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Nursery rhymes are amazing

There are lots of supportive child development practices that have been passed down from generation to generation. For example, we've been singing songs such as Round And Round The Garden with babies for years. I wonder, though, if everyone that has sung this song knew that the circle motions made on a baby’s hands helps them to map out their skin and therefore supports their brain development?

Nursery Rhymes offer lots of possible lines of development to support babies and young children’s development in all of the prime areas of development.

In addition to rhymes being a nice social time with a special person and supporting speech, language and communication, rhymes can also help with children’s physical development.

Making the connection

Connections need to be made in their brains to allow babies to know that their hands, arms and feet (etc) belong to them. Rhymes such as Round And Round The Garden help babies to feel touch on their hands which makes a connection in their brain. This is known as mapping out their bodies. Building these brain connections helps babies to understand and gain a sense and awareness of their own bodies. The neural pathways formed when their hands are stimulated in the Round And Round The Garden rhyme may then help them to grasp and grip and build more complex physical skills, as movements come from the same regions in their brain.

As well as building up the ability to connect and interact with others, special time spent with babies also helps them to understand that they look similar to others (e.g. they have two legs, arms, hands, feet etc). This will help them learn to start to copy others. They may join in with winding the bobbin up, or clap, clap, clapping in the appropriate place as they learn to copy the actions and behaviours of other people.

Developing senses

Developing an awareness of position and muscular movement is called "kinaesthetic sense". In turn having a strong kinaesthetic sense helps babies and young children to develop more yet control of their bodies and to coordinate other activities use as walking and talking.

Knowing about controlling their arms and legs helps babies and young children to build up a sense of where their bodies end and the outside world beings. This is called "proprioceptive sense". Our proprioceptive sense works all the time to help us to gauge if we can bend to get into a car and sit down etc. If we have a weak proprioceptive sense our bodies will need to move more to gain information about where we are. This may lead to difficulties sitting still.

Cross the midline

Singing rhymes that have actions such as Wind The Bobbin Up, and Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star give babies and young children the opportunities to cross their midline. If you imagine a line drawn down the centre of your body, crossing your midline is being able to have your legs or arms move on the opposite side of the body. For example putting on your socks and fastening your shoes. Making a large arch shape by having your right hand/arm start on the left hand side of your body and moving up and over your head to your right hand side shows that you can effectively cross your midline. Noticing if children have used their left hand to make the left hand side of the arch and then swap to their right hand to complete the movement indicates they have problems crossing their midline. Learning to cross their midline will help children to sit on the floor with their legs crossed for story or carpet time and with developing their reading and writing skills.

You can sing songs such as Head, Shoulders, Knees And Toes with young children to help with all the above points. Crossing your hands for your right hand to touch your left shoulder and left hand to touch your right shoulder (for example) will help build extra challenge and development

Here is a reflective task  

Can you spot the opportunities you use to support babies and young children’s physical development through songs and rhymes?

Can you share some of this information with the parents/carers of the children in your care?

Can you review your songs and rhyme times to see if you are using this time to its full potential?

About the author

Sue Asquith is a freelance Early Years Consultant and a PACEY Associate.  She was a registered childminder for 18 years. Sue delivers training and assesses various childcare qualifications. She has a BA hons in Early Years and a 7407 certificate in further education to support her work with adult learners.

Sue has worked with her Local Authority Children Centres on Development Movement with training from Christine McIntre. She has worked on various DfE funded projects. Examples of some of the projects are delivering and assessing speech and language courses for I CAN, the Communication Trust’s Level 3 Award in Supporting Children and Young People's Speech, Language and Communication and the PACEY/DfE Starting School Together project.

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