Why nursery rhymes build reading skills and more!

Why nursery rhymes build reading skills and more!

November 21, 2019

We recently came across a shocking data point from Mem Fox's book Reading Magic: children that are able to recite 8 nursery rhymes by heart by the age of four tend to be among the best readers by the time they are eight. 

Given our not-so-little obsession with nursery rhymes, we had to learn more.  What's the science behind this, and why are nursery rhymes so powerful.  Here's what we discovered:

1. Nursery rhymes offer emotional comfort These are some of the first songs shared with moms, dads, siblings, and caretakers.  They inspire comfort, and as they grow up, children will often be found humming or singing the songs to themselves when they're alone because it makes them feel safe and cared for.  This is SO COOL! We've actually heard our toddler doing this in bed sometimes after we leave his room for the night!  

2. Nursery rhymes build memory. Nursery rhymes are short, simple and often incorporate patterns, which makes them easy for kids to remember but also important in developing their recall ability and ability to anticipate what happens next.

3. Nursery rhymes help children to identify sounds and enunciate. The musical element of nursery rhymes helps children learn about tone and voice inflection.  It helps them to identify sounds, enunciate and even understand the sound of a question versus a statement.

4. Nursery rhymes even support the development of coordination. Many nursery rhymes have accompanying hand motions or movements which help children to learn the meaning of the words while also developing coordination.

5. Nursery rhymes build vocabulary. Nursery rhymes expose children to a broader range of vocabulary that they may not come across in their daily lives. 

6. Nursery rhymes help with math skillsMany nursery rhymes involve counting, both forward and backward, and expose kids to patterns, sequences, and quite simply numbers!

7. Nursery rhymes help to preserve culture They are such a great way for kids to share special moments with grandparents and hear some of the stories of their own youth. 

8. Nursery rhymes help little ones with social skills. Kids will often sit and listen to an adult singing a nursery rhyme or join a group of other children in singing a song together. It's a great way to get exposure to taking turns! 

9. Nursery rhymes ultimately help kids learn to read because they are developing an ear for sounds and syllables which are a necessary base for developing reading skills.

10. Most importantly, nursery rhymes are fun! There's nothing like seeing a toddler break out in dance moves or bust out in song. 

So here are a few tips we've discovered from across the web and our friends in parenting to help make nursery rhymes even more fun:

1. Use props if you can.  Do you have little chickie stuffed animals to accompany Los Pollitos Dicen? Bust them out! Or a cow for La Vaca Lola?

2. Create a dance, hand movements or act it out. Think Itsy Bitsy Spider and create some fun hand movements.  No matter what they are, they'll help with developing dexterity and coordination. 

3. Sing slowly.  This can be hard but it can be super helpful for kids to be able to repeat the words.

4. Let kids fill in the blanks.  For example, parent: Los pollitos dicen... child: pío pío pío.  This helps them start remembering the words on their own. 

5. Tie a song to different activities and parts of the day.  Do you have a song for bathtime, hand washing, bedtime, when you're in the car?  Make it easier for yourself by creating a routine around it. 

We'd love any tips you can share, too!  

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