At What Age Can A Toddler Sing Nursery Rhymes?

Do you remember singing to your favorite nursery rhymes as a toddler? I do! The most popular for me were “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” and “Old MacDonald had a farm”. I can’t remember when I first started singing them and neither can my mother when I asked, so having young kids myself who began singing nursery rhymes at completely different ages I was wondering at what age should toddlers be able to sing a nursery rhyme?

Most toddlers who are regularly exposed to nursery rhymes will be able to sing simple songs at two to three years of age. By age four or five they should be able to sing longer rhymes and produce a consistent tune, singing with a steady rhythm, with some toddlers developing these skills at an even earlier age.

One of the most fun and entertaining things to watch a toddler do is sing along with their favorite nursery rhyme. But why and how are nursery rhymes important for your child’s? And if they are so important how can you help your child get the best learning experience from them at home?

Little Girl singing

Why Are Nursery Rhymes Important for Toddlers to know and learn?

Nursery rhymes are some of the most famous and well-known songs for children and are a great way to introduce your toddler to the world of words. They teach toddlers vocabulary and grammar, while also teaching them about phonics. Rhymes help with language development in children by helping them learn how to use rhyming words and rhythm when they speak. Nursery rhymes also help develop motor skills, memory skills, creativity, self-expression, and emotional intelligence in children.

Nursery rhymes contain many important lessons that a toddler can learn from them. One example of this type of lesson would be counting to ten with their fingers. Nursery rhymes also teach children about colors, shapes, animals, and more! You should start learning these rhymes as soon as possible to help your child grow up in an enriched environment.

Nursery rhymes help children learn to read and write by:

  • Introducing a wide range of vocabulary words;
  • Teaching grammar by using phrases and sentences in the sentence structure
  • Helping children learn about phonics through rhyming words (for example pat/bat) which helps with language development in children because it teaches them how to use rhythm when they speak;

Nursery rhymes help develop motor skills by:

  • Encouraging clapping hands or moving around on the spot;
  • hand actions improve their coordination and can introduce crossing their midpoint;
  • developing fine motor skills such as when pinching them in ‘Incy Wincy Spider’

My toddler is or isn’t singing nursery rhymes, Is this normal?

If your friends’ toddler is singing like no one is watching and your little toddler barely wants to talk, don’t let your panic mode get the best of you. Especially since not all kids meet the same milestones at the same time. In general, you can encourage your toddler to explore the world of music and rhyme and when it feels right to them and they are ready to learn and explore this area of learning they will.

But what if your child is the one singing ‘The Wheels on The Bus’ from the top of their lungs at the steering wheel on the playground or their ABCs at 18months as my first child did? Well, that is wonderful and you can revel in the joy of your child’s accomplishment. But just know that this doesn’t necessarily mean they are gifted or smarter than your friend’s child who can’t. At this age children generally, focus or excel in different areas of learning and intelligence and since there are 8 different intelligences as defined by Howard Gardner, your child may be exploring and building their confidence in another area.

For example, I have four children and each one of them developed their speech at different times, but what I noticed is that during those other periods they were hard at work learning other skills. For example, my youngest son is very active and has excellent gross motor skills, he has just turned three, and all of a sudden his language and communication are exploding, whereas my eldest could communicate and talk to us and astoundingly sing the alphabet song at 18 months. It wasn’t until she was three that her gross motor skills started to really develop which is in total contrast to her brother!

Speech Milestones

Children begin to speak by saying sounds from the moment they’re born. They can say at least one word by nine months, and two or more words by 18 months. Babies are sensitive to sounds in their environment, so when you talk to them often while reading nursery rhymes or singing songs for toddlers, it will increase their vocabulary size as well as stimulate language development skills

By age three years old children typically know how to say or understand more than 50 words and are able to use short phrases like “I want.” Those toddlers and preschoolers exposed to music will also sing-speak or sing about what they are doing, or perhaps even sing a familiar tune while they play. Some children are known to sing longer phrases than they can speak.

Quality of Singing

If you have been struggling to understand your child’s cute gibberish while talking, singing might be just as challenging to understand at first, but as your child’s general speech improves, so will their singing. Don’t expect your toddler or preschooler to sing in tune, even for familiar songs. Your child should be able to discern when a pitch is lower or higher than the one that preceded it and will attempt to follow the tune.

When Does A Toddler Start Singing?

It is debatable when the actual singing stage can be defined due to the ever-changing vocal abilities of your baby or toddler and each person’s definition of what singing actually is. But you can expect your toddler to start singing in a recognizable way, anywhere from 15 months to five years due to early introduction, encouraging singing, and providing a musical environment.

Experts believe that Babies start to sing as early as three months old and that you can teach them to sing and match pitches with activities. You might not think of your babies’ early vocal expressions as musical, but they are experimenting with basic musical properties such as timbre, volume, and pitch. Celine Dion’s brothers and sisters would sing to her as a baby, but whenever they sang a certain two notes she would cry – showing that infants can indeed hear pitch and then make attempts with their babbles to imitate the sounds they hear – because it is through imitation that they learn.

By 12 months, a baby can spontaneously sing short phrases as they move around between the different pitches. Reaching 12 to 15 months, they may imitate the melodic contour of the songs being sung to them by their guardian or parent. Many might take these sounds to be the babble of the child, but if listened to closely you can usually hear patterns throughout their noises and speech attempts.

