Are nursery rhymes really that important?
YES! Nursery rhymes really are that important! These silly poems and songs never go out of style. The natural rhythm and pattern of nursery rhymes are appealing to kids and naturally teach the concept of rhyming as well as build the vocabulary of children from infancy on up. Both are essential skills for learning to read! Vivid images of Peter’s wife in a pumpkin shell or a lamb at school provide humor and encourage a young child’s imagination. As an added bonus, a great number of nursery rhymes include counting or other basic math skills!
Now that I know, what can I do?
Finger plays. Many nursery rhymes lend themselves to finger plays, which help a child improve their hand-eye coordination and memory skills. The “Itsy Bitsy Spider,” “Where is Thumbkin?,” and “This Little Piggy” are just a few examples of well-known nursery rhyme finger plays, but you can also make up your own for some of your child’s favorite nursery rhymes.
Reinforce counting and other math skills. Use nursery rhymes like “Hickory Dickory Dock,” “One, Two Tie My Shoe,” and “This Old Man” to reinforce counting to 10. Many nursery rhymes also teach position words (over, under, behind, etc.), a very important but highly overlooked and often difficult math skill for young children. A great book to check out is Mother Goose Numbers on the Loose by Leo & Diane Dillon. This book uses well known and lesser known nursery rhymes to explore the world of Mother Goose through numbers.
Use them to teach the alphabet. Many nursery rhymes have alliteration in them. “Peter, Peter Pumpkin Eater” is a great example to use to teach the letter and sound of “P.” Other nursery rhymes with alliteration include “Wee Willie Winkie,” “Baa Baa Black Sheep,” and “Sing a Song of Sixpence.”
Rhyming. Sing or recite nursery rhymes and discuss the rhyming words. Once your child is familar with a nursery rhyme, try reciting it by leaving out a few of the rhyming words. See if you child can fill in the missing words. For example:
Hey diddle diddle
The cat and the _______ .
The cow jumped over the moon.
The little dog laughed to see such sport.
And the dish ran away with the _______.
Draw and write about nursery rhymes. To activate your child’s imagination have them draw a picture of a favorite nursery rhyme. Then have them point out special details that they drew that may or may not be in the rhyme. Use this illustration to write a story about the characters in the nursery rhyme. Have your child dictate to you or write a story about what Little Miss Muffett did after that spider or what it would be like to be in a tub with a butcher, baker and candlestick maker.
Act out the nursery rhymes. Use your child’s dress up box or everyday household items to act out the nursery rhymes. Not only does this improve your child’s memorization skills but it also allows your child to learn through play. Puppets, homemade or store bought, would also be a fun way to act out nursery rhymes.