Use music, rhythm, and rhyme to enhance language learning and memory

Music, rhythm, and rhyme are great for learning and memory. Quick, which months have thirty days? If you're like me, you have to say the rhyme we all learned in school to be sure. Many kindergarteners can't say their ABC's, but they can sing them. People use music and rhythm for memorizing all sorts of lists, from the books of the Bible to the digits of pi.

Who is the greatest singer in the world? Garth Brooks? Beverly Sills? How about you? Yes, you! If you sing to your child, she will be your devoted fan and no one will be able to surpass you, at least not until she’s older and discovers Laurie Berkner and Raffi. A lot of parents are reluctant to sing to their children because they think they can’t carry a tune or don’t have a nice sounding voice. Your child doesn’t care. The definition of "good" singing is so culturally bound that your infant or toddler hasn’t learned the difference yet. As far as she’s concerned, you’re a superstar!

For infants and toddlers, and also preschoolers with language disorders, choose simple songs with lots of repetition. If they have motions and gestures that go with them, even better. Some examples of songs and rhymes I’ve used in therapy include:

The Wheels on the Bus


Five Little Monkeys

The More We Get Together

If You’re Happy and You Know It

Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes

I Like to Eat Apples and Bananas

Baa Baa Black Sheep

The Itsy-Bitsy Spider

Five Little Pumpkins

Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star

...and many more, but this should give you the idea of what I look for in a therapy song or rhyme. All of these have strong rhythms, vocabulary and grammar appropriate for young children, and singable melodies. In addition, most of them have motions to go along with the words, making them a whole-body experience.

Feel free to leave out verses or change the words, or make up words if you don’t remember them. The point is to have fun—the more your child enjoys singing and rhyming with you, the more she’ll sing and rhyme on her own.

Kids' Express Train is a site with a lot more ideas for songs to use with young children.

Little Language for Little Ones is a speech-language pathologist-owned site offering books, toys, CDs, and free lyrics. The picture links below will take you to, where you can listen to samples of songs or to take a look inside the book.

Please note: These links are for your reference and information, and do not constitute an endorsement of any products or services offered by the linked sites. Caveat emptor.

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