, researchers at the University of Florida conducted a study where they asked pregnant women to recite nursery rhymes three times a week for six weeks throughout their third trimester. With the use of a heart monitor, they found that the fetuses recognized the nursery rhyme when it was recited to them weeks later by a stranger. Pretty powerful stuff!
  • Social Development – Rhyming songs, books, and games are a classic and special way for little ones to connect with parents and caregivers. Memorizing rhymes also promotes social development with others. When toddlers get an opportunity to belt out I’m a Little Teapot with you and a few friends, they’re building confidence and learning the value of connecting with others. What’s more, many nursery rhymes are universal, which can help children adapt when it’s time to start preschool. When they participate in a group nursery rhyme they already know, it can bring a sense of security and comfort to a new situation with new people.

Rhyming, in short, is brain food for your toddler! It’s fun, developmentally friendly, and easy to weave into the time you and your little one spend together.