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Why nursery rhymes are important this National Nursery Rhyme week

This week is National Nursery Rhyme Week – a nationwide initiative that aims to emphasise the importance of nursery rhymes for developing language and communication as well as social, physical and emotional skills. Singing nursery rhymes and songs to children from birth can help develop language skills from an early age which is crucial for later life chances. A child’s language at age two predicts how well they will do in reading, maths and writing when they start school.

Sally Goddard-Blythe, a consultant in neuro-developmental education, believes that singing traditional lullabies and nursery rhymes to babies and infants before they learn to speak is ‘an essential precursor to later educational success and emotional wellbeing’. According to Blythe, ‘Song is a special type of speech. Lullabies, songs and rhymes of every culture carry the ‘signature’ melodies and inflections of a mother tongue, preparing a child’s ear, voice and brain for language.’

So, why are nursery rhymes so important? Introducing children to a variety of nursery rhymes can help them to learn and understand different speech sounds and in doing so help them to learn important skills for talking and later reading development. From the moment they are born, children learn sounds by listening to people speaking around them and developing an ability to tune into their environment. Singing nursery rhymes with children, making up silly rhymes such as ‘the cat has a hat’ and clapping out syllables e.g: di-no-saur, will help them to hear rhymes and to tell the differences between sounds and how to say them.

Nursery rhymes are a great way of introducing new vocabulary and an effective way of teaching children how words and phrases are put together. It provides an opportunity for children to learn how to say words and practise their pronunciation through repetition. Children love songs full of rhyme, rhythm and repetition and the actions in these types of songs will reinforce this and give all children a way of joining in. Adults using gestures will also help young children to focus and keep them engaged.

For some children, nursery rhymes can be a great way of enhancing social communication –singing together gives great opportunities for interacting with others. It’s always fun when the adult stops singing and gives the child the opportunity to finish the line in the song! The repetitive nature of nursery rhymes means that children are able to predict or guess what words will come next, meaning that they don’t have too much information to remember. Singing nursery rhymes and action songs can help children to develop their attention and listening skills, essential skills that underpin language development.

World Nursery Rhyme Week is aimed at families and practitioners and sets a ‘Rhyme a Day’ challenge for the week. Free resources are available from partners involved and you can register your involvement here.

You needn’t save rhyme time for World Nursery Rhyme Week, get singing every day with your little ones. It really will make a difference! If you are concerned about your child’s speech and language, you can arrange a free phone call from one of our speech and language therapists through our I CAN Help enquiry service. Visit www.ican.org.uk/help or call 020 7843 2544.