How to Teach Nursery Rhymes to Children

Nursery Rhymes are a great way to teach phonemic awareness. The rhyming, alliteration, and obvious tempo they provide really help children understand the process of reading. Nursery rhymes are also great tools for teaching word parts like syllables and blends.They are very helpful and there are plenty of ways to use them in a preschool. Here are 6 great strategies to teach nursery rhymes in preschool.

Use Funny Voices

Say the rhyme one time or several times, but use a different voice each time. Say it in a robot voice, British accent, Texas twang, Opera voice, scary witch voice, baby voice, monster voice, tiny mouse voice, or pirate voice. You can also have students do actions while they are reading. Have them pretend to throw a ball, do jumping jacks, do a hula dance, act like an animal, or clap the syllables as they say the words. It is best if the children already have the nursery rhyme memorized when they do this, but you can also use this strategy to teach the rhyme.

Tap the Rhythm

Tap the rhythm as students chant it the rhyme. You can tap the rhythm using rhythm sticks or students can clap the rhythm, pat their legs to the rhythm, or march to the rhythm. This process will help with fluency as students learn that reading has a natural rhythm to it. Feeling a steady beat while repeating the words will also help students with memorization.

Find Rhyming Words

Have students look for rhyming words. Point out if the rhyming words are spelled in a similar way or not. Have students think of other words that rhyme with those words. If the students are older, you can have them make up another line or two that end with a new word that rhymes.

Find Words that Start with the Same Letter

Have students look for words that start with a certain letter. If alliteration is used, point out how the same letter sound over and over helps to make a point. If students are older, have them look for words that start with a specific blend. Have them think of other words that start with that letter or blend.

Substitute New Words

Substitute new words into nursery rhymes and change other words if necessary to make it rhyme. For example: In Hey Diddle Diddle, ask students to think of another instrument that they like. If a drum is suggested, the new rhyme with the word “drum” could go “Hey diddle dum the cat and the drum.” You can also substitute students’ names in rhymes that have a name. For example: Kayla be nimble, Kayla be quick, Kayla jump over the candlestick. This will make the rhymes more personal to students.


In preschool, the best way to use nursery rhymes is to simply practice them. Students will have a much easier time learning syllables, rhythm, rhyming, alliteration, and such if they have several nursery rhymes memorized. Practice new rhymes until children have them memorized well and review old ones frequently.