The Nursery Rhyme Challenge

I gave myself a little challenge today - how many nursery rhymes could I think of in one minute? Here are the results of this very unscientific experiment:

  • Jack and Jill

  • Humpty Dumpty

  • Little Bo Peep

  • Baa Baa Black Sheep

  • Little Jack Horner

  • Simple Simon

  • Three Blind Mice

  • Hickory Dickory Dock

  • Mary, Mary quite contrary

  • Twinkle, twinkle little star

  • Goosey, goosey gander

I was quite pleased actually given that my ability to recall details and information from the past is definitely not what it used to be! Yet those little ditties and poems are embedded in my memory. I can recall the words, the tune, the rhythm and each one even has an accompanying image which must have been generated in my mind a very long time ago. I have no recollection of actually learning nursery rhymes. I just seem to have absorbed them, I’m guessing through constant repetition by parents, grandparents and possibly teachers. With my own children I can remember singing and reciting them over and over, adding actions that made them laugh, leaving out words for them to fill in when they were just learning to talk, rocking them to sleep to old favourites. To be honest I didn’t think about their educational value, I was just passing on something which had been given to me. It seemed natural to share the “dum-te-dum” rhythms which appeal to very young children, it was fun to help them remember the words by themselves and saying or singing the rhymes together could often distract or settle them if they were upset.

Since then I’ve discovered that there are very good reasons why learning and reciting nursery rhymes is so important for young children.

  • The rhythms, rhymes and repetitions help develop a child’s “ear” for language and they begin to recognise the sounds and syllables which make up words, a crucial building block for learning to read.

  • We often speak more slowly and clearly when saying nursery rhymes, especially to babies and very young children, which gives them a better chance of hearing the individual words and sounds.

  • Most traditional rhymes have a strong and regular beat which lend themselves well to clapping, tapping, beating or actions - anyone else remember bouncing a child on their knee and “dropping” them when Humpty fell off his wall? This “whole body” or kinaesthetic learning helps embed the ability to keep a steady beat, another skill which is intrinsically linked to reading ability.

  • Perhaps most importantly, singing, playing and reciting rhymes encourages the “back and forth” type of interaction between adult and child which has been proven to aid the acquisition of vocabulary and enhance brain development.

In this digital age it’s important that nursery rhymes aren’t dismissed as “old fashioned” which is why it’s so encouraging to see wonderful apps like this Bookbug one from the Scottish Book Trust, full of lovely rhymes and songs for parents and children to learn and share together. Nothing can replace human interaction but it’s good to know there’s help out there!

In the meantime, why not take the Nursery Rhyme Challenge - how many can YOU remember in one minute?

Elaine KentComment