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Benefits of Teaching Nursery Rhymes to Toddlers

They were the rhythm of our childhood and today, as adults, we still remember them: nursery rhymes of course!  We will see that nursery rhymes are an essential learning tool for you as a homeschooler (kindergarten level). Do you know what is the origin of Nursery Rhymes? What is the purpose of nursery rhymes? Why nursery rhymes are important? What are the benefits of nursery rhymes for your child? How do you simply implement this learning at home?  We’ll look at this in detail right away!

The Origin and Transmission of Nursery Rhymes

The tradition of nursery rhymes is very old. The etymological origin of the word rhyme comes from Old English and Old French terms which means both to numbers and to count. Like sayings, proverbs, tales or legends, nursery rhymes have been passed down through oral tradition since transmitted by the oral tradition since the most remote times. If most of them date from the 17 century, some of them are much older and we could even date them precisely from the year 182. As for the oldest known children’s song, it comes from the ancient country of the Sumerians. This civilization dates back to 3700 B.C. and it was originating from the Fertile Crescent, that is to say from the region located between the rivers Tigris and Euphrates of the current Iraq. The authors of the rhymes are mostly anonymous and each country and even each region has its own nursery rhymes, learned and transmitted from generation to generation. The musical rhymes are the ones that have best withstood the test of time.

What Is the Purpose of Nursery Rhymes?

Nursery rhymes are fun children’s songs or sayings, always with a rhythm but which can be either spoken or sung. As the Larousse dictionary indicates, they were originally and they were recited by children “to determine by the count of syllables, the one to whom a social role will be assigned in a game”. For example, to find out who would be the wolf, the children would sing and the one who fell on the last syllable of the rhyme would be eliminated, and so on. The last one was then designated as the wolf.

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In some cases, the rhymes, like the fables, contained more or less hidden messages. In England, at times when freedom of expression did not exist as it does today; it was a way of getting across ideas that challenged the established order. Under innocence of children, these words were used to propagate what could not be propagated by adults because it compromised their lives.

With time, the definition of nursery rhyme was extended to the different categories of children’s songs and they are sung for the pleasure of singing, telling or to calm, amuse or teach the child. We can mention lullabies, hand games, etc.

The Cultural Dimension of Nursery Rhymes

Importance of teaching nursery rhymes is conveyed through language; they are part of the traditional cultural heritage of the different peoples of the world, and they serve as a bridge between generations. They allow the child to enter into a relationship with others at a very early age, first with his mother and then with all those who surround him and whom he will meet. The culture is inscribed in networks of symbols and teaching nursery rhymes plays a role of foreground in the development of the baby, so that it takes its place in the group and in society.

The Musical Characteristics of Nursery Rhymes

Nursery rhymes are short phrases in which the syllables are detached. Their rhythmic and melodic structure has few variations and the melody is simple, which allows the child to recognize them quickly. Depending on whether it is hummed, whispered or amplified the rhyme changes in meaning and life. The rhythm of the nursery rhymes, from two to four beats, makes the child want to move and their tempo adjusts to the meaning given to them at the beginning. The flow of the words must be orchestrated with the rhythm of the melody and the gestures.

Benefits of Learning Nursery Rhymes When Homeschooling

  • Discover Language, Math, and Even Logic!

We tend to forget this as adults but learning nursery rhymes is a total experience for a child! It is an entertaining and enjoyable means to deal with the complexity of math and English. Indeed, by working on nursery rhymes, the child learns new words, verbs, syntax (e.g. questions with inversion of the verb and subject) and much more without even realizing it. For example, remembering the structure of a nursery rhyme that is repeated a certain number of times, helps to develop logic. In addition, certain nursery rhymes allow the construction of numbers to be approached for the first time (1, 2, and 3 let’s walk in the woods…)

  • Work on Memory
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The melody of the nursery rhymes is always catchy; sometimes it is even possible to mime the gestures of the words (Turn turns little mill for example). It is a total and lively learning experience that children love! (I have never seen a child grumble when you mention about singing a nursery rhyme…!) As a result, children learn best nursery rhymes very simply without thinking! However, this first memory work is crucial because it allows the child’s thinking to be structured (let’s remember that children have a “new” brain). 

  • Playing With Words… To Learn to Write (Later)

Nursery rhymes are a wonderful opportunity for children to play with sounds and words. Put yourself in the children’s shoes: lots of new words that rhyme with others already known! This creates a permanent feeling of play and excitement that later, from kindergarten on, will help lay the foundations for entering the written word (where it is always necessary to “play” with words by chanting syllable words, for example).

  • Building Self-Confidence in Communication Situations

The repetitive forms of nursery rhymes create a sense of security for the child. It’s no joke; children are more sensitive than us adults! Thus, language is not a source of anxiety or conflict (on the contrary). From a psychological point of view, the child approaches the construction of language with a solid foundation and confidence.

  • Other Psychological and Motor Benefits

Did you know that breastfeeding can ease you and your baby? Well, plus that, there’s the nursery rhymes! Having a good time (singing externalizes children’s emotional blocks) and thinking about positive and catchy texts causes the brain to release serotonin and endorphins which are the hormones of pleasure and well-being! Singing nursery rhymes therefore contributes to the harmonious development of your child’s brain (in addition to associating learning and pleasure, which is no mean feat…). Finally, if you accompany the song by mimes, you hit the bull’s eye! Indeed, miming a nursery rhyme (for example Turn, Turn little mill) makes the brain work in addition to language, which is a complex operation for the child’s brain and contributes greatly to the development of his motor skills (empirically, some may say that they can tell as early as the middle section whether a child will be a good reader (in the first grade) just by seeing him do (or not do) the somersault (which is a complex exercise of body coordination). 

  • Learning a Foreign Language
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For both children and adults, music is of course the best way to learn a foreign language: the melody of the language, intonations, rhythms, words and expressions. You can “start” learning English, for example, in a passive way, simply by repeating turns of phrase and rhymes.

How Do You Set Up This Learning Process?

Nothing could be simpler: just sing! Children learn by mimicry by following their parents, so if they see you singing in joy, they will follow you when they feel ready! It’s a learning process that should be fun, and it happens automatically without thinking about it as long as you think about the pleasure of singing together. So sing at home, in the car or in the moments you share with your child! If you see that your child is anxious in certain situations then make it a ritual, he will feel much better afterwards: at bedtime, before leaving for school for example.

How Do Nursery Rhymes Work According To Your Child’s Age?

  • From 1 to 3 Years Old:

Nursery rhymes for 2 year olds children will focus on gesture songs that allow your child to learn about the different parts of the human body such as: “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Feet”. Your child will start to reproduce the choreography, which is good for motor skills.

  • Ages 3 to 5:

Your child is becoming more comfortable with language. This is a good time to teach nursery rhymes for 4 year olds; which are a little richer in vocabulary and a little longer. Your child will have fun singing along with you, which will promote oral comprehension and diction. Little by little, your child will become aware of the sounds that make up the song. He develops his imagination more and more, because he does not only repeat, he also understands what he is saying.