Rhyme of the Week


Are you like the one in four adults in the UK who are unable to remember a whole nursery rhyme?  Have you wondered about the significance of nursery rhymes to a child of today?

Experts in literacy and child development have discovered that if a child knows 8 nursery rhymes by heart by the time they are 4 years old, they are usually among the best readers and spellers in their class by the time they are in Primary 3.


Why is this?

  1. Nursery rhymes are a great way to learn early phonic skills (the ability to hear, identify and manipulate letter sounds).  Most schools use phonics as one of the main ways to teach reading.
  2. Nursery rhymes give children practice in pitch, volume as well as the rhythm of language.  Thinks about how your voice sounds when you ask a question or when you retell an event to friends – children need to experience and learn these variations in language.
  3. Nursery rhymes extend your child’s imagination.  Nursery rhymes allow your child to escape to an imaginary world where blackbirds are baked in pies, and vinegar and brown paper are a cure for cracked heads. They transport children to a world of fantasy and play can really develop your child’s visualisation skills using actions.
  4. Nursery rhymes follow a clear sequence of events.  Although short most nursery rhymes tell a story with a beginning, middle and end.  They are mini stories which are simple for young children to follow and understand.  Children need to understand sequences of events when they read and write.
  5. Nursery rhymes are easy to repeat, so they become some of a child’s first sentences.  Children start to speak by using single words, ‘car’ and eventually put these together to express meaning ‘me go car’.  Nursery rhymes allow young children to speak and develop understanding in full sentences; another skill needed for reading.
  6. Nursery rhymes improve children’s vocabulary.  Children hear and use new words that they might not come across in everyday language, e.g. Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water’, or ‘When the bough breaks’ from Rock a Bye baby.  
  7. Nursery rhymes are an early form of poetry.  Your child will need to read, study and write about poetry throughout their school career.
  8. Nursery Rhymes contain complex literary concepts.  Things like alliteration e.g. Goosy goosy gander – the initial sounds being the same; onomatopoeia in ‘Baa Baa Blacksheep’ and rhyme in ‘Twinkle twinkle little star, how I wonder what you are?’
  9. Nursery rhymes are a powerful learning source in early literacy.  They enable children to become interested in the rhythm and patterns of language.
  10. Nursery rhymes are fun!  Quite often nursery rhymes make no sense or have unexpected endings – this is something children enjoy.  Have a look at this less well-known verse of ‘Pop goes the weasel’: round and round the mulberry bush, the monkey chased the weasel. The monkey stopped to pull up his socks, and pop goes the weasel


How can I introduce nursery rhymes?

  1. Start with simple rhymes which are not too lengthy.
  2. Use facial expressions, actions and vary your voice to capture your child’s interest.
  3. As your child becomes familiar with the rhymes, encourage them to join in with the words and actions (it will take a while before they can recite the rhymes independently, the key is repetition).
  4. Remember that nursery rhymes are portable, they can be enjoyed anytime and anyplace.  Share them at bath time, bedtime, whilst cooking tea, out on walks or in the car and remember they can be fantastic distractions when children are struggling with their emotions.


Things to do with nursery rhymes

  1. Miss out rhyming words: encourage your child to finish the line.
  2. Change words to make your own personalized rhymes e.g. in Baa Baa Blacksheep sing ‘one for __________ who lived down the lane’ putting in your child’s name.
  3. Devise your own actions letting your child suggest what they could do.
  4. Clap along and establish a steady beat.
  5. Say the wrong words and let your child correct you.
  6. Make a nursery rhyme prop box or bag.  Collect items that feature in favourite rhymes.
  7. Paint/draw your favourite scenes or characters in the rhyme.
  8. Visit the library to borrow nursery rhyme books to extend the number you and your child know
  9. Buy a CD/digital copy of a selection to sing along to in the car/at home


  1. Website links: