Nursery Rhymes are a fantastic tool in the early years classroom. They give children exposure to rhyme and rhythm, and teach phonemic awareness in a fun and repetitive way. The Guardian paper in the UK polled 2,500 people and asked them what their all time favorite nursery rhymes were. The top ten nursery rhymes included: Hickory Dickory Dock, Little Miss Muffet, Incey Wincey Spider (Itsy Bitsy Spider), Baa Baa Black Sheep, Jack and Jill, Twinkle Twinkle and Humpty Dumpty. These nursery rhymes have been shared with young children by their parents for hundreds of years. What makes nursery rhymes such appealing rhymes for young children and why are they such a good learning tool in the early years?
As young children grow as language learners they become aware that some words sound the same even if they are spelt differently. Through nursery rhymes children are exposed to fun and memorable rhymes and word families like diddle/fiddle, stream/dream and dock/clock. Not all of the rhymes in the nursery rhymes make sense like ‘hickory dickory dock’ or ‘hey diddle diddle’, but I think this adds to the fun of nursery rhymes, and inspires the young creative mind to think of limitless rhyming words. From a very young age children can begin joining in with nursery rhymes. Even very young children can begin joining in the rhyming fun by finishing sentences ‘Twinkle twinkle little star, how I wonder what you ______?’
Rhythm and Phonics
I remember very clearly singing ‘Twinkle Twinkle’ with my daughter when she was a baby. To begin with she always sang ‘star’ at the end of every sentence, but even in the early days, her sense of rhythmic patterns and the structure of language were beginning to develop. Nursery rhymes are full of fun rhythm which make it easy for children to join in and follow. Exposing children to this rich culture of words and rhythm in language is a fantastically enriching experience for them. The best thing is that nursery rhymes are so much fun, children don’t even realise they are learning such important elements as assonance, alliteration, rhythm, etc.
Fun with the printed text
Even before children can read they can have exposure to how a books work and engage with text on a page. As simple as looking at a page of a poem that is read by an adult, or ‘reading’ a book by themselves as they turn the pages and observe the pages filled with both text, and also visual prompts, illustrations or key words in the rhyme.
There are several products in my store which you might find useful as you explore Nursery Rhymes with your class.