Why are nursery rhymes important?
1. Nursery rhymes are a great way into learning early phonic skills (the ability to hear, identify and manipulate letter sounds).
2. Nursery rhymes give children practice in pitch, volume as well as in language rhythm.
Think about how your voice sounds when you ask a question or when you retell an event to friends – children need to learn these language variations.
3. Nursery rhymes expand your child’s imagination.
Nursery rhymes allow you to take your child to an imaginary world where blackbirds are baked in pies and vinegar and brown paper are a remedy for a cracked head! They transport children to a world of fantasy and play and can really develop your child’s visualisation skills through the use of actions.
4. Nursery rhymes follow a clear sequence of events.
Although short, nursery rhymes often tell a story and contain a beginning, middle and end. Whilst this may be a compact way of storytelling, these will be some of the first stories your child will be able to follow and understand. An engagement with a sequence of events will be a skill they need when reading.
5. Nursery rhymes are easy to repeat, so they become some of a child’s first sentences.
Children start to speak by using single words, ‘car’ and eventually put these together to express meaning, ‘Me go.’. Nursery rhymes allow even very young children to speak and understand in full sentences; this is a skill they will need before they are able to read.
6. Nursery rhymes improve a child’s vocabulary.
Children hear and use new words that they wouldn’t come across in everyday language, for example, ‘Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water,’ or ‘when the bough breaks’ from Rock a bye Baby.
7. Nursery rhymes are an early form of poetry.
Your child will have to read, analyse and write about poetry throughout their school career and will be examined on their understanding of poetry in both GCSE English Language and English Literature. Why not give them a head start?
8. Nursery rhymes contain sophisticated literary devices!
Think of the alliteration in ‘Goosey, Goosey Gander’ or the onomatopoeia in ‘Baa Baa Black Sheep’ and rhyme in: ‘Twinkle, twinkle little star, How I wonder what you are.’
Nursery rhymes are a powerful learning source in early literacy. They enable children to become interested in the rhythm and patterns of language in a way that listening to stories does not provide.
9. Nursery rhymes are fun!
Quite often nursery rhymes make no sense or have unexpected endings – this is something your child will enjoy. Have a look at one of the lesser known verses of ‘Pop Goes the Weasel’:
Round and round the mulberry bushThe monkey chased the monkey stopped to pull up his socks And Pop goes the weasel.
Unusual? Yes. Funny though!
HOW CAN I INTRODUCE NURSERY RHYMES?
Start with simple rhymes that are not very lengthy. Try ‘Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star’, ‘Baa Baa Black Sheep’ and ‘1, 2, 3, 4, 5, Once I Caught a Fish Alive’.
Use actions, facial expression and vary your voice to capture their interest.
As your child becomes more familiar with the rhymes, encourage them to join in and say parts of the rhyme themselves (it will take a while before they can recite whole rhymes independently).
Remember that nursery rhymes are portable, they can be enjoyed anytime, any place, anywhere! Share them at bath time, when getting ready for bed, whilst cooking tea or in the car (and remember they can be fantastic tantrum diffusers as often children cannot resist joining in!).
THINGS TO DO WITH NURSERY RHYMES
1. Miss out rhyming words: encourage your child to finish the line.
2. Change words to make your own personalised rhymes, for example, ‘Nye and Jill went up the hill’ or, ‘One for the master, one for the dame and one for Nia Hopkins, who lives down the lane.’
3. Devise your own actions for nursery rhymes. Let your child suggest suitable ones which they’ll be more likely to remember.
4. Clap along and establish a steady beat.
5. Say the wrong words and let your children correct you!
6. Make a nursery rhyme ‘prop’ box by collecting items that feature in your favourites.
7. Paint/draw pictures of your favourite scenes or characters in the rhyme.
8. Visit the library to loan nursery rhyme books to extend your repertoire.
9. Buy a CD or download a selection to play and sing along with in the house or in the car.