Nursery rhymes for brain development

Nursery rhymes have been passed down to children for generations.

We know rhyming is a great way for children to learn about sounds, words and language but did you know nursery rhymes also develop maths, social, emotional and motor skills.

Take Five Little Ducks, for example. Learning and saying this rhyme together can help your child learn skills which will support their development and growth in many areas.

Maths skills

Nursery rhymes are based on patterns and sequencing, and many of them involve counting and numbers.

Five Little Ducks is a fun way to introduce counting and patterns. Help your child count along and guess how many ducks will come back the next time they all go out.

More rhymes with counting include: Monkeys on the Bed, Tena Koe, Ma is White, This Old Man (Knick Knack), or One Two Three Four Five (Once I caught a fish alive).

Social skills

Rhymes are a great way for children to play together and feel part of a group. It can also be great bonding time with you without distractions.

Rhymes that are great in groups: Ring around the Rosy, Row Your Boat or Hokey Pokey.

Emotional skills

The stories told in nursery rhymes often involve a range of emotions. Think of when the spider frightens Miss Muffet or when Humpty Dumpty couldn’t be put back together again.

In Five Little Ducks, use emotion to tell the story – for example, shock when one of the little ducks goes missing each time; sadness when all of the little ducks are gone; excitement when all five little ducks come back.

Motor skills

When you use actions, and encourage your child to use actions too, you’re helping to develop their motor skills and coordination.

In Five Little Ducks, imagine your five fingers are the little ducks and your other hand is the mother duck quacking.

More rhymes with actions include: Taba NabaIncy Wincy Spider, Heads Shoulders Knees and Toes, Finger Family or Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.

Five Little Ducks
Five little ducks went out one day
Over the hill and far away
Mother duck said “Quack, quack, quack, quack!”
But only four little ducks came back.

Four little ducks went out one day
Over the hill and far away
Mother duck said “Quack, quack, quack, quack!”
But only three little ducks came back.

Three little ducks went out one day
Over the hill and far away
Mother duck said “Quack, quack, quack, quack!”
But only two little ducks came back.

Two little ducks went out one day
Over the hill and far away
Mother duck said “Quack, quack, quack, quack!”
But only one little duck came back.

One little duck went out one day
Over the hill and far away
Mother duck said “Quack, quack, quack, quack!”
But none of the little ducks came back.

Sad mother duck went out one day
Over the hill and far away
Sad mother duck said “Quack, quack, quack!”
And all of the five little ducks came back.

Include nursery rhymes in your sleep routines to help calm your little one before bed. Try singling these lullabies at sleep time: Frère Jacques, Inanay or Hush Little Baby.

Singing rhymes in your little one’s native language (the language spoken by parents/carers in the home) helps strengthen their culture and family relationships.

Visit your local library to read more nursery rhymes with your child, Google ‘nursery rhymes’ to find lyrics and more, or visit Raising Children’s baby karaoke.

Published — 12 October 2018 Last updated — 22 October 2018

Want personalised tips and activities?

Complete these short questions to get personalised tips and activities to see how simple and easy it can be.

Get started
01 / 05

What is your relationship with the child?

MotherFatherGrandmotherGrandfatherCarer/Guardian

What best describes your location?

Metro
Regional
Remote

If you had a spare moment, what would you most likely do with the child?

Metro
Regional
Remote

And finally…

Do you speak another language at home apart from English?
Are you of Aboriginal and / or Torres Strait Islander descent?
Does the child need additional support with their development or learning?
Now we know a little more about the content that might interest you we’ve compiled it into a handy page for you.
Go