Using Nursery Rhymes to Educate Children

Nursery Rhymes are a great way to teach young children, children with developmental disorders, and even adults with global delays. They often incorporate core language words, basic concepts (spatial positions, number and letter recognition, etc.).  They are repetitive.  Studies show that repetition is helpful for developing vocabulary.  The repetition is what allowed us to carry these folktales down for generations.  It's easier to memorize things that are repetitive; this also makes vocabulary "stick" for our learners.  

What are core language words?  These are the "building blocks" of language. They occur frequently and are important for learning communication.  Therapists and teachers often use these in communication boards, classroom materials, and in their teaching.  

This visual for Itsy Bitsy Spider highlights spatial positions (you can download it here).  

This visual corresponds with Five Little Ducks and highlights number recognition, one to one correspondence, and counting.  You could also work on pragmatics (emotions) when the Mama duck becomes sad.  

Humpty Dumpty borderlines on the old fairytales that go a step too far...some kids might not be able to handle that Humpty can't be put together again.  At the same time, this is also a great opportunity for learning...because life is like Humpty Dumpty sometimes.  That being said, you won't find me reading Goosey Goosey Gander any time soon.  ;) 

How can I use Nursery Rhymes at home? You can incorporate nursery rhymes throughout your day: while you're getting dressed, while you're playing, while you're fixing dinner, in the car. You can use nursery rhymes anywhere!  Using hand gestures and visuals can increase attention, participation, and memory for your child.  You and your child can dress up as characters, act out scenes, or even watch videos of these fun songs while riding in the car or while you're busy and can't engage directly with your child.  Kids love dressing up and can often find a "costume" out of things around the house.

You could also include coloring pages or posters at home for practice and extra fun. 

How can I use Nursery Rhymes in my classroom?  You can use these throughout the day in instruction. They can be a part of your circle time, library center, arts and crafts, and more!  If you're unsure about copyright or other laws, you can check to be sure if nursery rhymes are owned by the public domain prior to creating your own materials.  

You are probably already doing this....even the ABC song is a nursery rhyme! :)  

How can I use Nursery Rhymes in virtual learning? Thankfully, more and more resources are being created to help with this!  I have found that using a combination of digital and paper materials can be very engaging for most children.  I've had even more success when I dressed up in a silly costume or brought props to tie it all together (Old MacDonald could wear overalls...the itsy bitsy spider could appear on a string, etc.  Make it fun...this will probably help both you and the child on the other side of the screen).

I'm working on putting together my farmer costume for an upcoming week of fun with animals! This was a fun day during a beach themed week. 

This shows how you can incorporate real toys, AAC materials, and digital resources at the same time.  Throw in a farmer costume and you've got the perfect virtual learning (or face to face) setup!

Visuals, Visuals, Visuals!  I'll probably never stop saying and sharing this.  Visuals are just so important for all of us.  We use them as adults to help guide us in traffic, office buildings, and in our daily living.  They are equally important for children, as most children are visual learners.  Sometimes we get stuck in a pattern of using visuals only for children who are nonverbal, but ALL of us can benefit from visuals.  You can learn more about incorporating visuals at home and in the classroom here.

This is a one page nursery rhyme selection board.  It corresponds with the AAC visual pictured above and described below.  The set comes with pieces for making a choice, e-book Boom Card versions of the stories, and pieces that you can use with velcro to help children to communicate their choice.  The set also includes outlined coloring pages and one page posters/visuals for each individual nursery rhyme.  When I've used these in combination within my teletherapy and face to face sessions, we've had better attention, less boredom (self included), and more verbal participation. The visuals work with skilled interventions (picture cues, cloze procedure, etc).  Recently, I've been creating the sets and mailing them to my teletherapy patients. That way they have the same AAC set, visuals, and coloring pages for home carryover.  I provide caregiver education/coaching for parents to use these at home.  It has been wonderful to see them pull these out and use them each week!

Growing Bundle: I have worked to put together a combination of visuals, AAC with core language words, and digital resources to bring nursery rhymes together for young children.  I have a growing resource on Teachers Pay Teachers.  The great thing about "growing bundles" is that you typically pay a low price at the start and the price goes up as materials are added.  On TpT, if you've already bought the resource, you can download updates for free! My Nursery Rhyme Growing Bundle has grown already, but it is still priced low so that both families and professionals can access these materials affordably. 

The set will include the following (✔ indicates it has already been included):

✔ One Page Nursery Rhyme Board

✔ 2 Choice/Want Boards

✔ 12 Pictures for Selection

  • Hey Diddle Diddle
  • ✔ABC
  • ✔5 Little Ducks
  • ✔Hickory Dickory Dock
  • ✔ Itsy Bitsy Spider (included with AAC Board)
  • ✔Old MacDonald
  • Row Row Row Your Boat
  • ✔Humpty Dumpty
  • ✔Baa Baa Black Sheep
  • Mary had a Little Lamb
  • B-I-N-G-O
  • ✔Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
  • ✔Twinkle Twinkle Little Star...What a Wonderful Boy/Girl You Are (Mental Health)
  • ✔Bonus: Johnny Johnny Boom Cards e-book (Indian Folklore)
  • Coloring Pages and One Page Visuals
    • ✔Twinkle Twinkle, ABC, Old MacDonald, 5 Little Ducks, Humpty Dumpty, Itsy Bitsy Spider, Hickory Dickory Dock, Baa Baa Black Sheep
    • Hey Diddle Diddle, Row Row Row Your Boat, Mary Had a Little Lamb, B-I-N-G-O

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