Why Nursery Rhymes are Important

In Uncategorized on July 4, 2013 at 2:55 pm
Arabic Nursery Rhymes

Arabic Nursery Rhymes

فتحي يا وردة، سكري يا وردة،

هون شكلة، هون بكلة،

هون دبوس وهون عروس!

تريمسي يا تريمسي، يا حبة العديسي،

هاتي ايدك يا عروس، يا إم الحلق والدبوس

Ok, admit it. If you know the above rhymes, you’re probably smiling right now. You’ve most likely remembered your mother or grandmother singing one of them to you, holding your hand and pinching your palm. Or, you remembered dancing a flower in a circle with friends. Most likely, you repeated one of them to yourself to the same tune you learned as a child. How is it that these often silly nonsensical rhymes seem to reach out to us so easily from the past? And is there a benefit to having learned them all those years ago?

Nursery rhymes are part of an oral tradition passed down from one generation to the next. The origin of many of them is often hazy, with some born out of certain historical, political and economic contexts and others seemingly invented for pure amusement. However, because they are part of an oral tradition, told person to person, we tend to forge a nostalgic attachment to them and therefore maintain the tradition of retelling them generation to generation. But, what more do children get out of them, asides from the pleasure and comfort of inter-generational continuity?

Nursery Rhymes Aid Language Development

Nursery rhymes are a great introduction to the rules of communication. They introduce children to narrative structure, to a story having a beginning and an end, and they do it in a fun and concise form that’s easy for very young children to handle. The rhythm and beat of nursery rhymes help children understand where words begin and end, and because they are often in a colloquial language, they are a great way to help kids understand intonation patterns. Most importantly though, nursery rhymes help build something called phonemic awareness. Phonemic awareness refers to a person’s ability to identify the units of sound that make up a word. Since a rhyme requires you to exchange one unit of sound for another to form a new word (ex: Cat/ Hat), it’s a great tool to introduce young children to phonemes in a language. Studies show that there is a correlation between children’s phonemic awareness and their reading and writing ability when they are older*.


Nursery Rhymes Help Teach Certain Concepts

Many nursery rhymes often introduce things like shapes, colors, numbers, letters, professions, seasons and animals. Not only that, they also introduce kids to the different parts of the body, changes in seasons and different kinds of food… They’re short, fun and easy to remember, and a great way to start a conversation about many topics, from animals to counting to even language itself.


Nursery Rhymes Aid in Emotional Development

Because of the oral nature of nursery rhymes, knowing them often means a parent or caregiver has taken the time to share them. This tradition of retelling something from the past to someone who may pass it on in the future is a means of creating a bond between different generations. The interactive nature of nursery rhymes is a great way for parents and kids to bond emotionally. Moreover, there is plenty of emotional territory for kids to explore in the narrative of rhymes. Often, nursery rhymes will introduce a subject such as fear, change, loosing something or the first day of school, all topics kids can identify with and yet tackle with humor.


So go ahead, sing together. Nursery rhymes are not only fun, they’re also beneficial. And if you need a little refresher, are looking for colorful books and videos to go along with the songs or want a CD to sing along to on a long car ride, check out the collections put out by Al Salwa Publishing, Little Thinking Minds and the vintage compilation by Elias Rahbani.


*Snider, Vicki E..The Relationship between Phonemic Awareness and Later Reading Achievement, The Journal of Educational Research, Vol. 90, No. 4 (Mar. – Apr., 1997), pp. 203-211.

Danielson, Elaine. The Importance of Nursery Rhymes, ERIC 2000.

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