The Power of a Rhyme

RTB - hopping to rhymeSM

Have you ever had to wait with a toddler in a doctor’s office listening in vain for those sweet, sweet words, “He’s ready for you,” or in what looks like the longest lineup to the checkout that you’ve ever seen? Or simply had to wait outside a store for their doors to open?

That time I had to run some errands, toddler in tow…

I recently, and reluctantly, took my two-year-old daughter on an errand run to Staples. Thinking this was going to be a quick and easy stop, I arrived to find it closed and had about 30 minutes to wait. I considered just going home, or getting back into the car and handing her a snack and my phone.

Annoyed at my options, I looked around and saw a Home Depot just down the street. I knew getting her to walk there wouldn’t be easy, and I certainly wasn’t prepared to carry her that far. Nor was I in the mood to wrestle her back into her car seat for a one minute drive. While handing her my phone and a pack of crackers seemed like the least frustrating thing to do, there was another way to pass the time that was far more beneficial to both of us.

This is where the power of a simple rhyme came into play.

I took her by the hand and started singing, “Walking, walking, walking, walking. Hop, hop hop…” in the direction of Home Depot and to my delight, she followed, walking, hopping and running. It was fun, it was memorable, it was easy and, we both benefitted from it.

A few things happened in this short time:

  1. Feelings of frustration were lessened. It started out as a frustrating, ‘what do I do now’ situation, but with the use of a simple rhyme, the mood was changed. We were happily making our way down the street, turning a potentially stressful wait into an effortless 30 minutes.
  2. My child was developing oral literacy. Oral literacy has to happen first. A child learns to read and write after they learn to speak. The stronger they are in oral literacy, the stronger the connection and transition to reading and writing. The rhythm, the easy and repetitive vocabulary, and the body actions of a simple rhyme create new pathways in a child’s brain. My daughter wouldn’t have been learning anything while sitting in the car, eyes glued to a phone.
  3. Our relationship was strengthened. The bonding that happens during this kind of interaction with a child is priceless. We laughed, sang, hugged, and held hands. There is no better feeling than seeing a child happy and in love with you! This relationship is really important to any child’s learning, and instead of just killing time, I was sharing a fun and loving moment with my daughter.
  4. It gave me a sense of accomplishment and competence, of being actively involved in my child’s learning. I was able to say, “I made this happen, not my phone. I turned this annoying situation into a fun experience.”

Simple rhymes can be used in the daily activities and care of a child. They are guaranteed to lessen frustration, develop oral literacy, and strengthen relationships between caregiver and child.

Come to a Rhymes that Bind program and see for yourself how fun rhyming can be, and learn a new rhyme or two. Check the Centre for Family Literacy website for a free drop in program near you. And in the meantime, here’s a rhyme to try with your little one:

Walking, Walking (tune: Freres Jacques)

Walking, walking
Walking, walking
Hop, hop, hop
Hop, hop, hop
Running, running, running
Running, running, running
Now we stop
Now we stop

*skating, crawling, skipping

 

Children Love Your Stories

iStock_storytelling

Oral skills include both speaking and listening, and are at the root of literacy. Listening to the rhythm of the language spoken around them will help your children discover the rules of that language. When your children experiment with their voices, they will try to mimic how you speak to them. The words they understand best and use first are the ones that represent what is most important to them, such as names or titles of family members or pets, or their favourite foods and toys. As their understanding of the language expands, so does their vocabulary.

Some simple ways you can expose your children to language are to:

  • Narrate what you are doing around them as if you are telling a story—while you are diapering, bathing or feeding for instance
  • Make up stories or retell stories
  • Tell them what you were like as a child or what they were like as newborns
  • Tell them over and over again about the many things related to what they love most—their families and themselves

Babies and toddlers will pay close attention to a rhyme or story they hear repeatedly to pick out words they are familiar with. When you repeat your story several times, toddlers understand the beginning, middle and end, anticipating what happens next. You can expand your stories as your children gain more experience.

It is important for children to have a good understanding of the mechanics of their language before they can move to the next step—reading and writing! Singing rhymes to your children increases their phonemic awareness, among other things. Phonemic awareness is the ability to hear, identify, and manipulate individual sounds—phonemes—in spoken words. Before children learn to read print, they need to become aware of how the sounds in words work.

Young children, who have been exposed to a rich vocabulary and ways to use it, can become the storytellers. It is a great exercise for a preschooler to be able to retell what happened yesterday, what they saw at the zoo, or what a grandparent gave them on their birthday. They have to remember in what order the things happened without a picture book to help with the story. They may get the details mixed up, but encourage them to tell their story the way they recall it. They are learning how to remember the beginning, middle and end. They are trying to put the correct words in place of images in their minds. Prompt them if needed.

One of the best experiences I have had as a parent is sitting around a table, living room, or campfire with my children, friends and extended family, retelling stories of our past. My older children have heard these stories so many times, they are eager to share them with  the youngest family members. “Tell the one about you and Uncle when you were…” the little ones might say! There are so many stories for them to pick from! Our family shares stories of our elders who are now gone, and our children can retell some of them as if they were there themselves.

So another important thing that happens with oral storytelling, especially when it is about your family, is the bonding that brings you together. Every family has a story! Don’t forget to teach yours to your children, especially since many of our families are spread around the world.

Sing with your child, talk with your child, read with your child, play with your child, everyday!

Check our website for more information about Rhymes that Bind in Edmonton and find a program near you.

hashtag: #RTB_Edm