According to Mem Fox, an educationalist and children’s author, ‘Experts in literacy and child development have discovered that if children know eight nursery rhymes by heart by the time they’re four years old, they’re usually among the best readers by the time they’re eight’.
Using rhymes enhances children’s communication and language skills. Rhymes are mentioned in Development Matters over 35 times and all areas of learning and development can be taught through this medium.
Top tips for a successful rhyme time:
- Consider the noise levels in your setting – If the environment is too noisy, some children may have difficulty concentrating on their tasks or listening. If you play music all the time, ask why. Are the children listening to it, or is it just a background noise?
- Ensure there is enough space – Action songs and rhymes need adequate space for children to move around. Neuroscience has told us that movement enhances learning, so let’s get our bodies moving while we rhyme!
- Limit distractions as much as possible – Children need to listen attentively and see clearly so consider what else is going to happen around them during the rhyme time session. Are the tables being set for lunch and the trolley being wheeled through? Think how distracting that will be. Simply by changing the direction that the children face, you may be able to limit these distractions.
- Use signs, props and puppets – Can you enhance the session for children by making it more active? Instead of reciting a long rhyme together, act out parts together or invite children to share their ideas of actions you can use.
- Can we take our rhymes outside? – When you are outside you can be louder, bigger and more active during your rhyme time session. Imagine the sensory experience of singing, ‘It’s raining, it’s pouring…’ outside in the rain!
- Less is more – Remember that children learn through repetition, so using few songs and rhymes and repeating them regularly will enhance children’s learning.
You may like to reflect on these points during a rhyme time session:
- How are you making the session engaging?
- How can you take account of each child’s unique needs?
- Is a large group meeting the needs of the children who struggle to pay attention, listen and understand?
- Can they see the book / pictures / props and hear what is being said?
- Do you have their attention, or are they being distracted by other things?
- Are the children familiar with the vocabulary involved?
- Is the rhyme too complicated for their age and stage of development?
- Are the children with more developed skills being adequately challenged?
- How can you make the rhyme time active and multi-sensory?
Engaging with parents
Rhymes are the perfect olive branch for engaging with parents. Invite parents in to share their favourite rhymes and ask those who have English as an additional language to teach you some in their home language. You may like to set up a lending library between home and the setting, so that parents can borrow a rhyme bag or rhyme book to use with their child at home. This could become a reciprocal relationship whereby you borrow books from parents too (make sure they are named!). Some settings organise events e.g. lads and dads rhyme time or link in with your local library who may already run a rhyme time session.
Whatever you do this summer, get rhyming! So I’ll end on a ditty, ‘Twinkle, twinkle, way up there… Let’s get rhyming everywhere!’
About the author
Tamsin Grimmer is an experienced early years consultant and trainer and parent who is passionate about young children’s learning and development. She believes that all children deserve practitioners who are inspiring, dynamic, reflective and committed to improving on their current best. Tamsin particularly enjoys planning and delivering training and supporting early years practitioners and teachers to improve outcomes for young children.