By Melodie Veldhuizen
Most infants and toddlers enjoy rhymes – initially, even before language skills are established, by listening to Mom’s or Teacher’s voice reciting them, and later, by reciting them together and even later reciting them by themselves. It’s fun, especially when accompanied by appropriate gestures, movements and facial expressions. Rhymes certainly have great value for infants and toddlers of all ages and it’s never too early to expose your little one to them.
Why are rhymes of such value for infants and toddlers?
- They contain sophisticated resources that help infants and toddlers to develop an understanding of tone level, volume and language patterns. They stimulate their understanding and use of the written and spoken word.
- They enhance their imagination by transporting them to a world of play and fantasy and developing their visualising skills.
- They teach them more about the sequence of events as they have a beginning, middle and end, which is a good predecessor to stories.
- They improve their vocabulary by often containing words that don’t make out part of their everyday communication.
- It familiarises them with abstract concepts such as ‘up and ‘down’, ‘above’ and ‘below’’.
- With traditional rhymes a culture is preserved over generations. It offers a common bond between parents, grandparents and children, and between people who don’t know each other, but who share the same cultural background.
- By reciting and singing rhymes, even the shy child gains self-confidence and develops social skills. They are easy to learn, to sing/recite together in a group with other friends and to imitate the words accompanied by gestures and bodily movements. And it’s fun.
- It develops their memory, as they have to remember which word rhymes with the word in the previous line.
- The integration of rhymes, jingles, simple tunes, puzzles and tongue-twisters creates a language-rich environment where infants and toddlers are exposed to an extensive vocabulary, syntax complexity and language out of context.
- The combination of the sense of touch (tactile) and movements (kinesthetics) in activities where language is purposefully discovered, manipulated and experimented with, strengthens/improves their awareness of sounds and their ability to recognise words. These are skills which, according to educationalists, are essential before children learn to read. Rhymes strengthen their realisation that words consist of sounds.
- Rhymes can be enjoyed any time and any place – during bath time, before bedtime, while you are busy in the kitchen and they are helping you, while travelling in the car, or waiting in the doctor’s consulting rooms.
- It has a calming effect of small children. See what happens when you recite a favourite rhyme when you child is throwing a temper tantrum. And the sing-song reciting of a rhyme when rocking them to sleep.
Elements in rhymes which infants and toddlers identify with and enjoy
- Repetition, used to emphasise or to suggest a continuous action or sound. It also offers the opportunity for the child who cannot yet recite the entire rhyme with you, to participate when words or phrases are repeated.
- Imitating sounds, such as “Choo-choo train”, is easily imitated even by a child who is not skilled in language.
- Silly words without meaning. Kids find them funny and even if they cannot say the words yet, they enjoy the sound and rhythm.
- Dialogue in some rhymes lend themselves to dramatization and if Mom or Teacher imitates the voices, it provides loads of enjoyment.
- Action rhymes encourage them to clap their hands, to hop and to jump and are excellent for their motor development. It is even more fun when accompanied by facial expressions.
- Humour: infants and toddlers enjoy laughing at all kinds of peculiarities, which is why humoristic rhymes are always entertaining.
Where do I find rhymes and poems for my infant/toddler?
Rhyme books are plentiful in book shops and libraries, so go and browse there. The huge variety will offer you and your child hours of enjoyment.
Ira Parenting. https://iraparenting.com/toddler/nursery-rhymes-important-preprimary-kindergarten-children/
Smit, Gertie. Gebruikersgids in: Rympies vir kleintjies en kleuters. 2017.
Riana Scheepers, Suzette Kotzé-Myburgh en Gertie Smit (samestellers). Tafelberg Uitgewers.