Importance of Nursery Rhymes for babies, toddlers & preschoolers!

If you're a parent, grandparent, aunt, or pretty much any person with ears - you've heard a nursery rhyme a time or two. They seem so simple, but do you know the importance of nursery rhymes for young children? You'd be surprised just how much brain development is happening as we repeat these repetitive rhymes. I'm going to break this down with not only the benefits of nursery rhymes, but also a list of nursery rhymes, how to make nursery rhymes more fun, and even some nursery rhymes activities to enjoy. Keep reading!

importance of nursery rhymes for babies, toddlers and preschoolers

Scroll down for our list of nursery rhyme activities.

PS: You can find our Nursery Rhyme BUNDLE in the shop with nursery rhyme posters and playdough mats!

As parents we can grow tired of repeating nursery rhymes over, and over, and over, and over, and - you get the idea. It grows old real fast! But here's the thing: repeating those nursery rhymes is so good for our little one's brain development. (Don't worry, I'll explain below.) 

So while you're ready to pull your hair out at repeating "Row, row, row your boat" for the 86th time - your child is really benefiting. Plus, I'll include some ways to make it a bit more fun and mix things up below! Just keep reading.

If you're looking for more helpful articles like these, make sure you check out:

Benefits of nursery rhymes

First things first - what is the importance of nursery rhymes? The biggest benefit of nursery rhymes is that it develops language and the skills needed to learn to read. (How cool is that?)

But more specifically, you'll find that nursery rhymes provide the following benefits.

Develops language: Children need to be exposed to spoken language early on and singing nursery rhymes is a great way of doing this. As your child listens to nursery rhymes and they hear the sounds in the words that are sung to them, they will start to figure out how to put sounds and then words together (so make sure you're singing lots of them to your babies!)

They will also pick up on pitch, rhythm, and voice inflection and can start to explore trying out different pitches and volumes. They may also pick up new vocabulary and sentences that they otherwise don't hear in normal conversation. (How often do you really talk about rowing a boat?) They will also feel less pressure as they learn how to get their words out while singing along.

Learn basic math: Many nursery rhymes will recite some basic math skills such as counting forwards or backwards. For example, Five Little Speckled Frogs will teach counting and subtracting as each frog jumps into the water and you're left with one less frog. Some songs also talk about weight and size, as well.

Develop literacy skills: Nursery rhymes can help kids learn to read! They learn sequence, vocabulary, sentence structure, and more. In fact, there are a great variety of pre-reading skills you can introduce with nursery rhymes. Nursery rhymes are also great for teaching children to follow instructions and for introducing them to rhyming and poetry. 

Sparks the creative mind: Nursery rhymes encourage acting out via dramatic play, so your child is further developing creativity. This also means they will develop a strong sense of self and confidence as they express themselves without pressure. When you match this with finger play, they will develop their creativity even farther. Many nursery rhymes are relatable to young children, but singing about things beyond their own experiences will help them explore the world around them and in turn help them become more imaginative. 

Gross motor development: As they repeat the words in nursery rhymes, they will work the muscles in their tongue and mouths. Many nursery rhymes involve actions that require children to get up and move, so whilst singing they are also learning to move and co-ordinate their bodies. Should they choose to engage in dramatic play as well, they will be using other muscles throughout their body too!

Explore their environment: For babies, nursery rhymes can also help them explore and learn more about the environment around them. They learn about different facial expressions, what they mean, look for emotional cues, and much more. (So make sure you fake cry as you sing about babies crying along to Wheels on the Bus!)

Builds memory: As children learn the songs and the movements that go with them, they are developing memory. Everything from what happens in the rhyme to what words come next. The repeated phrases and rhythmic pattern of these rhymes make them easy for toddlers and preschoolers to remember. 

How many nursery rhymes should your child know?

The next question after the benefits that you might have is how MANY should you be putting your effort into reciting? Well.... how every many you want, really. Don't stress on this too much.

Children will naturally pick up all kinds of nursery rhymes as they hear them. However, experts have found that if your child knows 8 by heart by the time they are 4 years of age, they tend to be the top of their class as far as reading and spelling goes when they hit year 3 (or 1st grade for US readers).

But don't worry, those will develop over time. Nursery rhymes should be sung for fun as much as anything. I'll even supply you with a list of nursery rhymes!

List of nursery rhymes suggestions

If you're wanting to introduce some more nursery rhymes, this list should help. Please note that these are not exclusive to each age group, you can definitely sing baby nursery rhymes to preschoolers if they're interested!

List of nursery rhymes for babies

For babies gentle lullabies or simple action rhymes are perfect. 

