Why ‘old-fashioned’ nursery rhymes are still important

by | Aug 15, 2015 | Baby Music, Nursery Rhymes, Parenting | 0 comments

Are nursery rhymes a thing of the past?

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. All the King’s horses and all the King’s men, Couldn’t put Humpty together again.

It seems that Humpty and all of his Mother Goose friends are falling out of favour with today’s parents and are in danger of not being put back together again. In 2011 a UK charity Booktrust conducted a survey of parents and these were some of the alarming results:

  • Only 36% of people surveyed regularly used nursery rhymes with their children
  • 25% of people surveyed had never sung a nursery rhyme to their child
  • 20% of young parents (under 24) believed that nursery rhymes were not educational
  • 33% of young parents said they did not sing nursery rhymes because they were too old-fashioned

Another survey conducted for the pre-school channel Cartoonito, found that only 12 per cent of parents could recall three or more nursery rhymes in full. What’s more, it revealed that parents prefer to play or sing pop songs to their children at bed-time rather than traditional rhymes and lullabies.

Those statistics are cause for concern and here’s why – nursery rhymes are in fact educational and play an extremely important role in our children’s development.

8 reasons why nursery rhymes are still important

  1. Nursery rhymes build a foundation for language development. They offer young children an entry into the world of language fostering a delight in words and sound and encouraging the ability to listen and discover how structured language differs from everyday talk – how the melody, rhythm, repetitions, and cadences make meaning.
  2. Nursery rhymes help with social/emotional development.  Time spent sharing nursery rhymes with your child (I like to recite rhymes with my 3-year-old before bed each night) creates a safe and secure bond.  Nursery rhymes are filled with slapstick comedy (think of poor old Humpty falling off the wall), which encourage your child to develop a sense of humour. The different emotions the characters experience (ie. Georgie Porgie’s embarrassment at being caught kissing the girls) helps children identify their own emotions and understand the real emotions of others.
  3. Nursery rhymes open the door to creativity. Yes nursery rhymes might be ‘silly’ but this is what’s so wonderful about them. They are filled with adventure and fun; A cow jumps over the moon, a spider climbs up a water spout, a blackbird pecks off your nose…this make-believe world awakens and expands children’s imaginations.
  4. Nursery rhymes support reading skills.  They assist a child in learning the sounds and sound patterns of the English language (using features such as rhyme and alliteration) and increase a child’s vocabulary. In almost all fingerplays (Where is Thumbkin, I’m A Little Teapot),  the hands move from left to right. This motion is important for children as it prepares them for the order of the written word in English.
  5. Nursery rhymes support comprehension and writing skills. Although short, most nursery rhymes tell a story containing a beginning, middle and end. They follow a clear sequence of events, which is important for later comprehension skills and future writing.
  6. Nursery rhymes connect us with the past. Yes nursery rhymes are old – they’ve been around for centuries. But they are hardly ‘old-fashioned’. The tradition of passing on  nursery rhymes allows us to remember and connect with our childhoods. What’s more the short, sharp stories help children learn and understand history – ‘Jack and Jill’ had to go up that hill to fetch a pail of water because they couldn’t get water from a tap in their house. ‘Pussycat Pussycat’ makes us wonder if every child’s dream must once have been ‘to go up to London to visit the Queen’,  ‘Jack Jumped over a Candlestick’ because he lived in a world without electricity.
  7. Nursery rhymes introduce mathematical concepts. Think of all of the rhymes that use counting – ‘5 Little Ducks’, ‘5 Little Monkeys’, ‘Here Is A Beehive’, ‘Zoom, Zoom We’re Going to the Moon’ and many more. Children learn to add as they count forward and subtract as they count backward. The rhymes also use patterns and sequence, so children begin to learn simple math skills as they recite them. Many rhymes use other math words that children need to learn, such as size and weight.
  8. Nursery rhymes can also help with physical development. Children strengthen tongue and mouth muscles by repeating the sounds in various rhymes. Some rhymes also include actions (Incy, Wincy Spider) which can help young children develop motor skills and control their bodies.

So there you go! 8 reasons why we should keep the tradition of nursery rhymes alive and kicking. If you don’t know the words to many nursery rhymes and would like to learn some you can check out my online program. It features plenty of rhymes including words and actions!

Do you already read, recite and sing nursery rhymes to your child? I’d love to hear your opinion and experiences so please leave a comment below.

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Sarah Richard-Preston

I'm Sarah Richard-Preston, creator and presenter of The Bubble Box - a program of music activities for you to share with your baby. I demonstrate the activities through streaming videos, right here on The Bubble Box website. I'm a qualified teacher with 13 years experience in early childhood education and I am passionate about music and the developmental benefits music promotes. Join me online in my 8 session music program today to give your baby's development a boost and make the most of precious baby time.


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