Memorizing "Mary Had a Little Lamb" may not make the cut as preeminent advice in most parenting columns, but it turns out there are more than just sentimental reasons to weave "Itsy Bitsy Spider" into your child's web of experiences. Recent cognitive neuroscience findings support the use of nursery rhymes to enhance young minds, according to Betsy Diamant-Cohen, children's programming specialist at Baltimore, Maryland's Enoch Pratt Free Library. Brain research is an integral player in Diamant-Cohen's award-winning, infant and toddler early childhood literacy program called Mother Goose on the Loose.
"Scientific studies have shown that children who have recited nursery rhymes in their younger years end up being better readers and doing better in school [when they are older]," explains Diamant-Cohen. "By being exposed to nursery rhymes, you are also teaching children to listen. The brain gets ready to read and translate from the heard word to the written word later on."
While living in Israel in the late 1980s, Diamant-Cohen and her own toddler became hooked on a music-and-movement program. The following year, with the founder's support, she created her own curriculum and added library programming practices to the mix.
After moving to Baltimore, Diamant-Cohen continued to build the program and has led trainings around the country. Before "the Goose," as one parent affectionately calls the program, launches in your community, Diamant-Cohen offers this advice about activities you can do at home based on the magical moments she witnesses every week.
Sing Nursery Rhymes
Whether karaoke was part of your pre-kid life, you're a secret shower singer, or are tone deaf, Diamant-Cohen encourages you to sing with your tot. She points out that rhymes such as "Mary Had a Little Lamb" have simple tunes that introduce complex vocabulary—such as "fleece" or "Jack be nimble."
"Other rhymes document things we do in everyday life," Diamant-Cohen says, breaking into the song, "This is the way we wash our hands."