When you sing nursery rhymes in your children, you might be telling a similar poems and tales that, in certain form, were told by firelight from parents on their children centuries ago, possibly even as far back as the Middle Ages. Determining the origins of those famous tales before we were holding written down doesn’t seem possible, however, many have made guesses regarding early roots. “Ring Around the Rosy” may talk about the swollen cysts that afflicted the sick through the Black Death. You might be recalling a historical Welsh king in “Old King Cole” who drowned inside a swamp 1700 years back, along with poemas para niños cortos “Little Miss Muffet” the daughter of a bug expert in Shakespearean England, or perhaps a queen beheaded to be with her Catholic faith in “Mary Mary Quite Contrary.” These stories have undergone so many changes in the centuries that these meanings -if they did originate over these long-ago dark circumstances -are mostly obscured.
“Many of such songs are not originally for youngsters,” says Kay Vandergrift, Professor Emerita of Children’s Literature at Rutgers University. Most of those songs were portion of an oral-based society that relayed news, spread coded rumors about authority figures, and resolved its moral dilemmas (for kids and adults) in rhyme and song. And existing nonsense rhymes that were portion of this oral tradition could be used or adapted to make references to current events. It was in the nineteenth century, when Victorian society sentimentalized childhood and romanticized “quaint” times in the past, that a lot of nursery rhymes were written down and presented as for youngsters only.
How are these poems-inhabited by kings, queens and peasants of a rural past predating electricity, television and computers-still highly relevant to twenty-first-century kids and parents? If we are up to now removed in the world that hatched these rhymes, how is it that we still read them? Some of the reasons people sang nursery rhymes to each other in the past remain reasons why you should do so today. Here are four major reasons nursery rhymes could be beneficial for the kids:
1. They are great for the brain. Not only does the repetition of rhymes and stories teach children how language works, what’s more, it builds memory capabilities that might be applied to all kinds of activities. Furthermore, as Vandergrift suggests, nursery rhyme books will often be a child’s first knowledge about literacy: “Even before they are able to read, children can sit and understand how a book works.” This extends to the pictures and music connected with nursery rhymes: it’s a full visual and oral experience.
2. Nursery rhymes conserve a culture that spans generations, providing something in accordance among parents, grandparents and kids-and also between people that do not know the other person. Seth Lerer, Humanities Professor at the University of California San Diego and expert inside the history of children’s literature, says that reading nursery rhymes to kids is, partly, “to participate in a long tradition … it’s actually a shared ritual, there’s almost a non secular quality to it.”
3. They are an incredible group activity. Susie Tallman, who has put out several award-winning nursery rhymes CDs, and is also a nursery school music teacher, describes how singing nursery rhymes allows all kids-even shy ones-to feel confident about singing, dancing and performing as they are so easy to recognize and fun: “It builds confidence in front of my eyes,” she says. “They really begin to see the connection between movement, rhythm and words.” She has also had kids of ages collaborate on making music videos for his or her favorite nursery rhymes.