Nursery rhymes have long been a cornerstone of early childhood education, fostering language acquisition, cognitive development, and social interaction in young children.
As a former teacher – now stay-at-home mom who helps out in her son’s kinder class regularly, I have been surprised to find so many students coming to school today with no prior knowledge of many of the most common and educational nursery rhymes.
So in a world of overwhelm, I made this list super small and sweet with just my top 4 nursery rhymes, that I believe ALL children who speak English could benefit from learning or knowing:
The “Alphabet Song,” often referred to as “ABCD” is a fundamental nursery rhyme that lays the foundation for learning to read and write.
I never did flash cards with any of my four children or tried to teach them to read before starting school, however, we did sing the alphabet song amongst other rhymes.
By singing through the alphabet, children familiarize themselves with letter names and their sequence – which is super important when teachers start asking them to play language games where they sort out letters and put them in order for example.
If your child is already familiar with the alphabet, then this is one less hurdle they need to face when learning the phonetic alphabet which is the sounds the letters make.
“Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” is a beloved classic rhyme, possibly the most popular nursery rhyme in the English language if you don’t count the phenomenon that is ‘Baby Shark’.
Because it is a classic, it not only encourages vocalization and memory retention, but is a part of modern English language history and culture which is why it is number 2 on my list!
The rhyme captivates young minds with its soothing tune and twinkling star imagery and serves as a perfect introduction to rhythm and melody.
The melody although simple was considered so exceptional that even Mozart chose to write a set of musical variations based on the tune around the early 1780’s.
“The Wheels on the Bus” is a delightful and interactive nursery rhyme that helps teach children the concept of movement and transportation.
As they sing about the bus journey and the bus’s various parts, kids engage in imaginative play and the nature or the song encourages children to come up with their own characters and actions.
This rhyme also develops muscle memory with reciting – which aids children being able to complete two different functions at the same time singing and movement.
As humans we are unable to really do two things at once such as watch a show and write a list – our brains actually switches from activity to activity. However, muscle memory is where your body knows what to do without your brain having to think about it – what a great skill to start developing from a young age!
In a world where children tend to only see their food packaged and coming from the grocery store, “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” brings agricultural life to them in an enjoyable and interactive manner.
Singing about the farm animals, children learn to identify various creatures and their sounds. This is an important development skill in children who will at first for example classify all animals with four legs as a dog, if that is the first animal with four legs that they were introduced to.
This rhyme therefore also fosters vocabulary development and memory skills as kids recall the animals on Old MacDonald’s farm.
Eventually, you can start to talk to children about what a farm is, how food is grown and where it comes from. It can lead to visits to a farm, or planting your own vegetable garden.
From introducing melody and language to encouraging imaginative play and social interaction, these four rhymes provide a solid foundation for your child’s growth and learning.
If your child or children are older and never learned these or any rhymes, don’t worry or lose too much sleep over it! Each family is different and we all provide our children with different learning experiences that benefit them.
But if you can – Sing along with your little ones, and watch as they embark on a journey of discovery and education, one rhyme at a time.