As soon as my daughter was born, I found myself singing to her almost immediately, as if it was instinctive. Considering nursery rhymes are believed to date back as early as the 13th century, the pastime is certainly ingrained in our culture (full article from Wikipedia, here). Today, a growing body of research has demonstrated the benefit of singing or recounting of nursery rhymes as a means to raise children’s phonetic awareness, create their first sentences, learn new vocabulary, and ultimately become more competent readers (Rhymers are Readers: The Importance of Nursery Rhymes). The repetition, intonation, and short duration promote memory and demonstrate how language works (The Surprising Meaning and Benefits of Nursery Rhymes).
Now that my daughter is two, and my son one, I have found I have gravitated towards both traditional and contemporary nursery rhymes as a means to help them self-regulate in times they are bored, tired, or having to transition from one activity to the next (usually from something fun to something less fun). Research has shown that nursery rhymes lead to greater vocabulary, and that greater vocabulary leads to better self-regulation (Use Your Words: The Role of Language in the Development of Toddlers’ Self-Regulation). Admittedly, I didn’t know that when I started, but it has been successful for us overall.
Here are some of the situations and their song pairings in our household.
- Cleaning-Up – Barney & Friends – “Clean-up, clean-up everybody everywhere. Clean-up, clean-up, everybody do your share”
- Crossing the Street – Source unknown – My daughter is allowed to walk freely when we are out in certain places, in certain circumstances. However, she always has to hold my hand as we cross the street. The loss of freedom to cross the street used to really upset her. The use of this song has been hugely helpful. She holds my hand when prompted and sings along keenly,
“Stop, look, and listen before we cross the street. Stop look and listen before we cross the street. We must use our eyes and use our ears, before we use our feet, before we cross the street.” By the time the song is done, we have made it across. And she can go back to being a bit more free.
- Washing Hands – Source unknown – “Wash, wash, wash your hands. Wash them nice and clean. Wash your pinky and your thumb and your fingers in between.”
- Brushing Teeth – Raffi – “When you wake up in the morning, and it’s a quarter to one and you want to have a little fun, you brush your teeth. Ch! Ch! Ch! Ch! Ch! Ch! Ch! Ch!”
- Going to Bed – Source unknown – “Au claire de la lune mon ami Pierrot. Prêt-moi ta plume, pour écrire un mot. Ma chandelle est morte; je n’ai plus de feu. Ouvre-moi ta porte, pour l’amour de Dieux.” We use a french lullaby, because our family is billingual.
- Waiting in line, in a car – we tend to rotate between many – I tend to gravitate towards songs such as the Wheels on the Bus and Old MacDonald as they tend to carry on and everyone can contribute something on the bus/ farm.
For further reading, The Brain in Singing and Language.
What songs do you sing in your family? Please share!