Six Benefits Nursery Rhymes

Six Benefits Nursery Rhymes

Dr Tessa Grigg and Bindy Cummings

“Little Miss Muffet
Sat on her tuffet,
Eating her curds and whey;
Along came a spider,
Who sat down beside her
And frightened Miss Muffet away”

I watched a great grandmother’s eyes light up when we sang a nursery rhyme she knew at GymbaROO-KindyROO. It was ‘gold’ and reminded me of the importance of nursery rhymes. However they are enjoyed, they are a sensory experience with benefits.

Once children understand what is being said they find this nursery rhyme hilarious! As adults we may consider the content as ‘improper’, however emotionally, very young children find that they can relate to lots of the content! Subjects such as falling down, being naughty, getting lost, fear of spiders, and losing mittens (or other pieces of clothing) are all close to children’s hearts.  Nursery rhymes have probably lasted as long as they have because they help children laugh about things that are usually stressful.

Nursery rhymes have a lot more to offer than just entertainment value. They introduce babies and children to the idea of story telling, promote social skills and boost language development. They also lay the foundation for learning to read and spell.  This is important, as the first steps towards early reading begin long before a child enters school.

Good readers have good language and speech skills. Generally, children who will become good readers enjoy listening to speech, love hearing storybooks and nursery rhymes. Called the “nursery rhyme affect” by some, children who are frequently read to long before they enter school are much more likely to become good readers than children who do not receive this kind of stimulation (Mullen, 2017).

What is it about nursery rhymes and children’s stories that are so helpful in developing skills needed for later learning to read?

  • Nursery rhymes are often short and have a great deal of repetition. Repetition offers your growing child the opportunity to tune into words a second and third time and helps him remember what he has just heard. A rhyme’s repetition can also help your child become aware of the individual units of sound, known as phonemes, which make up words.
  • Nursery rhymes are organised so that similar sounds jump out at you, which doesn’t happen in every day speech. By introducing your child to patterns of sounds, your little one’s brain receives the input it will need to categorise words by their internal structure. This is the precursor to the awareness that letters can represent the sounds of words. So, nursery rhymes help your child’s brain segment words into syllables, hear similarities between words that rhyme or start with the same sounds, and enjoy sound play. Having developed sensitivity to language, children are ready, at age 5 or 6, to think about the sequence of sounds in a whole word, a skill that is crucial for learning to read and spell.
  • Nursery rhymes can also pave the way for a love of books. They introduce the idea of listening from beginning to end as the narrative develops, however they are short, so your youngster doesn’t have to sit still very long. As they gets older, you can introduce longer stories and those with a real plot.
  • Many rhymes, like those used at GymbaROO-KindyROO, invite your child’s participation and provide learning opportunities through movement. When rhythm and movement are combined, the brain is stimulated and your child is likely to remember both the movement and the rhyme more efficiently and effectively. Think about how popular the nursery rhyme ‘Jack in the box’ is at GymbaROO-KindyROO. Even one year olds will squat down quietly and wait for the verbal cue to be given before they jump up! “Jack is quiet down in his box, until someone opens the lid….BOO!”
  • There are social benefits to nursery rhymes as well. Nursery rhymes are often sung as a group activity, so your baby or child begins to feel part of a social circle that enjoys singing or reciting together. This will help you child connect to other children.
  • Nursery rhymes link us to the past. Many adults, once they have children, will often be surprised at how many nursery rhymes they remember from their own childhood. There may even be some strong emotional feelings attached to these memories.  As parents, we often enjoy retelling them to our own children and so the nursery rhyme becomes an important link between past and present as it is passed down from generation to generation. They also gives grandparents a way to connect with their grandchildren.

If you cannot remember any nursery rhymes, don’t worry. There are loads of websites with hundreds of songs to choose from! At GymbaROO-KindyROO and on our Active Babies Smart Kids free online series you will hear both Candylion  and Tessarose Productions sing beautiful songs and traditional nursery rhymes that are enjoyed by babies, children and parents.

Dr Tessa Grigg (PhD, Dip Tch Primary and ECE) is an experienced teacher and the Research and Education Manager at GymbaROO-KindyROO.

Bindy Cummings  (B.Ed hons) is a teacher, a GymbaROO early childhood neuro-developmental consultant and the co-creator of GymbaROO’s Active Babies Smart Kids series. She has been writing articles for GymbaROO’s First Steps magazine, digital platforms and media for over ten years

Mullen, G. (2017). More than words: Using nursery rhymes and songs to support domains of child development [Article]. Journal of Childhood Studies, 42(2), 42-53.