Nursery Rhymes and Singing to Our Children

9 Nov 2018

What’s your ‘go-to’ Nursery Rhyme?

Baa, Baa Black Sheep? Twinkle Twinkle Little Star? Why did both my daughters say ‘row row’ before any other words? Coincidence? We all have our repertoire of nursery rhymes we sing to our children, (some of us more extensive than others!) but why are they so important? When was the last time you sang to your child? Between having two musician parents, we are a loud and musical household; there’s no denying it. But the reality of two working parents and the mad dash of collecting my children from daycare followed by dinner, bath, books, bed means even for us that sometimes a day can go by without them having little to no singing.

In my role as Music Program Manager at Oac, I stress the importance to our Educators the role that singing and nursery rhymes play from birth. It’s never too early to start singing and engaging your child with their voice. Nursery rhymes are often a child’s first experience with literacy. Rhyme and rhythm highlight the sounds and syllables in words. And understanding sounds and syllables helps children learn to read!


Think about how your voice sounds when you ask a question or when you retell an event to friends – children need to learn these language variations. Nursery rhymes and singing give children practice in pitch, volume and help us develop an ear for rhythm in language.  My own toddler at present has the most bizarre way of say ‘hello’ due to a book we’re reading that finishes with a monkey saying ‘hello.’ The repetition of the book and the fact we’ve read it every night for a fortnight (often 5 times in one sitting) has meant that she has picked up this unusual way of her greeting people with a very verbose hello.


Nursery rhymes expand your child’s imagination. It allows your child to go to an imaginary world where frogs say boom lah de dah de dah and cows jump over the moon! They transport children to a world of fantasy and play and can really develop your child’s visualisation skills through the use of actions. Many nursery rhymes and sayings also introduce early learning concepts such as counting, time, the weather and days of the week in an entertaining way.


So when do we sing? Any chance we get! Walking to the car, getting your shoes, dinner’s ready, time to brush our teeth. In early childhood we call these transition songs and we use them ALL the time. Children are ready to jump into action when they hear these songs and will often begin to join in with the singing. It’s amazing how a task for a child can appear more fun when sung! Try at home using a familiar tune such as ‘London Bridge’ for an activity that your child needs encouragement in. Eg ‘Everybody pack away, pack away, pack away. Everybody pack away, just like me.’


Look at your own child’s face when you sing to them and the satisfaction as they grow and can say the words with you. Nursery rhymes are repetitive and satisfying for them to sing. Most importantly, they’re seriously fun!


Richard Gill AO, conductor, teacher and tireless advocate for music education in Australia “We teach music because it is unique and good. We teach music so that children can make their own music. We teach music because it acts in a unique way on the heart, mind, soul and spirit of the child, stimulating thought and imagination in very special ways.”

Author: Erica Byrne (Music Program Manager)