Did you know nursery rhymes actually improve your baby’s language skills; that they play an important role in helping her learn to read and to understand the grammatical structure of language?
And you thought Itsy Bitsy Spider was just entertaining your baby!
Now researchers have found that song-like rhythmic patterns that make rhyming fun are the very thing that draws attention to the rhythm of language. And when you tap or clap along to the beat of the story, you’re really helping your child develop an awareness of the syllables and sounds that make up words. For example, in the rhyme Hickory, Dickory, Dock, each syllable can be clapped as you say the word Hick - o – ry (3 claps).
Nursery rhymes also set the stage for early reading by making children more aware of their own language and how sounds are combined to make words that sound alike - like “clock” and “dock”.
Reciting nursery rhymes teaches the rhythm of speech and intonation as well as the grammatical structure of language. You can change your intonation to emphasize certain words or phrases, such as “climbed up the water spout “ and …”washed the spider out”. This emphasis is present in our everyday language. We raise our voices at the end of a question, and pause between sentences or phrases to emphasize a new thought.
Nursery rhymes also help a child articulate or say consonant sounds clearly. In “Hey diddle, diddle, the cat and the fiddle”, the “d” sound is repeated several times. The sequence of words makes you use different tongue movements and change the position of your teeth against your lips. So the rhymes help children become more fluent in their speaking skills, and able to pronounce sounds they have trouble with.
Using the classic nursery rhymes below, try these activities with your child.
- Point out rhyming words and ask your child to find more words in the rhyme that sound like these.
- Point out words that start with the same sound(s) and ask your child to think of other words that start with the same sound.
- Using things like a pencil on a tin can, tap out each syllable of the rhyme with a “drum” beat.
- If your child knows the rhyme well, say parts of it and let him complete it. For example, let him fill in words at the end of lines that rhyme – like dock and clock.
Hickory, dickory, dock,
The mouse ran up the clock.
The clock struck one,
The mouse ran down,
Hickory, dickory, dock.
The itsy bitsy spider climbed up the water spout.
Down came the rain and washed the spider out.
Out came the sun and dried up all the rain.
And the itsy bitsy spider went up the spout again.
Hey diddle diddle
the cat and the fiddle
the cow jumped over the moon. The little dog laughed
to see such sport
and the dish
ran away with the spoon.
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