I’ve always enjoyed nursery rhymes. I’m not sure if it was their tuneful repetition, catchy rhythm or simply funny new words but I remember sitting and singing them, as a child, at home, nursery and school.
My own mother’s only memory of one of her grandfathers, who sadly died when she was very little, was sitting on his knee and him fondly singing nursery rhymes to her.
In turn, I sang the same songs and rhymes to, and with, my children. We made up our own versions, changing words and inventing new ones – the sillier, the better!
Nursery rhymes are wonderful and surprising little dramas, full of mysteries and unanswered questions. They help us engage with the world around us in all its strangeness and richness, from a very young age.
And that’s what’s fantastic about nursery rhymes.
Yes, on the surface, they are funny and engaging bite-sized stories but delve further and they also provide a wealth of learning opportunities.
They support early speech and language and provide the foundations for our reading and writing skills. And here’s how!
When we are very little, our earliest literacy skills are listening and speaking. These precede reading and writing.
By exposing children to spoken language, they develop an ear for the music of words. When we speak, we join different speech sounds together in different patterns to create words.
In order to learn spoken language, we first need to be able to hear and decipher these sounds. Nursery rhymes are perfect for this.
Songs and rhymes have special rhythmic speech patterns and repetitive phrases which develops our ear for language.
The regular beats, rhythms and simple repetition makes it easier to remember and repeat these words.
When hearing and singing nursery rhymes, we experience a different range of sounds from everyday speech.
Nursery rhymes are a wonderful way of introducing us to new and different ways of using our voices and expressing ourselves.
Sometimes, depending on what is happening, we may say parts of the nursery rhyme louder or quieter, faster or slower, happier or in a sad manner and these, in turn, are perfect for developing storytelling skills and expression.
Nursery rhymes are a wonderful way of boosting vocabulary.
They often contain words not used often in everyday language, including old-fashioned words. Just think of the rhymes, Wind the Bobbin up or Little Miss Muffet eating curds and whey.
They teach us there can be more than one word to describe something, such as fiddle and violin in Hey Diddle Diddle or pail and bucket in Jack and Jill.
Nursery rhymes are great fun to say and sing out aloud.
They are perfect for humour as they often have funny, silly and nonsensical words, such as Humpty Dumpty and Hickory Dickory Dock!
It’s for exactly this reason that they are great for building confidence and creativity, as there’s no right or wrong when creating our own nonsensical words!
Poetry & rhyme
Nursery rhymes are a lovely introduction to poetry and rhyme, as well as alliteration and onomatopoeia.
Alliteration is when words next to or close to each other start with the same sound, such as baa baa black sheep or Jack and Jill.
Onomatopoeia is a word that sounds like its meaning.
They help you hear what is going on. Animal sounds are often onomatopoeic, baa, meow, cluck, moo, woof. Old MacDonald had a Farm is great for this!
When we say, sing or read nursery rhymes, we are essentially storytelling. They are a wonderful introduction to short and simple stories.
Their concise storyline, tone, beat and rhythm of the words keep us and helps make sense of the story. This, in turn, makes us good listeners.
Nursery rhymes usually have a beginning, middle and end which helps us understand story structure and sequencing.
Many nursery rhymes and songs have actions to accompany the words. Acting out nursery rhymes is a perfect way of engaging children.
It encourages them to take part and stay focussed even for a short while. These actions also help develop motor skills as well as balance, co-ordination, rhythm and timing.
Rhymes and songs are wonderful building blocks for dramatic play as well as being a lovely group activity, combining words, music and actions.
The wonderful thing about nursery rhymes
The wonderful thing about nursery rhymes is you can take them anywhere!
On your way to school or nursery in the morning, walking through the park, in the playground, on a car journey, at mealtimes, in the bath or at bedtime.
Nursery rhymes have it all. Enjoy spending time, singing these rhymes with your little ones.
You’ll have great fun!