I've always loved nursery rhymes, since I was a child myself. I have fond memories of singing nursery rhymes with my parents, and now enjoy doing the same with my own children. I love that it's something that generations have been doing before me, and whilst new rhymes seem to pop up every now and again, it's the old and trusted rhymes that stay strong. There's something beautiful about the fact that the nursery rhymes I sing with my little ones, are the same ones that my parents sang as kids, that my grand parents sang as children and no doubt their parents too.
There's lots of books if you want to have nursery rhyme fun at home
However, as much as I love singing these funny and whimsical songs, I'm also aware that they are so much more than just fun, they also play a significant role in a child's development.
I started attending a 'rhyme time' class about three years ago, and it was at this time that the class instructor discussed with us how nursery rhymes can really play a role in a child's development. The instructor broadly discussed how development can occur in 4 main areas:
1. Language Development - Due to its repetitive and catchy nature, a nursery rhyme is a perfect vehicle to show your child new words and sounds that they will in turn learn to say themselves. Nursery rhymes are short, they are often funny and they encourage kids to join in and sing along. They also use a wide variety of words that we don't typically use every day in addition to the nature of nursery rhymes showing children how words can sound with different pitch and rhythm.
2. Memory Skills - Typically nursery rhymes tell a story and paint a picture and are sung over and over again. This means that a child will quickly learn the nursery rhyme as their young mind learns to memorise what comes next in the nursery rhyme story. Some of the rhymes even add in memory sequences such as numbers that will assist your child in learning to memorise their 1,2,3's - e.g. 'Baa Baa Black Sheep' and '1,2,3,4,5, Once I Caught a Fish Alive.'
3. Movement/Co-ordination. Certainly at a class such as Rhyme Time, the nursery rhymes are sung with vigour and with hand movements. So for Twinkle Twinkle it's hands in the air for the sparkling stars, and then little hands make a diamond in the sky. These little movements teach a child how to co-ordinate their hands (and limbs for some songs) and how to time their movements to the music and the rhythm. Some rhymes and songs lend themselves really well to co-ordinating hand gestures such as 'Round and Round the Garden', Incy Wincy Spider, Head Shoulders Knees and Toes and Row Row Row the Boat.
4. Fun. For parents, grand parents and friends doing nursery rhymes with kids is a fun experience for all. It's one on one time so great for bonding people together in a fun environment. When sung with others at a rhyme time (or similar) session, nursery rhymes also help bring kids together with a common bond, and this will also help with their socialisation. I know my eldest used to love doing 'Ring O Roses' and holding hands with his playmates until they all descended to the floor in fits of giggles. These little games and rhymes certainly started the beginnings of learning about play and friendships.
Since these early lessons from my free community rhyme time sessions, I've also discovered that many believe that rhyme is the essential pre-learning for future reading ability. There is strong research to suggest a link between phonological awareness (the ability to understand the sounds that make up words) and reading and that one of the best ways for children to grasp this skill is through learning rhyming. One of the most referenced studies on this topic was conducted by Bryant, Bradley, Maclean and Crossland who confirmed that "there is a strong relation between early knowledge of nursery rhymes and success in reading and spelling".
So if ever a reason was needed to talk about Humpty Dumpty falling off the wall, about the 3 Blind Mice or about that naughty goose that gandered, you've now got a few compelling arguments as to why it's good to rhyme.