Busy schedules along with high tech toys and screens have contributed to a decrease in parents reading nursery rhymes to their children and at great cost. Speech therapists tell me that kids are entering grade school lacking basic phonics skills and vocabulary, and they point to a lack of rhyming and parents reading to children as the main culprits. Reciting nursery rhymes while snuggling at bedtime allows kids to feel supported, engaged, and loved. Some of my fondest memories as a father were those nighttime rituals of performing rhymes together with my kids. Let me see if I can motivate you to bring back this tradition to your family.
Nursery rhymes are perfect for babies and toddlers. They are short and simple to recite or sing. They include words that begin and end with the same sounds, helping children’s brains to recognize syllables, hear similarities in patterns, increase phonological awareness, and increase vocabulary. Children also practice pitch, volume, and voice inflection, as well as the rhythm of language. Nursery rhymes are short and easy to repeat, so they become some of a child’s first sentences. Research has shown that in 1945, the average elementary school student had a vocabulary of around 10,000 words compared to only 2,500 today. One reason for this is that screens have taken over the time parents used to read to kids or recite jingles on car rides.
There is also research that shows that children benefit more from their father reading them bedtime stories than their mother. Dads have a tendency to go off script, make up new versions of the rhymes and stories, make exciting comparisons to experiences they’ve had together, and challenge kids to think outside the box. Girls in particular were found to benefit more when read to by a male. The study also found that kids seemed more tuned in when their dads read to them.
Here’s another benefit of rhyming: it increases processing fluency allowing kids to process information more quickly and easily. We are all more likely to remember ideas and believe them when information or marketing is done in verse. Research has shown that children who enter kindergarten knowing nursery rhymes have an easier time learning how to read.
There is great power in parents sitting down and telling stories or reciting nursery rhymes because it allows children to paint their own pictures in their heads about the story. Kids also revel in times when they have their mom or dad’s full attention. Research shows that muscle tension and heart rate decreases within six minutes of turning the pages, allowing all parties to feel more relaxed. Reading with dad causes kids to develop more confidence, self-esteem, and a closer relationship.
Don’t sit on your tuffet like Little Miss Muffet. Go find a good book or two of nursery rhymes and let the fun and learning begin.