Why There’s More to Early Years Music than Nursery Rhymes

Nursery Rhymes

Nursery Rhymes are a valuable element of early years music provision, but nursery rhymes alone will not maximise the potential brain boosting benefits that music can offer in early years development.

At Boogie Mites we love nursery rhymes and traditional songs – the more singing, rhythm and rhyme the better! We all know that nursery rhymes are a valuable part of musical activities in early years, not least because of the regular repetition of these songs that under 5’s can be exposed to. These traditional rhymes and songs of any culture being sung by family and carers throughout the early months and up to 5 years in the home, at toddler groups and in the nursery, provide the repetition that will have a positive effect at this time when brain plasticity is at its greatest. Lullabies, nursery rhymes and traditional songs of every culture carry a special ‘signature’ of melodies and inflections of a mother tongue which helps to prepare your babies ear, voice and brain for language. Regular opportunities to hear these songs and rhymes will help support development of auditory processing skills and matching syllable beat patterns to language, all of which are known to support strong reading and writing skills. Indeed a research study showed that children who know 8 or more nursery rhymes by heart by the age of four years will be the better readers and writers by age 8 than those who don’t.

However we should not think that nursery rhymes and traditional songs provide all the benefits that music can bring to early years development. They provide a valuable element but there is so much more that children can do with, and get from different types of music making opportunities in early years. Neuroscience studies provide evidence that given the opportunity of regular varied and creative music provision, children in early years can develop the neural pathways that provide strong foundations not only for literacy and maths but for learning generally. Pretty amazing.

The 3 most important aims for music making that we can put into place to maximise the benefits for brain development- preparing the brain for learning generally and specifically foundations for literacy and maths are:

Feeling The Beat – developing rhythmic awareness

As soon as children are able to move, clap, grasp sticks or shakers to keep the beat, they can learn to synchronise actions, developing their rhythmic awareness.  Nursery rhymes go some way to support this development. Regular moving to and keeping the beat using body percussion, movement and instruments, to music with a strong steady drum beat will maximize the potential to develop rhythmic awareness.

Listening and Singing  – developing pitch and melodic awareness

Listening to musical arrangements from birth help to develop pitch and melodic awareness.  Encouraging children to listen to and sing daily with a wide range of melodies will help them to develop awareness of pitch, tempo, dynamics and to refine their ability to hear and sing in tune. Again nursery rhymes will go some way to support this development but listening to, singing with, and responding to recorded music of many different styles and genres will maximize the potential development of melodic awareness.

Playing with Words – developing phonological awareness

Playing with words through musical activities can further support this aim. Such as tapping syllables of words or phoneme sounds as part of a song and follow the leader sequencing of sounds and actions to music. Again nursery rhymes go some way to support this development but more specifically developed musical activities that focus on the sequencing of sounds, actions and syllables will maximize the development of phonological awareness.

At Boogie Mites we have written and recorded music of many different styles, using many different instruments, harmonies and developed specific musical activities so we can achieve the maximum brain boosting benefits that music can offer to support early years development, through regular practise. Also, and most importantly, we recognise the importance that this music is as enjoyable for the adults (parents and practitioners) taking part as it is for the children. Children in early years delight in taking part in the things that their significant adults enjoy taking part in. They will feed off the enthusiasm of adults taking part in Boogie Mites upbeat music making activities, the same enthusiasm for nursery rhymes is often lacking in adults – according to a recent survey. The themes of Boogie Mites songs are interesting to children in early years to further encourage their engagement.

Along with traditional nursery rhymes, Boogie Mites music programmes will provide practitioners and parents with a resource that they can use to turbo charge their music provision in the setting and the home, ensuring that their children get the maximum brain boosting benefits that music making offers at this vital foundation stage of development.