Nursery rhymes have been around for generations. They are passed down orally, from caregiver to child, and down further to the child’s children and grandchildren. They become a part of us from such a young age that they live within us our whole lives. Nursery rhymes naturally connect caregivers and children throughout generations, but there’s actually a whole lot more to them than oral tradition.

Nursery rhymes ignite the brain – and the imagination. When children hear a nursery rhyme they engage with the story held within it. Often we support children in acting out the nursery rhyme, making it a fully immersive experience. Most of the time we are doing this without the support of props, costumes or pictures, and using only our bodies and our voices. This provides a rich imaginative experience for the children.

One of the fantastic things about nursery rhymes is the way they naturally contain patterns, with lots of rhyme and repetition. These embedded patterns mean that children (and grown ups) can recall them more easily and memorise quickly. When we use nursery rhymes in our classes, we never say them just once – repetition is essential when developing recognition and memorisation in babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers.

children listening to a story being sung

Nursery rhymes are often structured so that they tell a story, with a clear beginning, middle and end. Because they are short and quite simple they allow the youngest of children to be engaged in the story, and to understand what is going on. This structure also helps children to understand the concept of events happening in sequence.

Of course when we talk about patterns and sequences, we are often talking about numeracy. There are significant links between the use of music, nursery rhymes and numeracy as well – but that is a conversation for another day!

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