the wonders of nursery rhymes

Sing a happy song and clap a catchy beat.
Friends can join along and stamp their tiny feet.
Read a funny rhyme to brighten up your day.
Add a little mime and we’ll learn along the way.

That’s my (rather out of practice) way of introducing you to the wonders of nursery rhymes. I’m sure you’re already very familiar with them but we’re going to indulge a little. Anyone who knows me knows I love puns, and rhymes are just another way of playing with words. So it’s time to delve into the world of verses and sing-songs. Where do they come from, when should we use them and what can be gained from some wordy fun?

little boy reading a book

voices at the ready and let’s take it from the top

Re-watching old family videos when I visited home, there were many scenes of delighted dancing and gleeful game-playing. I can’t lie, there were also teatime tantrums and bedtime barnies too. But in between it all, there was also silly singing, a bit of bookworming and rather a lot of rhyming. It seems to make up a lot of being a growing tot.

So where do we get our nursery rhymes from? Well often they’re out of a book but they go back a ways further than that. Before we knew them by that term, they were just lullabies or folk songs shared by word of mouth, literally. Some were educational or historical, others just spread rumours or made scathing remarks. But eventually, around the 18th century, they began writing them down as a form of entertainment for our young.

from sheep to spiders and twinkling stars to teapots

If you try to think of a few nursery rhymes from your childhood, there’s probably plenty that come to mind. I’ve got tales of Mary and her little lambs swirling round my head now! Whether you’re singing about itsy bitsy spiders *shudder* or short little teapots, they all tell a story. Some a little more far-fetched than others but all fun to say.

Passed down through the generations, these stories create a bond that goes beyond the characters to those who share the rhymes. That’s family, friends, teachers and maybe even the dog if they bark along to the song! They become part of our culture too. The illustrations might be a bit more colourful these days but the heart of them remains. It’s a shared language used to tell tales, have a laugh or maybe (if you’re lucky) teach a lesson or a moral.

girls reading nursery rhymes

You’re probably wondering then, when is the right time to read to your baby bookworm? Really, it’s never too early to start. Tiny bubbas may not sit still for very long but having a little sing-song here and there will certainly get their attention. Just like baby signing and singing classes, it all adds to their experience of the new world around them.

humpty dumpty sat on a wall bed, humpty dumpty read rhymes instead

Obviously, I can’t recall being a young babe but primary school is a bit clearer. The kinds of songs I used to sing at that age were often for hopscotch or skipping rope games. While your new arrival is still crawling or toddling though, there are plenty of ways you can get them involved with a few lines of rhyme.

Often their first experience of literature, bedtime books will become a much-loved pastime. Try dimming the lights and reading to them in your softest voice. What tot doesn’t love curling up in mummy or daddy’s arms for their favourite rhymes! And be prepared to read them again…and again…and again. On the plus side, repetition helps to teach them how language works and builds their memory capabilities. Soon they’ll be reading and reciting with you.

get those hands clapping, toes tapping and mouths yapping

When it’s not time to sleep, more active rhymes will definitely be enjoyed. Books with pictures and accompanying music create a full visual and oral experience. Encourage them to clap their hands and stamp their feet in time with the beat to form a connection between movement, rhythm and words. Get their toys involved in the noisy fun too!

children having playtime with books

Nursery rhymes aren’t just for the home though; they can also be an opportunity for a bit of social time. Group activities such as baby talk or sign classes often use familiar verses with hand actions. Your little one will gain confidence in social situations and learn signs that you can use at home too. It’s a win-win situation all round!

count your piggy toes and away you go

Whether rhymes like ‘this little piggy’ are used to develop their language skills or sensory awareness, the important thing is that they’re fun! It’s a chance to tickle their toes and find out what makes them laugh. The life lessons and linguistic importance may be lost on little tots but the enjoyment of it won’t be. You’ll probably enjoy yourself too!

So really, the true wonder of a nursery rhyme is a smile. Go ahead and sing your songs of sixpence or learn about the animals on Old MacDonald’s farm; just make a game of it with hand actions, animal noises, and maybe a prop or two. I promise it’ll be worth your while…Did someone say it was time for cuddles and a rhyme?

As written by Rhi


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