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BLOG: The importance of nursery rhymes in early childhood

In just a few weeks’ time, 1000’s of Early Years educators around the world will be taking part in World Nursery Rhyme Week – a global initiative launched in 2013 which promotes the importance of nursery rhymes in early childhood development.

But why are nursery rhymes so important in early childhood and what can Early Years educators do to ensure that traditional nursery rhymes are never forgotten?

Experts in literacy and child development have discovered that if children know eight nursery rhymes by heart by the time they're four years old, they're usually among the best readers by the time they're eight. -
Mem Fox, Reading Magic.

Nursery rhymes provide bite-sized learning opportunities for young children to develop key developmental skills and can often be the trigger for hours of creative and open-ended play. They are a powerful learning source in early literacy and enable children to become interested in the rhythm and patterns of language. Consider the alliteration in “A Sailor Went to Sea Sea Sea”, or the onomatopoeia in “Baa Baa Black Sheep” and rhyme in “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”. Many nursery rhymes are also repetitive which can support the development of memory and kickstart the practice of listening and speaking.

Nursery rhymes provide other key benefits such as:

Communication and Language Development

Rhymes are fantastic vocabulary boosters. They often feature a pleasing rhythmic pattern and simple repetitive phrases that babies and young children find easy to remember and repeat. In order to develop their phonological awareness, children need to be repeatedly exposed to spoken language and nursery rhymes provide the perfect way to do this.

Physical Development

The opportunity to ‘act out’ a favourite rhyme will be a welcome activity for active minds and fidgety bodies. Physical participation in action songs encourage children to develop their fine and gross motor control skills as well as balance, coordination and the skills needed to follow simple instructions.

Numeracy

Counting songs (e.g “Five Currant Buns”) help to develop a familiarity with number sounds and words in a way that is fun and interesting to a young child. Songs such as ‘When Goldilocks Went To The House Of The Bears’ also introduce the concept of scale, size and order. Familiarity with counting songs provides the foundation for crucial numeracy skills and awareness.

Understanding the World

Children find many nursery rhymes very relatable to their own everyday experiences and will enjoy sharing these moments with their caregiver or practitioner such as a trip to the park with Daddy to feed the ducks (Five Little Ducks), or sharing a picture book with a Grandparent about boats (Row Row Row Your Boat). Practitioners can encourage conversations with the children in their care, helping to strengthen the bond between the setting and home.

Creativity

The act of singing a rhyme or engaging with it physically, encourages children to express themselves in a creative way and to find their own personal ‘voice'. Role play opportunities present themselves with different characters and events within the rhyme that children can respond to either individually or as a group. Open-ended play opportunities are also possible with paints, clay, wet sand or loose parts.

Five easy ways to introduce rhymes into your setting:

Rhymes can be sung or chanted at any time throughout the day. They are short and quick making them easy to slot into the daily routine. Here are 5 easy ways to introduce nursery rhymes into your setting.

  1. Choose a simple rhyme and use it to accompany one of your daily routines such as a walk to the playpark or a craft activity.
  2. Introduce ‘Rhyme Of The Week’ and make a point of singing the rhyme 2 or 3 times each day. Most nursery rhymes take no more than 1 or 2 minutes to sing so this is any easy way to build up lots of repetition.
  3. Share picture books of rhymes with your children and encourage them to talk about the characters and the events that unfold within the rhyme.
  4. Put together a ‘Rhyme Bag’ for children to explore and fill it with rhyme related objects such as puppets, cookie cutters (Five Currant Buns), small world characters, a toy tea-pot and cup and saucer (Polly Put The Kettle On, I’m A Little Teapot) or rubber ducks (Five Little Ducks).

  5. Create a Flash Card of lyrics for lots of different nursery rhymes and encourage staff members within your setting to learn the rhymes and look for ways to introduce them at various times of the day.

Modern technology has meant that children are now exposed to more songs than ever before such as pop songs, theme tunes and advertising jingles. However, young children have the capacity to learn and retain an enormous repertoire of songs and tunes leaving plenty of room and opportunity for traditional nursery rhymes.

World Nursery Rhyme Week 2019 runs from the 18 to 22 November. Launched by Music Bugs in 2013, all downloadable resources for the initiative are free. Since it’s launch, over 3 million children have taken part. The five rhymes for 2019 are: “Baa Baa Black Sheep”, “Two Little Dicky Birds”, “Down in the Jungle”, “Row Row Row Your Boat” and “Incy Wincy Spider”.

To register and download the free resources visit: www.worldnurseryrhymeweek.com

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