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How a rhyme can save you every time (while teaching in early childhood)

I LOVE rhymes (and songs) and they have helped me in many tricky teaching situations. A rhyme can be used as a distraction or to soothe children but I use them mostly for capturing attention and keeping it (they are a go-to for group times).

I think I may have a rhyme on hand for any interest, routine and curriculum area. I share a new one weekly in my group Exploring why I and many are printable to add to a folder if you need a reference when starting out.

I love using rhymes in group times and they are a great for transitioning too. To involve children more in group times I have 3 choosing rhyme/ song/ waiata activities:

· a choosing rhyme bag with wooden items

· choosing or rhyme spoons

· He kete waiata

My choosing rhyme bag or kete (woven basket) contains wooden teethers for a child to choose and each one connects to one or more rhymes or songs. I stared off with 15 wooden teethers as they were a set on offer and they are perfect for infants but I have used them with all age groups. The smoothness and warmth of the wood is wonderful to hold and it is OK if they go into mouths. You may see I added a wooden bobbin or spool too.

They can also be used in invitations to play, here with autumn leave, round acrylic mirror and containers.

The choosing spoons contain 18 rhymes and these are represented by images that a child gets to choose from in a bag or kete (woven basket). You then say or sing the rhyme selected and they or you attach the image to a wooden spoon (Velcro is used to attach it). This can be a great way to add more songs and variety of them to your group times as Baa Baa can get a bit tedious after the tenth time 😉

The children love to choose an image and place it on and off the wooden spoon and the Velcro noise is pretty great too. You can create this resources as it is a $1 DIY e-pattern and there are images for large or small spoons. I like the larger ones for under 3’s (I laminate them if they will go in mouths and if not then firm cardboard lasts) as it is easier to ‘choose’ but they are also good for large group times as they can be seen better. A BONUS is that if one goes missing or is damaged you can print and new one and if I missed a rhyme or song the children love you also have some blank ovals to add images to.

He kete waiata was created to increase my use of te reo Māori (it has now been used to support 100’s of teachers and can be bought as a DIY resource with links to the waiata) and support my pronunciation.I find it is much better when I sing than speak it but overtime speaking it has improved with singing it. This resource can and has been used with all age groups

He kete waiata has 21 waiata and 11 are featured on my page This is why I page. In the same way as the choosing spoons the child get to select and image and then the waiata is sung. There is a pukapuka with the lyrics included for when you are starting out, I have also seen it used to support relievers and before kai time. One setting tweaked it to have the waiata on the back of the image and added new ones once they were familiar with the other 21.

What I love about all of these resources is that they can be taken anywhere and used at anytime. They support a teacher as the selected image means they do not need to think about what to do next and enjoy the moment. If you have been teaching for a while you will know that this is GOLD.

Rhymes also add instant literacy and language in any situation. As you become more experienced as a teacher you know when to share and when to listen and observe. I like to make up rhymes and songs to support what I or a child is doing. They are musical ‘self-talk’ or 'parallel talk’. The tune may be from a familiar rhyme or song.

A favourite song or rhyme I adapt all the time is:

My hands are clapping, clapping, clapping. My hands are clapping just like this.

I use this anywhere from playing with playdough and clay-

My hands are rolling- patting- squashing- to My fingers are poking- pinching- folding-

To pushing a child on the swing-

My hands are pushing, pushing, pushing. My hands are pushing (name) on the swing.

I also add verses like-

Watch her/him go higher, higher, higher. Watch (name) go higher on the swing.


Will (name) touch the sky/moon/stars/Mars etc. Will (name) touch the sky/moon/stars/Mars etc. in/on the swing.

Singing variations of classics is also an easy add, for example Old Mac Donald had a farm can become Old MacDonald had a zoo, a swamp or a haunted house. I also like to take rhymes and add local animals, birds or plants to them. A favourite is 5 little ducks and I have versions for 5 kiwi and pūkeko. You can also add finger puppets.

I hope my LOVE and enthusiasm for rhymes and songs has rubbed off and you have some new ones to try and resources to create for your early childhood setting.

Until next time


P.S. there are some affliate links & if you use them I may get some moolah without costing you anything


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I enjoy reading your blogs, and this one is so needed, amongst all the high tech and contemporary pedagogy, we can forget the value of a simple tune and the versatile rhymes that go with it. And music should be everywhere, including out on the swing or at the playdough table.🌺

Apr 29, 2023
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Thank you and so true :)


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