Think back to your childhood, what do you remember best?
One thing which stands out is sure to be the number of nursery rhymes you were taught and repeated endlessly, until they were stuck in your head. They’re probably still stuck in your head now, such as the power of rhyme and repetition!
Many of the nursery rhymes we’re taught during our early years seem like nonsense nowadays. Why would Humpty Dumpty sit on a wall if he knew he was likely to fall and break himself into a million pieces? Why ask baa black sheep if he had wool, when he’s a sheep and he has plenty of wool?
They don’t make much sense, but that was never the point. The point is the rhyming contained within these non-sensical stories and why the rhyming part is important in the first place.
There are two main reasons why rhymes are important for preschool children. Firstly, rhymes are fun and when something is fun you’re more likely to capture the attention of a very active and curious preschooler. The second reason is that rhymes helps a child to learn about language, and therefore helps them to learn how to speak properly, using sounds and predictions.
For instance, when you repeat a nursery rhyme to your child, they’ll begin to memorise it, just like you memorised Baby Shark without meaning to! As a result, they notice the rhyming element more than anything else, because a) it’s fun, and b) they start to anticipate it.This helps them remember the rest of the rhyme and also when they learn to read, they use predictions to understand how to form sounds.
Put simply, those nursery rhymes everyone loves so much actually help you learn to read and speak in a very clever way.
So, whilst rhymes are fun, they actually have a more serious side too.
Children will be more involved in rhyming than if you read them a regular story or book. Rhymes will hold your attention far more than a regular story, and we all know how fidgety and difficult it can be to control a preschooler who wants to play and not listen at all!
Choose a rhyme which you know your child will enjoy, e.g. one which contains a favourite animal, and use different tones of voice when reading the rhyme to them. Again, this will hold their attention and make the act of learning more fun for them; they won’t even know they’re learning.
Let’s explore in a bit more detail how these rhymes actually help your child to learn the different facets of language, including writing, speaking, and reading.
So, that nursery rhyme that might be a little annoying to you is extremely useful to your preschooler, but in addition, they help to create a creative mind.
Most nursery rhymes don’t make much sense, which we’ve already mentioned, but to a child that’s a story which is full of fantastic potential and wonderful images that are forming in their mind. The rhymes are very descriptive and use a lot of imagery, which can help children to form new ideas and their own imagery in their mind.
For instance, if you sing Humpty Dumpty to your child, they might not have the same image of what Humpty looks like as in a book. You can ask them how they think Humpty looks to them, and ask them what colour his clothes are, how big his smile is, what colour hat he wears, etc. This can all help you child to develop a creative mind, which is always a very positive and useful thing for them to develop as young as possible.
You can also ask your child what they think happens to Humpty in their own mind. They might not be happy that Humpty falls off the wall and nobody can put him back together. They might come up with an alternative ending, perhaps someone finds some superglue and piece by piece they bring him back! Asking your child to come up with different endings and asking them to explain what it looks like is perfect for helping them to expand on the imagery in the rhyme and develop their own creative descriptions and images.
Of course, it’s imporatnt to remember that to a child, learning to read is quite scary. They’re faced with all these words and they have no idea what they mean, what they say, how to make the sounds, and it can be terrifying at first. Of course, a preschooler will probably just pretend to read, babbling away and pointing at the words, but if you want them to take the idea of reading seriously as they grow, nursery rhymes and other rhyming stories are ideal. This is because they’re fun!
When a child is having fun, they do more of that task, they ask you to do it with them and they focus on it more. For this reason, interactive museums and hands on learning experiences are popping up all over the country! Children learn far more effectively when they’re not aware that they’re actually learning and a preschooler isn’t even aware of the concept of learning yet – they think they’re just having fun and making sounds, listening to stories and making up their own endings.
This can help children who might be lacking in confidence, perhaps shy children who may need a small nudge towards developing their confidence. Creativity is the ideal escape.
Alongside the benefits of rhyming, repetition is key.
The human brain learns via repetition, whether you’re an adult or a child. The more you hear something, the more it becomes stored in your short term memory and then it’s committed to your long term memory.
If you think back to when you were a child, you probably recited the alphabet song over and over again when you were in your first few school years. The reason isn’t because your teacher wanted to be annoying, it’s because by repeating that song, you were learning the alphabet and storing it in the most concrete of ways into your memory bank. That song then forms the basis of how you speak, read, and write.
The same goes for learning how to count. You repeat it over and over again until you can count to 10 and then you move on to counting to 20, and etc, etc.
The more you repeat something, the more accurately you remember it, and the same goes for helping your child to learn their initial language skills.
Choose a nursery rhyme they enjoy and read it to them regularly. Ask them to repeat it back to you and then say it together. The more you do it, the more they’ll remember it and the more they’ll anticipate the words and sounds they’re hearing. Of course, mix it up with a few different rhymes but don’t introduce too many at one time, otherwise you risk confusing your child and causing them to dislike nursery rhymes because of how mixed up they feel.
Nursery rhymes are the ideal way to help your child start to develop their language skills, whilst also helping them to develop a more creative mind in general. By choosing a rhyme which they enjoy and which they can really visualise in their mind, you’ll help to give them a head start when they begin school in the coming months or year.
Remember to choose a nursery rhyme which suits your child, e.g. an animal they like, a story you know they would love, and ask them to try and explain how it looks in their own mind.