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The Importance Of Nursery Rhymes To Child Development

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall

The itsy bitsy spider climbed up the water spout,
Down came the rain and washed the spider out
Old Macdonald had a farm,
Ee – i – ee -i - oh


We are all familiar with the popular children's songs known as 'nursery rhymes', having sung them when we were kids and now singing them to our little ones. But what makes these 400+ year old poems so important to your child's development, and just why are they such a tradition amongst British families.

Why nursery rhymes are so important

Nursery rhymes were originally known as lullabies which are short songs intended to help children fall asleep. They were not called 'nursery rhymes' until 1806 following the release of the book 'Rhymes for the Nursery' by Ann and Jane Taylor.

Since then, these traditional short songs/poems for children have become an important part of child development and are taught in nurseries and early learning schools around the UK.

However, as popular as they once were, some of the classic nursery rhymes seem to be dying out or, at the very least, losing their relevance in today's society, having been replaced by pop music and online phenomenon’s such as Baby Shark.
In fact, a recent survey by Booktrust found that 20% of young parents (those aged 24 and under) deemed nursery rhymes to not be that important or educational for their children, and 33% of young parents did not sing nursery rhymes to their kids because they deemed them too old-fashioned.

It's disheartening to hear that nursery rhymes are losing their place in family homes, and not just because they were a big part in many of our childhood's.
Nursery rhymes play an important role in childhood development, being taught/sung to babies from birth well into their pre-school years.

They have been found to:

  • Increase children's vocabulary

The 'nursery rhyme affect' refers to studies that have shown that children who are frequently read to and taught nursery rhymes before they reach school age, are more likely to become good readers and have a larger vocabulary than children who do not receive this stimulation.

  • Enhance their communication skills

The structure of nursery rhymes enables children to learn and remember them quickly. They often contain a lot of repetition and rhyme, and the way the words are broken down into a rhythm makes it easier for children to pronounce words that would otherwise be more difficult. This is great for speech development.

  • Help them learn about different beat and rhythms

Nursery rhymes all follow a simple beat that children can pick up quite quickly and that will stick in their head so it's easy to remember. It's a great way of introducing kids to music and beats and how to follow rhyming patterns.

  • Advance their listening skills

The ability to listen is fundamental for learning so it's important for children to develop this skill as early as possible. In order to learn a nursery rhyme, children need to listen carefully and really process what they are being taught. The eagerness to learn a new song will encourage them to listen closely and then mimic what they hear.

Furthermore, due to the actions that are usually taught alongside the nursery rhymes, they can also help to boost children's motor skills at a very young age.

Nursery rhymes can also just be a fun way of bonding with your child and keeping them active and occupied when at home.

What are some of the best nursery rhymes for children?

All nursery rhymes play a role in child development but there are some that have more of an educational purpose or that push a child's vocabulary or communication skills further than others.
A great example of this is, 'Old Macdonald had a farm' which involves naming various animals and then identifying the noise associated with each one.

Then there are several nursery rhymes which teach children about counting, such as '1,2,3,4,5, once I caught a fish alive' and 'Ten in a bed' which involves counting down from ten, and the nursery rhymes which involve a lot of close listening and following specific actions like 'If you’re happy and you know it' and 'Incy Wincy Spider' – both great for motor skills.

Another fun yet educational nursery rhyme is 'Head, shoulders, knees and toes' which teaches children where different parts of their body are by encouraging them to point them out as they are being named in the song.  

The list of nursery rhymes with some benefit to child development could go on and we encourage you to teach as many as you can to your child to stop this childhood tradition from dying out altogether.

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