Should We Abandon Nursery Rhymes? | Musical Play

Updated: Nov 17, 2020

Good old fashioned nursery rhymes. After all these years they are not outdated – rather, they have stood the test of time for a very good reason.

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Should we Abandon Nursery Rhymes? | Musical Play

Nursery rhymes are a tried-and-true educational tool in early childhood as they contain all the rhythmic movement patterns of early childhood: walking, running, skipping and galloping. They provide young children with a rich musical vocabulary of rhythmic patterns, melodies/tunes, emotional expression and predictable phrases that they can incorporate into their own Musical Play. With practise, children delight in making up their own songs and words based on this nursery rhyme vocabulary.


So, nursery rhymes are songs that we should not do without in teaching our young ones Musical Play.

Nursery rhymes have a predictable musical form with a clear beginning, middle and end. This helps children to anticipate each phrase of the song, and to join in with singing, gesture and movement. Think of the universal favourite nursery rhyme “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”. This song has six notes all within the child’s pitch range C-A. The song starts and ends the same way, and the middle section is repeated.


The song is simple, predictable and highly memorable.

You can play this on a set of chime bars – the notes are:

C C G G A A G,

F F E E D D C,

G G F F E E D,

G G F F E E D,

C C G G A A G,

F F E E D D C.


It can also be played using the numbers of the notes:

1 1 5 5 6 6 5,

4 4 3 3 2 2 1,

5 5 4 4 3 3 2,

5 5 4 4 3 3 2,

1 1 5 5 6 6 5,

4 4 3 3 2 2 1


Singing and dancing to nursery rhymes promotes listening, timing (being able to move sing and play in time with others), expression and playful interaction.


The nursery rhymes include use of predictable phrasing, accent, word patterning, dramatic expression and repetition. Rhythmic patterning lays the foundation for language.


rock-a-bye blues, Julie Wylie CD music for children babies toddlers

As well as nursery rhyme play and lap games, rhythmic babbling games can be played without the need for words. For example, 'Baa, baba, baa, dada, dada, daa,' on Julie Wylie’s CD 'Rock-a-Bye Blues.' Rhythmic patterning starts firstly with the mouth and vocal babbling, so try playing echo games together with your baby. Let your baby or young child be the vocal leader. Copy your child’s vocal sounds and gestures. These echo games help the young child to develop listening, singing and turn taking skills. By validating your child’s offerings, the child learns to become a proud performer.


If you’re looking for some direction, Julie Wylie’s CDs, 'Sing Baby Dance Baby' and 'Sing and Play' contain many catchy nursery rhymes, songs and lap games that promote tuneful singing, steady beat, rhythmic patterning and Musical Play.


Nursery rhymes have stood the test of time for a reason – they are easy, memorable and mimic the development of our wee ones. So, try incorporating good, old fashioned nursery rhymes into your Musical Play.

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