  • Hush, Little Baby
  • Rock-A-Bye-Baby
  • Round and Round the Garden
  • This little piggy
  • If You're Happy And You Know It
  • Zoom Zoom Zoom

List of nursery rhymes for toddlers and preschoolers

You will find the first 17 nursery rhymes with words in our printable nursery rhyme set

  1. Old MacDonald Had a Farm
  2. The Wheels on the Bus
  3. Five Little Ducks
  4. 12345 Once I Caught a Fish Alive
  5. Ten Fat Sausages
  6. Five Currant Buns in a Bakers Shop
  7. Hickory Dickory Dock
  8. Ba Ba Black Sheep
  9. Humpty Dumpty
  10. Row Row Your Boat
  11. Little Miss Muffet
  12. Jack and Jill Went up the Hill
  13. Five Little Monkey's Jumping on the Bed
  14. Miss Polly Had a Dolly
  15. Mary Mary Quite Contrary
  16. Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
  17. Itsy Bitsy Spider
  18. Five Little Speckled Frogs
  19. Alphabet Song (a popular song reciting the letters)
  20. Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes
  21. Rain Rain Go Away
  22. It's raining, It's Pouring
  23. Mulberry Bush
  24. Pat-A-Cake
  25. Bingo (B-I-N-G-O)
  26. I'm a Little Teapot
  27. Johny Johny
  28. Little Bo Peep
  29. Mary Had a Little Lamb
  30. Two Little Dickie Birds
  31. Horsey Horsey
  32. The Bear Went Over The Mountain
  33. This Old Man
  34. Skip To My Lou
  35. The Muffin Man
  36. Three Blind Mice
  37. The Farmer in the Dell
  38. Old King Cole
  39. London Bridge is Falling Down
  40. Old King Cole
  41. Frere Jacques

How to make nursery rhymes more fun

We can now agree that there are huge benefits of nursery rhymes, but that doesn't change how monotone they can become. That's where it's time to make them a bit more fun!

You can spice up your nursery rhymes and make them a bit more fun in a few ways:

  • Act out the nursery rhymes with props or explore nursery rhyme related items.
  • Utilise finger play while you sing the nursery rhymes
  • Change up the words and see if they notice (or encourage them to have fun changing the words up themselves).
  • Play fun videos from YouTube or Netflix (such as Little Baby Bum)
  • Seek out activities and printables to do along with the nursery rhymes (see below)

Nursery rhyme activities

We have quite a few nursery rhyme activities here on the blog as well as a printables. If you'd like to check out our Nursery Rhyme BUNDLE, it includes playdough mats and posters for 17 different popular Nursery Rhymes! 

We also have a set of nursery rhyme choosing cards that are great for letting children choose which nursery rhyme they would like to sing or for displaying the nursery rhyme of the day or week. Click here to head to the shop and check out all our nursery rhyme printables!

In addition to the nursery rhyme printables in our shop, you can check out these other activities below.

Old MacDonald Story Stones: You can use these story stones to let them "build a farm" or use them as you sing along to Old MacDonald to choose the next animal! 

nursery rhymes for babies, toddlers and preschoolers

Wheels on the Bus Painting Activity: Pair this famous nursery rhyme with painting! It's such a fun and engaging activity.

nursery rhyme activity ideas

Five Little Ducks Craft: This craft is so cute and a great way to learn to count while singing the popular Five Little Ducks nursery rhyme.

nursery rhyme list for babies, toddlers and preschoolers

Frog Puppet Craft: This cute craft goes great along with speckled frog. You can use them to really illustrate each one jumping into the water!

benefit of nursery rhymes

Farm Animal Paper Craft: Sing along and glue down each animal as you go through the different verses. This is such a cute craft for the nursery rhyme Old Mac Donald had a Farm!

list of nursery rhymes

Little Bo Peep Name Hunt: Help kids learn their name while including this fun nursery rhyme all about little bo peep!

importance of nursery rhymes

Incy Wincy Spider Craft: After you make this cute spider, you can act out the nursery rhyme! Harry sure loved acting out the spider going down the spout when he was younger.

rhyming activities for kids

Magnetic Fishing Number Game: Sing along to 1234 Once I Caught A Fish Alive as you play this fun counting game. Great for kids learning basic math skills!

importance of rhymes for toddlers and preschoolers

And here are even more nursery rhyme activity ideas for you to check out:

I hope this helped you understand the importance of nursery rhymes and gave you some good ideas to make them even more exciting! Babies, toddlers, preschoolers really enjoy them and they are so good for their development. The included list of nursery rhymes is sure to help you get started if you haven't already. And don't forget to check out the Nursery Rhyme Printables from our shop!

If you are looking for more activity ideas for babies and toddlers check out our list of baby painting and toddler painting ideas

The importance of nursery rhymes for babies, toddlers and preschoolers. List of nursery rhymes, benefits of nursery rhymes and nursery rhyme activity ideas.

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