It's important to teach your infants and toddlers songs, rhymes, and games with motions. You know the ones: Eency Weency Spider, Ride a Cock Horse, Where is Thumbkin, Pat-a-Cake, Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes, and more. These activities not only build language and reading readiness skills, but they also teach valuable social and coordination skills. I know it sounds like child's play to most of you, but let me assure you that is is vital. Even though they are categorized as play activities, they are profoundly important to your child's overall development. Children who do not have these activities in their background are at a profound disadvantage when they start school.
The rhymes and songs that have attendant motions will help your baby learn about language. Most of these songs and games express ideas about daily life or common events, like going to school, or things your child is familiar with, like spiders or horses. Children hear language structure in the rhymes and learn about building phrases and sentences. The words they hear broaden their vocabulary and the familiarity of songs and rhymes makes these new words more accessible and more likely to be learned. This builds fluency skills. These activities are full of the rhythm of our language, as well. Designed to encourage clapping or other kinds of movement, these songs and rhymes lend knowledge about cadence and how our language moves.
The rhymes and alliterations in these songs help your child develop greater understanding of the sounds of the language. Eventually, this knowledge will help your little one to master reading and spelling skills in early elementary school. It is the beginning or foundation of discrimination of same and different sounds and of the complex understanding of word families and word stems. Young children learn that words are created from syllables and phonemes, even though they cannot put this knowledge into words.
Movement games such as nursery rhymes and finger plays teach social skills as well. Children learn the give and take patterns of conversation from call and response activities. They develop attention and listening skills as they hear the rhymes. They learn to follow directions, too. Infants and toddlers discover that eye contact is important for interactions between people. Perhaps most importantly, young children learn that language and learning can be fun. It's much easier to learn when the activities are fun!
These games also support the development of coordination skills. Children must master imitation in order to participate, and that skill requires understanding of position in space and body awareness. Many of the motions require fine movements of hands or fingers, preparing young children for later tasks of manipulating pencils, crayons and scissors. Some songs build pantomimes into their motions, helping little ones literally go through the motions of everyday actions like washing or eating.
As you can see, these songs, rhymes and games hold a load of value for your young child. Far from being unimportant playtime diversions, these activities are actually vital parts of your child's development. They teach your child valuable skills, like language, reading readiness, social, and coordination skills. Take the time to teach them to your child and you will be laying the groundwork for school success as well as life success.