Our Project for the Autumn Term is ‘Nursery rhymes’!

Experts in literacy and child development have discovered that if children know eight nursery rhymes by heart by the time they’re four years old, they’re usually among the best readers by the time they’re eight.
Mem Fox, Reading Magic

Why are nursery rhymes so important in early childhood, and what can Early Years educators do to ensure that traditional nursery rhymes are never forgotten?

Nursery rhymes provide bite-sized learning opportunities for young children to develop key developmental skills, and can often be the trigger for hours of creative and open-ended play.

They are a powerful learning source in early literacy and enable children to become interested in the rhythm and patterns of language. Consider the alliteration in “A Sailor Went to Sea, Sea, Sea”, or the onomatopoeia in “Baa Baa Black Sheep” and rhyme in “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”.

Many nursery rhymes are also repetitive which can support the development of memory and kickstart the practice of listening and speaking. As they recite nursery rhymes, they learn to speak with animated voices. Someday they’ll read with expression, too.

Rhyming is important for writing, too.  It can help children understand that words that share common sounds often share common letters.  For example, the rhyming words cat and bat both end with –at.

Nursery rhymes provide many other key benefits…

Communication and Language Development

Rhymes are fantastic vocabulary boosters. They often feature a pleasing rhythmic pattern and simple repetitive phrases that babies and young children find easy to remember and repeat. In order to develop their phonological awareness, children need to be repeatedly exposed to spoken language, and nursery rhymes provide the perfect way to do this.

Physical Development

The opportunity to ‘act out’ a favourite rhyme will be a welcome activity for active minds and fidgety bodies. Physical participation in action songs encourage children to develop their fine and gross motor control skills as well as balance, coordination and the skills needed to follow simple instructions.


Counting songs (eg ‘Five Currant Buns’) help to develop a familiarity with number sounds and words in a way that is fun and interesting to a young child. Songs such as ‘When Goldilocks Went to The House of The Bears’ also introduce the concept of scale, size and order. Familiarity with counting songs provides the foundation for crucial numeracy skills and awareness.

Understanding the World

Children find many nursery rhymes very relatable to their own everyday experiences and will enjoy sharing these moments with their friends and teachers, such as a trip to the park with Daddy to feed the ducks (Five Little Ducks), or sharing a picture book with a grandparent about boats (Row, Row, Row Your Boat). Practitioners can encourage conversations with the children in their care, helping to strengthen the bond between the setting and home.


The act of singing a rhyme or engaging with it physically, encourages children to express themselves in a creative way and to find their own personal ‘voice’. Role play opportunities present themselves with different characters and events within the rhyme that children can respond to either individually or as a group. Open-ended play opportunities are also possible with paints, clay, wet sand or loose parts.

Some easy ways for you to incorporate nursery rhymes into your child’s home life…

Rhymes can be sung or chanted at any time throughout the day. They are short and quick making them easy to slot into the daily routine.

  • Choose a simple rhyme and use it to accompany one of your daily routines such as a walk to the playpark or a craft activity.
  • Most nursery rhymes take no more than 1 or 2 minutes to sing so this is any easy way to build up lots of repetition which is important for memory and language development.
  • Share picture books of rhymes with your child and encourage them to talk about the characters and the events that unfold within the rhyme.
  • Put together a ‘Rhyme Bag’ for your child to explore with rhyme related objects such as puppets, cookie cutters (Five Currant Buns), small world characters, a toy tea-pot and cup and saucer (Polly put the Kettle On, I’m A Little Teapot) or rubber ducks (Five Little Ducks).

Nursery rhymes connect us to the past. When you share nursery rhymes that you knew as a child, you can have that same joy.

Besides connecting our children to our own childhood, nursery rhymes can provide a quick history lesson. When we read an illustrated version of ‘Jack and Jill’, we teach our pre-schoolers that there was life before indoor plumbing.  ‘Jack Jumped over a Candlestick’ gives a glimpse into a world without electricity.

Modern technology has meant that children are now exposed to more songs than ever before such as pop songs, theme tunes and advertising jingles. However, young children have the capacity to learn and retain an enormous repertoire of songs and tunes leaving plenty of room and opportunity for traditional nursery rhymes.

Most importantly…. nursery rhymes are just plain fun!!

Silly rhymes and nonsensical verse are appealing to children.  That’s why these rhymes are still popular after 500 years!

We’re really looking forward to exploring the world of nursery rhymes with our children this term. Please speak to a teacher to let us know your child’s favourites from home so that we can include them in our project.

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