Nursery rhymes provide bite-sized learning opportunities for young children to develop key developmental skills and can often be the trigger for hours of creative and open-ended play. They are a powerful learning source in early literacy and enable children to become interested in the rhythm and patterns of language. Consider the alliteration in “A Sailor Went to Sea Sea Sea”, or the onomatopoeia in “Baa Baa Black Sheep” and rhyme in “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”. Many nursery rhymes are also repetitive which can support the development of memory and kickstart the practice of listening and speaking.
Nursery rhymes provide other key benefits such as…
Communication and Language Development
Rhymes are fantastic vocabulary boosters. They often feature a pleasing rhythmic pattern and simple repetitive phrases that babies and young children find easy to remember and repeat. In order to develop their phonological awareness, children need to be repeatedly exposed to spoken language and nursery rhymes provide the perfect way to do this.
The opportunity to ‘act out’ a favourite rhyme will be a welcome activity for active minds and fidgety bodies. Physical participation in action songs encourage children to develop their fine and gross motor control skills as well as balance, coordination and the skills needed to follow simple instructions.
Counting songs (e.g “Five Currant Buns”) help to develop a familiarity with number sounds and words in a way that is fun and interesting to a young child. Songs such as ‘When Goldilocks Went To The House Of The Bears’ also introduce the concept of scale, size and order. Familiarity with counting songs provides the foundation for crucial numeracy skills and awareness.
Understanding the World
Children find many nursery rhymes very relatable to their own everyday experiences and will enjoy sharing these moments with their caregiver or practitioner such as a trip to the park with Daddy to feed the ducks (Five Little Ducks), or sharing a picture book with a Grandparent about boats (Row Row Row Your Boat). Practitioners can encourage conversations with the children in their care, helping to strengthen the bond between the setting and home.
The act of singing a rhyme or engaging with it physically, encourages children to express themselves in a creative way and to find their own personal ‘voice'. Role play opportunities present themselves with different characters and events within the rhyme that children can respond to either individually or as a group. Open-ended play opportunities are also possible with paints, clay, wet sand or loose parts.