Sing a rhyme, it’s early development time!

“Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes,” “Ring Around the Rosie” and “Humpty Dumpty.”

Queue a flood of childhood memories! You may not be able to remember where you were or your exact age when you enjoyed these rhymes, but odds are that your inner-child cherishes a favorite.

Believe it or not, there’s an incredible amount of reasons to pass down nursery rhyme memories to your own children that surpass entertainment and sentimental value. Nursery rhymes are one of the many branches extending from musical entities that have the power to positively influence the lives of young children.

Dr. Dennie Palmer Wolf of WolfBrown partnered with Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute to produce Why Making Music Matters, a comprehensive study that dives into the how nursery rhymes, singing, dancing and movement are powerful tools in shaping the success of early childhood milestones.

Musical components dynamically engage a multi-sensory experience for a child of any age. Starting from the moment of birth, babies shift breathing patterns based on what music is being played, according to pediatrician Dimitri Christakis.

Why Making Music Matters acknowledges that engaging babies in musical play leads to promising signs of healthy development.

“Think about it: in a simple back-and-forth babbling game a baby has to listen, watch his partner, take a turn at the just the right moment – and maybe laugh and smile to keep his partner engaged. All this builds important connections across the many regions of his brain needed to carry out the complex actions and interactions humans require in order to thrive.”

As infants grow into toddlers and young children, various parts of the brain are exercised to utilize motor functions, coordination, imagination and pattern retention. Not only do rhythmic tools like nursery rhymes and songs develop physical capabilities, but they also support intimate exchanges necessary for relationship building between the caregiver and the child.

Lullabies at bedtime, for example, become synonymous with comfort. These same lullabies can later be utilized by the caregiver as tools during scenarios of discomfort. When a child is nervous in the doctors waiting room, a parent and child may engage in song and rhyme to shift a situation from tense to lighthearted. Perhaps, in this scenario, the phrase “an apple day keeps the doctor away” is transformed into a song about visiting the doctor that relieves anxiety.

Positive emotional self-regulation can stem from using rhyme, songs and stories. Many rhymes tell a story that evokes various emotions through tempo and wordplay. A range of emotions are experienced during the rise and fall of excitement factors integrated in common games and chants. Specifically in “Ring Around the Rosie” and “This Little Piggy,” there is a moment of peak excitement that encourages children to explore their senses and be open to bursts of excitement.

Music and wordplay can also create a “musical language” in the sphere of social engagement. Siblings who participate in rhymes, stories and songs together build essential cooperation skills. When familiar chants and songs are performed as a group in a classroom setting, a sense of unity is fostered. This is especially important for children who may be facing social challenges or recovering from emotional trauma.

The bottom line: Music provides young children with the opportunity to grow and develop. The greatest results are delivered when children are engaged in creating new verses, learning rhythm and rhyme, and incorporating physical movement. Parents, caregivers, and educators can be proactive in making music count by ensuring quality and engagement are held to high standards.

Read full the study to learn more how you can utilize rhymes, lullabies, songs and instruments to create the soundtrack of your child’s healthy early development.

All content in this article, including any advice or commentary from Southwest Human Development staff and/or others, should be considered an opinion and is provided for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for medical or other professional advice, diagnosis or treatment.  Always seek the direct advice of your own trusted professional with any questions or concerns you may have regarding the child/ren in your care.  Southwest Human Development does not recommend or endorse any specific tests, products, procedures or other information that may be mentioned in this article.  You may contact Southwest Human Development’s Birth to Five Helpline at 1-877-705-KIDS (5437) to speak with one of our early childhood professionals for personalized assistance.  Birth to Five Helpline specialists are available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.