Curious Parents

Mother Goose Was Onto Something: 4-Year-Olds Are Better At Rhymes Than Adults

Four-year-olds make the best rappers. Ok, just kidding—but a 2016 study did find that preschoolers are way better at remembering rhymes than their parents. In a study of of pre-literate 4 year olds, their parents, and college students, toddlers dominated at recalling rhymes. Ya heard?

The Radish-Nosed King

Hungarian researchers asked a group of 13 parents to read the short rhyme "The Radish-nosed King" to their toddlers every night for 10 days. Meanwhile, they asked 13 college students tot listen to the same rhyme on an audio recording every night for 10 days. The parents and college students were told they'd be tested on how much of the poem they could recall at the end of the sessions, but the 4-year-olds were not. All three groups were then instructed to recite as much of the short rhyme as they could. The children remembered nearly twice as many correct words as the adults.

And, no, it wasn't because the adults were paying less attention. The research purposefully added one sentence of nonsense, non-rhyming words to the poem to test for this, and the children and adults both recalled the same number of nonsense words. The toddlers' cognitive superiority seems to stop with rhymes, however. When asked about the events of the story, the researchers found no difference between the groups.

Related: Science Says Sesame Street Makes Kids Smarter, Even In High School

Rhyming Brings All The A's To The Report Card

But, why? The researchers don't think it's that young brains are innately attuned to rhymes—rather, rhymes make up a significant part of what you hear before you know how to read, since rhyming songs and stories are easier to share verbally. It might just be that toddlers have a lot more practice in remembering rhymes than their parents do. In the study. the researchers explain the significance of their findings for childhood education: "if to-be-learned material is coded verbatim in a verse, with the help of rhyme as a constraining literary device, as in the alphabet song or when, say, introducing new vocabulary for animal names, children should readily retain it, perhaps better than their teachers." Raise the roof, Mother Goose.

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Key Facts In This Video

  1. Before the age of 5, the brain forms as many as 700 neural connections per second. 01:02

  2. "The Sesame effect" refers to the fact that children who grew up watching Sesame Street tend to receive higher academic marks than those who didn't. 01:32

  3. Children in Bangladesh who watch Sesame Street perform 67% higher in literacy than those who don't watch it. 02:00

Written by Curiosity Staff May 11, 2017

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