“Down by the Bay!” Fun Rhyming Son & Activity for Preschoolers to Learn Phonemic Awareness

Phonemic awareness is used to describe the ability to “distinguish the sounds, or phonemes, in spoken language as they relate to the written language.”1 Most educators agree that phonemic awareness is the single most important predictor or reading acquisition. Rhyme and music is one of the best ways to begin teaching preschoolers this skill.

Rhyming and Alliteration

A good place to begin is with rhyming and alliteration pre k songs. Teaching phonemic awareness is enhanced by identifying when words rhyme and why. A traditional children’s rhyming song is “Down by the Bay.” The lyrics typically go something like this (with the words in parentheses sung as an echo between two people or just a repeated verse if a person is singing alone):

“Down by the bay, (down by the bay,)

Where the watermelons grow, (where the watermelons grow,)

Back to my home, (back to my home,)

I dare not go, (I dare not go,)

For if I do, (for if I do,)

My mother will say (my mother will say):”

The next line is where the rhyming occurs:

“Did you ever see a _____, _____a _____”, with rhyming words filling in the blanks. For example, one might way:

  • “Did you ever see a cat, wearing a hat?”
  • “Did you ever see a goat, eating a boat?”
  • “Did you ever see a dog, sit on a hog?”
  • “Did you ever see a goose, playing with a goose?”
  • “Did you ever see a bear, combing his hair?”
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Finally, the last line is a repeat of the first: “Down by the bay.”

For a recording to be used in the classroom you may wish to try the version sung by Raffi. His 1976 album Singable Songs for the Very Young is full of pre k songs. Phonemic awareness is actually promoted through several songs on that particular album, including Robin in the Rain, Five Little Frogs and Willoughby Wallaby Woo.

Here are some additional suggestions for rhyming music that you may wish to use to enhance your phonemic awareness lessons:

  • Baby Bumblebee

You can even change the lyrics. Here is a cute verse to add to the song (courtesy of DLTK-Teach.com)2:

I'm bringing home my baby dinosaur

Won't my mommy hide behind the door

I'm bringing home my baby dinosaur

Ooh eee it stepped on me!

  • Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star
  • Five Green and Speckled Frogs

Your class will have fun learning these rhyming pre k songs. Phonemic awareness activities such as these will quickly turn the little ones in your care into avid readers!


1. Beam, J. , What is Phonemic Awareness? WiseGeek.com (accessed November 23, 2009), https://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-phonemic-awareness.htm
2. DLTK-Teach.com (accessed November 28, 2009)