Can Two Year Old’s Sing in Tune

Yes! Some toddlers and two-year-olds can most definitely sing in tune – I have proof on my iPhone of a voice recording of my daughter. Most toddlers will start singing small parts of the songs they hear around two or three, although the melodies may not be completely accurate to us as they slide up and down around the pitch or tune. But not all children just like adults have an ear for music, like my third child who at age 5 still struggles to sing in pitch for simple songs, although she is constantly getting better and loves to sing!

Growing to ages five to six, most children will begin to sing in the traditional sense; they will be able to carry a tune consistently and sing with a steady rhythm; some children might develop these abilities as earlier at ages three to four.

How to help your child learn and sing Nursery Rhymes

We have already discussed that it is difficult to give an exact age for when a toddler will be able to sing nursery rhymes because a lot is dependent on their natural ability and desire of the child, as well as their level of independence. But to be able to sing a nursery rhyme, a child needs to be exposed to them and so there are some things that you can do to help your toddler learn to sing them.

Introducing Nursery Rhymes to Your Child

To begin with it is important to choose nursery rhymes that you are familiar with. This will help you to build your confidence in your ability to identify the tune and remember the words of the song. From there the following are some ideas to get you started:

  • Read the nursery rhyme to your child. Let them read it too if they can do so on their own.
  • Sing or hum nursery rhymes aloud with your child daily after lunchtime, before dinner, in the afternoon when you arrive from work, at whatever time suits you!
  • Play nursery rhyme music for your child when they are playing, in the car or in the morning when they are getting ready.
  • Share a story with photos from their favourite book or film that is based on a nursery rhyme and let them take part in the storytelling process.
  • choose an activity to do together such as creating puppets, drawing pictures of scenes found within the song or making finger play instruments out of household items.

Just remember that we have all heard that passive listening to music is excellent, but it isn’t always enough for active learning. So some other ideas might be:

  • get your child to actively experience music by incorporating movement or instrument playing with music.
  • Do actions such as rock, sway, and pat with chanting. This will help with rhythm as they experience gentle, rhythmic movement matching your voice and nursery rhythms. 
  • encourage your toddler to move on their own by showing them examples of moving while nursery rhymes are playing.
  • Get creative by helping your toddler make up a song.

You might also want to include teaching some of the basics of singing. You can do this by modelling the skill yourself as follows:

  • Sing and move in time with the rhythm of the nursery rhyme (like stepping or bouncing)
  • Sing with a decent pitch and try to stay in key
  • Sing nursery rhymes that are within your comfortable vocal range
  • Sing them from a reference note played on a musical instrument such as a piano

Top Tips for Successfully Singing with Toddlers!

There are a few things you can try to make your child feel successful when singing and learning nursery rhymes. Try some of the following top tips for yourself!

Only Sing the Melody

Try singing without words when singing to and with your child. This works when you sing a nursery rhymes you both know already. Just replace the words with la or with a repeated one-syllable vocal and sing the melody. Another idea is to hum the tune. The idea here is that when we remove the lyrics, you encourage your child to emphasize the music itself instead of the song’s language.


Motivate your child to sing and interact with you through music, from a few months old, by imitating their natural vocal noises, while stopping to let them respond.

Encourage your toddlers to imitate you through repeating phrases after you or singing with a recording of songs. Praise them for singing all the words, or for holding some of the tunes for example – wow I could really hear the melody of the rhyme that time, you are working hard at this! Even if your toddler doesn’t react at first, keep on trying; singing is a lot of fun and most will eventually join in.

You should also try to make sure your child is facing you and watching your face so they can see your mouth and imitate the movements it is making.

Don’t Correct

Let your child sing freely and creatively instead of forcing them to sing perfectly. Encourage them to sing in whichever way comes naturally; they won’t be aware that their nursery rhythm singing is significantly different from other people’s singing during their younger years. They tend to think they can do everything and in their heads, they sound just like you or the person singing on the stereo! The more they hear the better their listening ear will become and their voice attuned to the melody.

Sing in A Group

If singing is important to you, your Toddlers will need the opportunity to develop their singing voice which is a distinct quality different from a natural speaking voice. Help your child build their vocals by exposing your child to people who sing well, but primarily to children who sing. Are there any children’s choirs or singing groups you can join or watch? Can you go to storytime at the library or a playgroup where nursery rhymes are sung in a group or could you sign up for a toddler music class where your child will get more opportunities to learn from a trained musical professional.

So….. Should my toddler be able to sing a Nursery Rhyme?

Don’t be concerned if your toddler doesn’t express their vocals at a young age; each child develops differently and in their own time. Some experts and parents believe babies have the ability to sing as early as three months, so it is important to introduce nursery rhymes to your baby as early as possible and to encourage vocals by singing in front of your baby, and to introduce basic musical instruments, such as drums, xylophones or piano.

You might not consider your baby’s early vocal expressions as musical, but they are indeed experimenting with basic musical properties such as timbre, volume, and pitch. Most toddlers will begin singing at the age of 2 and 3; it is not uncommon for them to start slightly later at 4 – 5 years old.

The first three years of your toddler’s life are ideal for developing speech and auditory skills, with nursery rhymes encouraging these skills. You can incorporate movement or instruments with music; include various musical activities consistently.


Howard Gardners Multiple Intelligence Theory


Samantha Bellerose has a Bachelor of Education as well as a Diploma in Performing Arts. She is a mom to four children and is passionate about education and learning. Samantha created Nursery Rhyme Central as the go to place for parents, teachers and carers about all things to do with Nursery Rhymes. She is also the Main Author and creator for websites Dance Parent 101 and Move Dance Learn, where she shares her knowledge and expertise for dance and learning through movement.

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