We all grew up with the classic nursery rhymes and songs we know too well. But did you know that learning them was important for our developmental growth?1 Nursery rhymes are said to have been created to teach children about morality, rules, and history. Of course, many of the verses are outdated or sometimes politically incorrect these days. That does not mean we turn on the radio and skip the old-school classics with our little ones! Nursery rhymes are still vastly important to growing many developmental skills.
Nursery rhymes are most important in helping promote language skills in babies and early toddlers.2 Repetition, simplicity, and musicality help children learn words and sounds and how to link them together to communicate better. Add finger or body movements to them, and now you are promoting gross motor, fine motor, 1-2 step directions, and listening skills all in one!
Nursery Rhymes to Teach Your Child
Now that you understand that Mother Goose had the right idea, here are some of my favorite nursery rhymes and how they help promote child development:
Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star
This is a classic and maybe the most popular nursery rhyme to date. Like all rhymes, it helps our littles understand repetition and explains the world above us. Where do stars live? What do they do? It then leaves that question of wonder for our littles to explore more. Pairing with our classic finger play, this rhyme also helps develop gross and fine motor skills.
I’m a Little Teapot
Explaining size, even in its title, this rhyme will help your child understand the concept of short and stout in no time. The idea of cause and effect is also introduced in this short rhyme, all while adding some gross motor skills to perfect.
London Bridge is Falling Down
Sung initially to recall history, this classic version will help your child learn to work well with others. Encouraging partner play with its acting out of the story, this nursery rhyme is perfect for your toddler learning how to grow those social-emotional skills.
Mary Had a Little Lamb
This short nursery rhyme has a lot of meaning in its little verses. Teaching about safety, boundaries, and helping others is at the forefront. Understanding disappointment and that not all things can be repaired is also an underlying message for littles to learn.
Hey Diddle Diddle
Most things in this classic rhyme are just silly—a trait we want our children to learn and laugh with. This rhyme’s repetition and rhythmic pace also help with diction and communicative skills.
Baa, Baa, Black Sheep
Hickory Dickory Dock
This sensory nursery rhyme allows us, as adults, to run the mouse up and down, creating a sensory experience for our little ones. Once they grow, the concept of time, sequencing, and counting are all skills being promoted.
Pop! Goes the Weasel
The fun pace of this nursery rhyme will have your little one asking for more. Using it to promote popping out at them is a great game to help with separation anxiety, silliness, and not being scared by sudden surprises.
This Little Piggy
If you can remember what each pig does, this sequential classic will help your child learn so much from order to memory, touch, finger play, and fun. But people now realize the darker meaning behind this nursery rhyme.3 No, the first piggy was not going to the market to go shopping . . .
Little Miss Muffet
Who wouldn’t run away from a spider? This tongue twister of a rhyme can help straighten out those language skills while having fun with the finger play accompanying it.
This Old Man
Learning to count to ten is made simple with this classic rhyme. Not to mention that the actual rhythm is always easy to remember and adds to the repetition skills.
Jack and Jill
Sometimes there are consequences to our actions. Jack and Jill teach us about just that with this cautionary tale.
Ring Around the Rosy
More of a song to accompany a game, this classic helps with social-emotional learning, knowing when to stop, and following the directions in the rhyme. And if we think about the lyrics and history, the song is actually about the plague.4
Polly Puts the Kettle On
Repetition is on high for this nursery rhyme, but teaching the opposites of on and off, repetition, phonics, and alteration are all skills developed when singing this classic.
We always promote reading to our little ones to help encourage certain developments. Nursery rhymes do the same and can be easier to “pull out” no matter where you are with your child. The key is for us as parents to remember the words. Visit here for a complete list of all the nursery rhymes so you can brush up on your childhood favorites!