When I had my first baby, I remember singing and chanting to her when I changed her diaper. I don’t know where the words came from – I just somehow knew all the words to “The Little Piggy" while touching her little toes. She squealed with delight every time I chanted it.
I guess I learned the “piggy” jingle from my mother when I was a child and it was somehow lodged in my memory. Most nursery rhymes are really nonsense poems and folklore from the 17th and 18th centuries, but I found I liked singing these little rhymes so I went on a search for more.
When you sing or chant jingles or nursery rhymes to your baby, you're facilitating language acquisition and speech development. Furthermore, these rhymes can help develop strength and flexibility in tiny fingers and develop hand-eye coordination and familiarity with sequences and rhythm patterns. It’s also a wonderful way to spend time with your baby. Here's a list of some popular jingles and the area of child development that they address.
There are many traditional nursery or Mother Goose rhymes, which are accompanied by simple actions and finger movements. For example, "Little Turtle" involves snapping motions and tickles. "Little Caterpillar" uses wiggling and fluttering motions like a butterfly and in "Sleeping Bunnies," the fingers bounce up and down and then wave goodbye.
Other traditional rhymes include "Wiggle Fingers, Wiggle So" which teaches up, down, left and right, and "Round and Round the Garden" which involves circular motion on the baby’s palm or tummy and a surprise tickle under the chin. An excellent reference book with lots of rhymes is "Over the Hills and Far Away" compiled by Elizabeth Hammill. This anthology has rhymes from around the world and beautiful illustrations by 77 different artists.
Finger rhymes that involve hiding can help develop object permanence. Object permanence is the understanding that something exists even if the child can’t see it. For example, in "Two Little Dickie Birds," the thumbs imitate birds flying away behind the back, and then reappearing. There is much wonder and smiles from baby while watching the “thumb” birds appear and disappear. "Where is Thumbkin" also teaches object permanence as well as finger order. At “run and hide” the fingers disappear behind the back with much to the delight of your baby.
Counting and number songs provide an ideal way to practice numeral order and counting. A forward counting song is the very old rhyme "One, Two, Buckle My Shoe." In contrast, a backward counting rhyme is "Five Little Ducks." 'The Bee Hive" teaches counting to five while the fingers "come out of the hive.” Other favorites are "Five Fat Sausages" and "Ten in a Bed." Babies and toddlers love these rhymes and there's a lot of giggles and smiles while doing these counting activities together.
Try making up your own rhymes with your child’s favorite animal or stuffy! Instead of "Five Little Monkeys Swinging from a Tree," change the monkeys to “teddy bears” or “snakes." Instead of a mouse running up and down the clock in "Hickory Dickory Dock," try changing it to a “cat” or a “salamander." Ask your toddler to use their creative imagination to think up other verses as their fingers move to the jingles.
Rhymes and finger play activities can occur at any time of day. Changing diapers, bath time, or snack time are excellent times to introduce a rhyme. Sing or chant the same rhymes over and over to your baby. Children love familiarity and with the repetition of the same jingles, your baby will learn about predictability.
Of course, the main reason for finger rhymes is to spend time with your child, which in turn will create happy memories. And yes, finger rhymes are just as relevant today as they were when our parents and grandparents sang them.