The Benefits of Nursery Rhymes

The Benefits of Nursery Rhymes

Written by 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

Teaching a GymbaROO-KindyROO class with a great grandmother attending, I watched her eyes light up when we sang a nursery rhyme she knew. It was ‘gold’ and reminded me of the importance of nursery rhymes. However they are enjoyed, they are a sensory experience with benefits, and yes, there are many used at GymbaROO-KindyROO, and here are the reasons why.

Once children understand what is being said they find they can relate emotionally to many nursery rhymes and find others hilarious! As adults, we may question the content, however, for very young children subjects such as; ‘falling down’, ‘getting lost’, ‘fear of spiders’, and ‘losing mittens’ (or other pieces of clothing) are all very relatable.  Nursery rhymes have possibly lasted as long as they have because they help children laugh about things that could otherwise be stressful.

However, nursery rhymes have a lot more to offer than relatable content and 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 generally have good language and speech skills. Commonly, children who will become good readers enjoy listening to speech and 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 them remember what they have 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 everyday 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 get 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 your 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 give 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, parents, grandparents and great grandparents!

Click here to access the Active Babies Smart Kid Series 

Click here to access Candylion music

Click here to access Tessarose music 

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

Reference: 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.