Monday, November 07, 2005

Nursery Rhymes: An Essential Parenting Tool

Damus, Damus, Dumpling
Boil him in the pot. (Tickle him all over.)
Sugar him and (tap him lightly)
Butter him and (rub him all over)
Eat him while he's hot. (Pretend to gobble him up.)

This is the nursery rhyme I tried out on Damus today and he loves it to bits. I got it out of a book called Baby Games: The Joyful Guide to Child's Play from Birth to Three Years by Elaine Martin. Apparently it's a traditional rhyme from Great Britain.

Since the birth of my first child, I've had to relearn many nursery rhymes. Yes, I've had to have a refresher course on old rhymes and update myself on new ones. (Well, maybe they weren't new. I just never heard them before). Don't laugh when I say my best teacher was Barney as I'm sure I'm not the Purple Dinosaur's only adult student.

Anyway, I believe that nursery rhymes are an essential parenting tool. Most definately it brings about all the language benefits that are highlighted in many articles and researches. But I do not wish to delve into the mechanics of how it works and introduce big words such as phonemic awareness or phonemic segmentation. It is good enough for me to know that nursery rhymes help our children learn to read and write.
The following are other ways how nursery rhymes have been an essential parenting tool to me:

  1. When I run out of funny noises and funny faces to make at baby, nursery rhymes come to the rescue.
  2. People say you should constantly talk to your growing baby. Well, I'm just not the talkative kind and not in the habit of rattling my head off to someone who can't talk back yet. So another way to have my voice ringing in my baby's ear is to keep on singing and chanting nursery rhymes.
  3. It's a great activity to keep toddlers busy in the car.
  4. One of the best way to liven up bonding time. You can make up actions to most of the rhyme (e.g. Wheels on the Bus, Eensy Weesy Spider). Come on, which toddler doesn't love to do the actions to Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star? Throw in some bouncing, jumping, clapping, rocking etc... and you would have already created your very own one-to-one music and movement session. FREE of charge!
  5. Children strive on parental love. The tickling, gentle stroking, hugging, kissing that you add to nursery rhymes (e.g. Round and Round the Garden) spells I-LOVE-YOU loud and clear.
  6. You can use nursery rhymes to introduce or be part of a specific topic or theme. Check out this page about PIGS. Get rid of the mentality that teaching should be left to schools. There is no better school than that of you own home. And there is no better teacher than YOU.
  7. Because the rhymes are short, easy, silly, nonsensical, sometimes violent, gruesome in a harmless and funny sort of way, it naturally appeals to children. It creates a fun atmosphere and children are learning without knowing it.
  8. I get a kick out of hearing them learn the rhymes. It can be hilarious at times. When my daughter was learning Baa Baa Black Sheep, she gave one of the bags to the "monster" instead of the "master." Little Damus is just soooo cute as he rushes to grab something to jump over when we recite "Jack be nimble, Jack be quick, Jack jumped over the candlestick." It's wonderful to see them beeming with confidence and high self esteem when they've learned to say the rhymes all by themselves.

Don't worry if you sing like a frog. My husband does (hehehe, sorry-ah dear). He even mutilates the rhymes as he forgets the words and makes up his own. Most of the time the melody is also made up. But that doesn't stop him entertaining the children or from soothing baby and getting them to sleep.

So my advice to all parents-to-be, use your 9 months to brush up on your nursery rhymes. (It will also help in prenatal bonding). There are so many more fun ones to learn (with finger plays and stuff) apart from your usual Baa Baa Black Sheep and Humpty Dumpty. If you need help, Barney is always available.


  1. hey...i too had to re-learn nursery rhymes! i found this page to be very useful! cause they provide the midi version of the music and also the lyrics...

  2. Sorry, but Barney sucks pondwater and is universally hated by children over the age of 4 or 5. It is mediocre TV and I'd assume you want your child to have the best of the best!

    Try your local library for GREAT Mother Goose collections. The best is "My First Mother Goose" illustrated by Rosemary Wells. We wore our copy out when my first daughter was a toddler--it's perfect for sharing. We also loved "Animal Crackers", a collection by Jane Dyson. There are lots of others as well.

    Kididdles IS a great site.

    "Sharon Lois and Bram" did a great recording called "Mainly Mother Goose"--it may be out of print but your library may have it, and lots of other such recordings.

    I do 2 "Mother Goose Time" programs a week where we sit the kids on our laps and do rhymes, tickles, songs, etc. It's fun, but the best fun is doing them at home. And if you don't know the words or the tunes, make up your own--that's how they got started in the first place!

  3. When Laura was little, I went through a phase when I felt embarrassed talking and singing to her in public. She was only a baby lah, looks silly talking to her when she can't reply right? I quickly got over that shyness. Do not be surprised if you see a 30-something-year-old chubby woman with two small kids, hopping and singing louder than the kids. It's probably me! :D

    I sang to Laura and Adam every chance I got. They both sang before they could talk. We also play nursery rhyme CDs and cassettes a lot at home and in the car. Good source of nursery rhymes (besides Barney)are the Wee Sing CDs and cassettes which sometimes come with a book with lyrics. Good Mandarin nursery rhymes and folk songs can be found at CD-rama (Popular book shops) on cassettes.


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