One of the first types, or genres, of music that a baby will hear is a nursery rhyme. As soon as my children were born I started singing nursery rhymes to them. I sang them for a couple of reasons:
- They would look up at me, smile and coo when I sang to them (babies absolutely love the sound of their parents’ voices, over and above anyone else’s voice or any other music)
- It will be no surprise, given the subject matter of this blog, that I felt it was important to get the children listening to music from an early age
- I remembered singing nursery rhymes with my parents
- Whenever I couldn’t think of anything else to do to entertain my babies, a nursery rhyme would pop into my head
- It would make doing things like changing nappies easier as the baby was listening and reacting to the song, so was not squiggling about as much when I was trying to get their nappy changed, or get clothes onto them.
Right after my eldest being born, and despite being a musician myself, I could not for the life of me remember any nursery rhymes at all. They all soon came flooding back once I started singing one of them.
If you have Spotify, you can listen to the nursery rhymes I suggest below by following this link. Alternatively, click on the Youtube link for each song.
What is a nursery rhyme?
A nursery rhyme is defined as
A simple traditional song or poem for children.
There are a lot of nursery rhymes you can choose from, from favourites like Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star and Baa Baa Black Sheep to one that I liked to sing to my children Michael Finnegan.
Why listen to and sing nursery rhymes?
Nursery rhymes help with bonding
Nursery rhymes are absolutely fantastic to listen to and sing with your children. We use music as one of the first ways of communicating with our babies before they are able to speak and understand language, either through songs or by using a sing-song style of speaking. As I mentioned above, babies absolutely love listening to the sound of their parents’ voices. These are the first voices they hear, they feel safe and comforted hearing your voice, and as far as they are concerned your voice is the most beautiful sound they have heard. Singing to and with your baby is a fantastic way of bonding with your baby.
Nursery rhymes are repetitive.
They use simple, short melodies and phrases, and simple rhythmic, rhyming language. Babies and small children learn through repetition, in fact we all do and nursery rhymes are perfect for helping them do this. As they use short, simple melodies and phrases, your little one becomes familiar with the tune quite quickly, they learn what to expect from the music. It is in becoming very familiar with a piece of music, and being able to predict what will come next that children start to really enjoy the songs. Their simplicity also helps you to remember the song and sing it, especially when you are very sleep deprived!
Nursery rhymes help with language learning and reading skills
As the songs use simple, rhyming words written using what is often a lilting, soothing rhythm, they can help children to learn language. Rhyming words are fun to listen to. Reading and singing a poem or song you will inevitably use a lilting rhythm, and this rhythm will help your children to learn the language and understand them. I will write another day about all of the benefits that developing a sense of the beat, or pulse, can give to your children, but nursery rhymes are a great introduction to feeling the pulse of the song and language involved, helping your child recognise the sounds involved in the language used in the song/poem.
Singing nursery rhymes, and even the experience of singing and hearing nursery rhymes from a young age, can actually help children when they start to learn to read later on. The combination of the simple language used, and the pulse or beat that the song is set to, has a great effect on learning and recognising the sounds involved. Anyone who has experience with their children learning phonics (my youngest is at this stage at school now), will know that they start by learning the sounds that the letters represent, then how to put sounds together, so their early experience with recognising the sounds in these songs is very helpful. Songs often place every syllable on a different note or sound, helping children to recognise the syllables in the words, also helping them with later reading skills.
Nursery rhymes help learn specific things, like counting skills or the alphabet
For many years as a child, I can remember singing the alphabet song in my head if I was asked a question about letters of the alphabet. That song was how I learned the alphabet and the order the letters appear in it. My son, as a very young boy, used to love walking up from his classroom balancing on a curb and singing this song when I was collecting him from school.
The ABC Song
There are loads of counting songs available to help children learn to count, especially for lower numbers. I have put together a playlist of counting songs, which you can read here; the ones that come immediately to mind when I think of counting songs are 1,2,3,4,5 Once I Caught a Fish Alive, This Old Man He Played 1, 10 Green Bottles.
1, 2, 3, 4, 5 Once I Caught a Fish Alive
This Old Man, He Played One
10 Green Bottles
Nursery rhymes are great for helping children develop motor skills and burn off energy.
There are a lot of nursery rhymes that have actions with them to illustrate the words used, Incy Wincy Spider and Hickory Dickory Dock for example. This is both another aid to understand the words used, but also as children start to join in with the actions for the song, it can help them with the development of both gross motor skills (marching around a room along to The Grand Old Duke of York) and fine motor skills (using their hands to show Incy Wincy Spider going up the water spout, or showing the rain coming down).
Incy Wincy Spider
Hickory Dickory Dock
Children dancing around to the songs can help them to burn off energy as well – ahhhh the goal of tiring out your little one so they might possibly sleep at night! – songs like The Grand Old Duke of York and The Hokey Cokey immediately come to mind.
The Grand Old Duke of York
The Hokey Cokey
Nursery rhymes help children start to learn to express themselves.
Music is, essentially, a creative endeavour. Playing and singing music is a great way for children to engage in a creative activity. They are making something with their own voice, with their body. Music is a fantastic activity for children to express themselves, to find and use their own voice both literally and figuratively. And as nursery rhymes are the first songs, and lovely simple songs that even very young children can learn to sing for themselves, they are a wonderful tool to help children with their self-expression.
Here are a few more nursery rhymes that you might want to sing or listen to with your little ones:
Baa Baa Black Sheep
Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star
Mary Mary Quite Contrary
If you’re Happy and You Know It, Clap Your Hands
You can listen to all of these songs on my Spotify here, by following the link above or by exploring my spotify account, GetKidsIntoMusic