The History of Nursery Rhymes Part OneAn Introduction
“Nursery rhymes” is a term which describes songs and poems traditionally used for children around the world. These nursery rhymes can be in the form of poems or songs, and many teach children vital skills such as dexterity, rhyming, mnemonics, and serve as the first introduction children have to language.
While they are not necessarily great literature, their patterns and vocal tones resonate with babies as young as one day old. Parents who sing these nursery rhymes to their babies in utero actually increase the recognition the baby has of the mother’s voice upon birth.
As children grow, more complex games can be used such as clapping games, where the parent and child clap with the beat of the song. Counting songs will teach children how to count and how to memorize things such as days of the week. As children get older, they can be introduced to riddles where metaphors are used, or fables, where a moral is taught.
The most popular nursery rhymes actually date back to the late 18th century and the early 19th century in Britain. In North America, the first nursery rhymes were not introduced until the mid-1700s. While some evidence exists that a handful were older than that, they were often used as a means of spreading news to others or making remarks about the current leaders. It was not until the Victorian society emerged that the notion of childhood was revered with longing, as though being a child was “the good old days”. After that, many of the popular nursery rhymes to date were officially recorded and shared with children.
These rhymes are still used today as a means of bonding between a child and their parent or caregiver. What families may not realize is that nursery rhymes are used around the world. There is a universal appeal to them that continues to make them popular. They are part of a long standing oral tradition to pass stories down from generation to generation. Whether children realize it or not, they do remember the rhymes and the vocal patterns as they age.
Once they start school, the foundation that these nursery rhymes established actually increases their reading and writing skills. It makes it easier for children to recognize words that sound the same, and determine their similar spelling.
Across all social and economic groups, the early use of nursery rhymes increases test scores for children once they reach school age. The cognitive and developmental benefits are well worth singing to a child early on, but most importantly, it is the emotional bond that is created between singer and child that is worth everything.
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