Mary Had a Little Lamb, Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, Row, Row, Row Your Boat….they seem like simple, even mindless little rhymes, but they are so much more. Yes, simple rhyming songs and verses can absolutely boost language skills in even the youngest of children. When sung by caregivers, such as parents and daycare providers, songs and rhymes help children to familiarize themselves with language that is pleasing, predictable, and engaging.
Sally Goddard Blythe, a consultant in neuro-developmental education and Director of the Institute for Neuro-Physiological Psychology says that songs and nursery rhymes are “an essential precursor to later educational success and emotional well being”. Her book, The Genius of Natural Childhood, discusses how songs and singing engage both sides of the brain and connect the left and right, which prepares children for other whole-brain activities in the future. Blythe also speaks to how differently infants and toddlers respond to recorded music versus music sung by parents and caregivers. The response to songs sung by caregivers is one of engagement rather than passive reception, and the benefits of being sung to far outweigh simply listening to music from a recording.
Lots of parents have forgotten many of their own favorite nursery rhymes and songs. Others may not feel confident in their singing abilities, or have a good place in the home to practice without disturbing other family members. A simple YouTube search for “nursery rhymes” will produce plenty of short clips parents can use to review and rehearse the classics. Babies and toddlers don’t care about singing voices, they just love their parents singing no matter what. Practice in the car, or simply hum the tune until confident.
Parents should also ask their nursery school or daycare providers for song ideas, while also making sure that the caregiver incorporates songs and finger play into the daily activities as well. Importantly, ask if the care center uses pre-recorded music for all songs or if there is singing without the digital aids. If the care center does not sing to all of the children, consult the director to suggest singing as an important part of language development.
For parents who need ideas on the spot, here are a list of classics that babies love, that should return to memory with just a brief refresher:
- Oh My Darlin’ Clementine, I’ve Been Working on The Railroad
- If You’re Happy and You Know it, Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes
- Open Shut Them, Where is Thumbkin?
- The ABC song, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
- I’m a Little Teapot, RIng Around the Rosy
- Old MacDonald had a Farm ( E-I-E-I-O) BINGO was his Name-O
Prime Time Early Learning Centers values singing as part of our academic and musical training curriculum. At our four New Jersey Centers serving Paramus, Oradell, Ridgewood, Hoboken, Edgewater, Fort Lee, East Rutherford and Carlstadt we have a professional musician keyboard player, singer and songwriter visit our centers every two weeks to teach and lead the children in age appropriate song. Eric Waldman, singing as “Bobby Beatcut” loves to teach the children new songs with developmentally valuable and fun lyrics. Prime Time is musicians to provide similar professional music lessons to the children in our Middletown and Farmingdale Centers.