One activity that always brings me back to childhood is singing nursery rhymes. This includes clapping, skipping, and group rhymes, and anything learned from friends in the playground. I’ve never claimed to have a great singing voice, but that has never stopped me. While growing up I spent a lot of time memorizing verses, actions, and the rules that went with any singing games. While having fun, I was learning about language, relationships, my spatial awareness, and much more, all without even realizing it!
Who else remembers walking down the sidewalk singing “don’t step on the cracks or you’ll break your mothers back?” When we remember those moments we realize the importance of our children having those experiences as well. Rhyming verses are not just for babies, toddlers and preschoolers. They are fun, silly, the laughter is contagious, and the simple act of playing brings us closer to the people around us. Whether you are 2 or 92, you are never too young nor too old to keep singing and playing!
To this day I still enjoy learning new rhymes. I am fortunate enough to have many opportunities to share both my old favourites and my newly discovered (or adapted) favourites with children and adults alike. As a kid I had fun making up new lines in songs to suit my likes and interests. I still do this today; it is always fun to make up silly verses!
Typically, a clapping rhyme alternates clapping your own hands and your partner’s hands with each beat. When words repeat, you clap your partners hands each time. With more experience the game can get more complicated, adding actions and other ways to clap. Adding challenges makes it an activity you can continue to do with children as they grow older.
A Sailor Went to Sea
A sailor went to sea, sea, sea
To see what he could see, see, see
But all that he could see, see, see
Was the bottom of the deep blue sea, sea, sea
Miss Mary Mack
Miss Mary Mack, Mack, Mack
All dressed in black, black, black
With silver buttons, buttons, buttons [butt’ns]
All down her back, back, back
She asked her mother, mother, mother
for fifty cents, cents, cents
To see the elephants, elephants, elephants
Jump the fence, fence, fence
They jumped so high, high, high
they reached the sky, sky, sky
And didn’t come back, back, back
Till the 4th of July, ‘ly, ‘ly!
She asked her mother, mother, mother
For 5 cents more, more, more
To see the hippos, hippos, hippos
Jump over the door, door, door
They jumped so low, low, low
They stubbed their toe, toe, toe
And that was the end, end, end
Of the great big show, show, show!
Skipping songs are often sung with verses that end in counting to see how many jumps you can get in before you fumble. Other times they are sung in bigger groups to invite a skipper in, jump a few beats, and then out again. Many skipping songs can be sung by a large group in a circle, just improvise the movements.
This Way Thatta Way
*With two people handling the large skipping rope a lineup of others in pairs wait for their turn to skip in and skip out. Everyone sings.
This way, thatta way, this way thatta way, this way thatta way all day long
Here comes “Sarah,” here comes “Sarah,” here comes “Sarah” skipping along
*when Sarah’s name is called, she jumps into the skipping and skips, next line is her partner being called in to join her
Here comes the other one, just the like the other one, here comes the other one skipping along
*now their turn is over and they jump out of the skipping rope and you repeat calling the next partners in
Circle songs are classic for young children. These are songs where everyone typically holds hands and does the same or similar actions.
Ring Around the Rosie
Ring around the rosie, pockets full of posies
Husha, husha we all fall down
*now everyone is on the ground, clap your hands or knees and sing the next verse
Cows are in the meadows, eating buttercups
Husha, husha we all jump up
Sally Go Round the Sun
*in this rhyme you change the direction the circle is going (clockwise or counterclockwise) after every verse when you call switch, you can speed it up and add a switch to each line to make it more silly for older children
Sally go round the sun
Sally go round the moon
Sally go round the chimney tops
Every afternoon “switch”
There are endless rhymes and equally endless ways to do them. Get up and get moving with a child this summer and have fun teaching them. Reminisce with another parent, clap your hands, and test your memories at some old rhymes. Guaranteed giggles and smiles. Be silly, have fun, keep singing!
If you would like to have fun singing and rhyming with your children 3 and under, check the Centre for Family Literacy website mid-August for the Rhymes that Bind fall program schedule.