The value of nursery rhymes

Plagues, persecution, babies falling from trees, fear of spiders… Though the subjects of nursery rhymes aren’t what you’d usually deem suitable for the ears of a small child, these fun tales have stood the test of time, being sung to children for over 500 years.

And despite the content seeming a little improper to adults, to kids these fun tales are a delight that will always raise a smile. From lost mittens to falling down hills, nursery rhymes quickly become close to a child’s heart, something passed on from generation to generation.

But the value of a nursery rhyme extends far beyond giving your kids a chuckle. Because these age-old tales are also incredibly powerful influencers on preschool development, playing a critical part in early literacy skills.

Vocabulary builder

Repetition is a great way for children to tune into new word. A rhyme’s repetition allows a child to hear the same word over again, helping them to remember what they just heard.

Teaching the structure of language

This repetition also helps a child to become accustomed to individual sounds and syllables that make up words, which is an important part of developing those early literacy skills.
From this, children learn how words are formed, and then how sentences are formed.

Listening skills

Introducing a child to listening to a short rhyme from beginning to end paves the way for sitting and sharing longer stories, developing their attention span and establishing a love for reading.

Introduction to stories

Nursery rhymes are a great introduction to the structure of stories, as many have the sequence of a beginning, middle and end. They are also a fabulous introduction to poetry.

Maths skills

Nursery rhymes are crammed with patterns, numbers, counting and sequencing. Many of them also include weight, size and other basic maths vocabulary.

Introduction to day-to-day concepts

Big, small, first, last, front, behind… nursery rhymes introduce abstract concepts and events in daily life. They also introduce humour!

Develop imagination

With sentences like ‘Fleece was white as snow’, nursery rhymes introduce literary devices such as alliteration, imagery and onomatopoeia and develop a child’s imagination.

Social skills

Nursery rhymes are often sung as a group activity, helping to connect a child to a group and making them feel part of a social circle. Sitting together holding hands to Row Row the Boat exposes your child to how a social group interacts, connects, and takes turns.

Connections to the past

Nursery rhymes provide roots and a connection to the past. Adults may remember singing them as a child with their parents, passing on the emotional connection from generation to generation.

Motor skills

Since nursery rhymes are taught with actions, this combination helps in gross and fine motor development. Combining the words with actions also stimulates the brain more, leading to a child remembering the rhyme and words quicker!

Exposure to rhythm and beats

The lyrical nature of nursery rhymes helps a child learn about rhythm and different beats. They help children develop auditory skills such as discriminating between sounds and developing an ear for the music of words.

Enhances the bond between child and carer

Sharing a nursery rhyme together is cherished quality time spent between carer and child, allowing a carer a chance to focus wholly on the shared activity without distraction.

Memory skills

It’s not just about a carer remembering the rhymes! Kids have to memorise them too! This repetition is a fun exercise in memory and learning.

They are fun!

These stories might not always make total sense in today’s world, but they are always fun to share! And if adults are having fun, children are far more likely to respond positively.


Not everyone is comfortable singing nursery rhymes straight away, but be confident as, no matter what you think about your singing, your child relishes in your voice and the time you spend together.

  • Sing slowly and clearly
  • Use props to support the songs
  • Involve the children
  • Be confident, they love to hear your voice!

If you aren’t confident, head to a hosted nursery rhyme event such as RhymeTime or StoryTime at your local library. You can find a full list of when these activities happen at the Sunshine Coast Libraries website.