Importance of nursery rhymes: early reading skills and language development
Learning and singing rhymes boosts the confidence of young children. Rhymes are also a handy tool for engaging kids and keeps them away from gadgets. Sadly, nursery rhymes are disappearing from the lives of our young children. They are getting replaced by electronic gadgets and games. Some parents also jump right into science and maths based learning activities and think nursery rhymes are not useful for young children. Such parents are mistaken. Scientific research has repeatedly confirmed that nursery rhymes are important for preschoolers and kindergarten children. Nursery rhymes help in various aspects of child’s development and their importance should not be underestimated.
Research based facts about importance of nursery rhymes
“Experts in literacy and child development have discovered that children who know eight nursery rhymes by heart by the time they are four years old are usually among the best readers and spellers in their class by the time they are eight years (Standard III).” 
“Phonological awareness is an important precursor to reading. The awareness of phonemes fosters a child’s ability to hear and blend sounds, encode and decode words, and to spell phonetically. Nursery rhymes help in increasing phonological awareness.” 
“Rhyming skills make it easier for children to learn about sequences of letters and about sequences shared by words which also rhyme. Nursery rhymes enhance phonological sensitivity (rhyme and phoneme detection), which in turn enhance reading skills. There is a powerful and lasting connection between the children’s early knowledge of nursery rhymes and aspects of their linguistic development later on.” 
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What is a rhyme?
Wikipedia defines rhyme as “a repetition of similar sounds (or the same sound) in two or more words, most often in the final syllables of lines in poems and songs.  Another definition: “A rhyme is a repetition of similar sounding words, occurring at the end of lines in poems or songs. A rhyme is a tool utilizing repeating patterns that bring rhythm or musicality to poems.” 
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How do nursery rhymes help preschool and kindergarten children?
- Rhymes contain sophisticated literary devices which empower children to understand more about tone, volume and patterns of a language. Your voice sounds different when you ask a question and when you describe an incident at office to your friends. Rhymes help children recognise these variations of human voice.
- Nursery rhymes expand your child’s imagination. They take your child into a world of fantasy and play and develop your child’s visualization skills.
- Nursery rhymes usually follow a clear sequence of events. They often tell a story that has a beginning, middle and an end. An understanding of narrative flow, is necessary for children to be able to follow, read and understand any story.
- Rhymes improve a child’s vocabulary. Children even pickup words from rhymes, that are sometimes not common in day-to-day communication from rhymes and incorporate them into their vocabulary.
- Rhymes help parents and primary caretakers introduce abstract concepts to their children. For example, teaching “Twinkle twinkle little star” to my kid, allowed me to introduce concepts like ‘up’, ‘high’ etc.
- Rhymes preserve a culture that spans across generations, providing something in common among parents, grandparents and children and even among people who do not know each other. Singing nursery rhymes to kids is thus, in part, “to participate in a long tradition, a shared ritual” 
- Singing nursery rhymes allows all kids, even the shy ones, to feel confident about singing, dancing and performing because they are easy to grasp and a lot of fun. Kids see and feel the connection between movement, rhythm and words. 
- Rhymes build memory capabilities. 
- Most importantly, they are a lot of fun. Children simply love the way rhymes sound! 
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How to make rhymes a fun activity for your child?
Use facial expressions, actions and vary your voice tone to capture your child’s interest. Once the child becomes familiar with the rhyme, encourage him / her to join in and sing the rhyme on its own. Remember that rhymes can be enjoyed anyplace, anytime, anywhere! Sing them at bath time, while getting your kid ready for bed, whilst making tea in the kitchen and even while driving the car. Rhymes are also great tantrum diffusers. Even in the middle of a tantrum, kids cannot resist joining you, if you start singing a rhyme. Try it!
Practical tips to make rhymes interesting
- Pause before the rhyming word and encourage your child to finish the line on its own.
- Change words (such as names) to make your own personalized rhyme. For example, use your child’s name to replace ‘Jhonny’ and change the rhyme to “Tanvi Tanvi, Yes Papa; Eating Sugar? No Papa”.
- Devise your own actions while teaching rhymes. Encourage your child to suggest suitable actions. They are more likely to remember actions suggested by themselves.
- Clap along and establish a steady beat while singing the rhymes.
- Say the wrong words and let your children correct you!
- Draw pictures of your favourite scenes or characters in the rhyme.
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- Reading and singing aloud nursery rhymes stimulates a child’s understanding and use of spoken and written language.
- Language and literacy development is facilitated when children listen and respond to rhymes, chants and stories and have ample opportunities to interact with adults.
- Rhymes are a socially engaging, playful and a developmentally appropriate way for young children to hear, identify, manipulate, and experiment with the sounds of language.
- Integrating rhymes, jingles and chants, riddles and tongue twisters etc. contributes to a linguistically rich environment in which young children are exposed to rich vocabulary, syntactic complexity and decontextualized language.
- Combining tactile and kinesthetic activities in which language is intentionally explored, manipulated and experimented within the context of nursery rhymes, enhances children’s phonological awareness and phonemic skill development. Many educators believe that before children begin reading, they need to become explicitly aware that spoken words are composed of sounds. Children, therefore, must develop the ability to consciously and analytically hear, identify, and manipulate those sounds.
We hope you enjoyed our blog on why nursery rhymes are important for preschool and kindergarten children.
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