The Surprising Impact of Nursery Rhymes on Child Development

Food For Thought

Most of us grew up listening to nursery rhymes, and we probably all still know at least a handful by heart. When we were young they were hilarious stories that we sang and recited, but as we grew older they taught us lessons about different cultures and historical events. Some nursery rhymes are hundreds of years old and have been passed down from generation to generation up to thirty times. Why have nursery rhymes kept their enduring appeal and why are they such a powerful aid in child development? Children love nursery rhymes and when we sing them to our children it can bring back fond memories from our own childhoods, but what many of us probably don’t know is the important role they play in our child’s development.

Developing Speech and Language

Because nursery rhymes are often short and contain a lot of repetition, this allows our little ones to pick up the words a second and third time and helps them remember what they have heard. The repetition within a rhyme can also help our children become aware of the individual units of sound, known as phonemes, which make up words. Nursery rhymes can also help your child’s brain break down words into syllables. As your child learns the sounds and tries to repeat them they are developing their mouth and tongue muscles which speeds up the development of speech and language.

Developing Listening Skills

Listening is one of the most important foundational skills for learning but is often overlooked. Nursery rhymes support the development of auditory skills by helping children differentiate between singing and speaking. Nursery rhymes are organised so that similar sounds jump out, which doesn’t happen in everyday speech.

Reading and Spelling

Nursery rhymes like young children’s attention spans, are short, so children can easily listen to them from beginning to end. As they get older, you can introduce longer stories and those with a real plot and by this time they will be used to sitting with you and reading a book. This is a great habit to get into as it lays the building blocks for learning to read and spell. Nursery rhymes form the first steps towards early reading and begins long before a child enters school. Generally, children who will become good readers enjoy listening to speech, love hearing storybooks and nursery rhymes. Often referred to as the ‘nursery rhyme affect’, children who are frequently read to before they reach school age are much more likely to become good readers and have larger vocabularies than children who do not receive this kind of stimulation

Motor Skills and Coordination

Many rhymes, like “Round & Round The Garden” and “Incy Wincy Spider”, encourage your child’s participation and provide learning opportunities through movement. When rhythm and movement are combined, the brain is very stimulated and your child is likely to remember both the movement and the rhyme more easily. Having the opportunity to learn basic movements also contributes to the development of motor functions and coordination.

Developing Social Skills

There are social benefits to nursery rhymes as well. When nursery rhymes are sung as a group activity, your child gets used to being part of a group, this will help your child connect to other children.

You may now be thinking twice about whether to listen to that Nursery Rhyme CD in the car that you have artfully hidden. The next time your child wants you to sing Baa Baa Black Sheep for what feels like two solid hours think of all the physical and psychological benefits they are getting.

If you would like to come to a music class for children under 5, to sing and read together, find out where the nearest Popcat's class is and join the fun.