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Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead book cover

By Chrysta Naron

Henry was a Go Fish shark. He was a legend among my Pre-K classes: The best Go Fish player you’d ever seen under the age of five. He played it every day in class. He played it to the point where none of the other kids wanted to play anymore. But Henry refused to play any other games. 

It happened to be April—aka National Poetry Month—and our class was focusing on rhyming. So I decided to freshen up Go Fish and make it all about rhymes. The result was this awesome free rhyming game for kids that you can easily make at home. The children loved getting to help create the game, and so they were all eager to play. And as for Henry, it was close enough to the regular card game that he was happy, too. Everybody won!

Rhyming is a very important literacy skill that prepares kids for reading. Children love to be active participants in their learning, and they love it even more when grownups play with them. What’s more, this rhyming game is free and only takes about 10 minutes to make! This game ticks all the boxes, in my book. 

Rhyming Go Fish materials

Materials:

  • Index cards (or sturdy paper/thin cardboard to cut up)
  • Pencil, crayons, etc.
  • Scissors, if using paper to cut up

Cost: It’s free! If you don’t have index cards on hand, just use cardstock or thick paper to cut into cards. You can even get creative and use thinner cardboard from boxes or containers that you would have recycled. 

However, it’s well worth getting index cards on hand (they’re one of our must-have tools for teaching kids to read), and you can usually pick some up for under $2!

blank index cards for Rhyming Go Fish

Step 1: Gather or cut out 40 index cards, and create 10 sets of 4 cards each.

words written on index cards for Rhyming Go Fish

Step 2: Each set of four cards will be its own rhyming family. With your child’s help, choose four rhyming words for each set, and write one on each card of the set. For example, one set might be “cat,” “sat,” “mat,” and “hat.” Another set might be “dog,” “log,” “frog,” and “bog.”  

Tip: Write the words in crayon or pencil if your cards are on the thinner side, because markers may show through on the other side!

decorated Rhyming Go Fish cards

Step 3: After all the sets are complete, decorate with simple drawings of each item! This allows kids who aren’t reading yet to play. Rhyming is an important skill for pre-readers, so this step is key! 

Tip: Make sure to only decorate the side with the word written on it. The backs should be blank, to avoid giving away matches during the game.

Step 4: Shuffle the cards and play Go Fish. The regular rules of seeking out matching pairs apply, but instead of asking for a number, ask for a rhyme. The person with the most sets of rhymes at the end wins!

As your child gains reading skills, you can modify the game. You can create sets that match in alliteration (i.e., their starting sounds match, like “cat” and “cup”) or make sets of two with homonyms (words that sound the same but have different meanings). 

I’d love to know: How does your family make time to rhyme? Share your ideas!

Chrysta Naron is an early childhood educator and curriculum specialist in Austin, Texas, who believes everything is better with glitter! Read more from her at playfulprek.com.

Family playing cards