at 6-9 months

The Importance of Nursery Rhymes

There is a reason nursery rhymes have been around for hundreds of years – rhymes actually help children learn to talk and read. Take the well-known rhyme, ‘Row, Row, Row Your Boat‘, for instance.  It may seem like just a silly rhyme, but it actually contains the building blocks your baby needs to learn language.


Why are Rhymes Important?

Rhymes break words into sounds which help your baby to hear the phonemes or individual parts of a word, as in ‘Twin-kle, twin-kle, lit-tle star’. From birth and before, babies are drawn to rhythm, in fact the first sound they hear is the beating rhythm  of their mother’s heart. Research has shown that babies are drawn to language that has strong rhythm, rhyme and beat in the words, such as the beat heard in ‘row – row – row – your – boat’.

Rhymes introduce new words which help build your baby’s vocabulary. Rhymes are fun, and by playing with the sounds, you are giving your baby the opportunity to learn new sounds and words. Before your baby learns how to talk, they will practice making sounds by babbling. The sounds in rhymes, like the long O sounds in Row, Row, Row Your Boat, and the short a sounds in Baa Baa Black Sheep, will help your baby learn to speak words later on.

The best thing about rhymes is that they are free, fun and portable! If you memorize a rhyme or two, you can say them wherever you and your baby go:

  •  at the doctor’s office

  • on a plane

  • driving in the car

You can use rhymes to calm and entertain your baby as you go throughout your busy day, and singing a lullaby can soothe a crying baby to sleep.


Between nine months and a year, many babies start to clap their hands and will enjoy playing clapping games like Pat-a-cake. Pat-a-cake is a timeless classic nursery rhyme that will help your baby learn hand-eye coordination, muscle control and rhythm.

Pat-a-cake has a wonderful rhyme that encourages your baby’s phonological awareness (the understanding that words are made up of individual sounds) which is an important first step to reading. If your baby doesn’t clap yet, you can still enjoy playing Pat-a-cake by holding your baby in your lap and gently bringing their hands together on the beat.

Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake, baker’s man

(Clap your hands with the beat)

Bake me a cake as fast as you can

(Pretend to stir batter in a bowl)

Pat it and roll it and mark it with ‘B’

(Gently pat baby’s tummy and trace the letter ‘B’)

And put it in the oven for Baby and me!

(Clap your hands with the beat)


Tips for using rhymes with your baby:

  • Clap along when chanting a rhyme to emphasize the rhythm

  • Choose nursery rhyme books with bright bold images

  • Use a silly voice and play with the sounds and words to catch your child’s attention

  • Sing them, chant them, say them … but most of all have fun with rhymes!



Start with the rhymes you received in your Read to Me! bag: there is a rhyme for each month of your baby’s first year in the Read to Me! Family Reading Guide and there are lots of classic rhymes on the Hey Diddle Diddle! CD. You can find more nursery rhyme books at your local library or book store. Rhymes are wonderful gifts to give your baby. Pass along the rhymes that you may have heard as a baby, and discover new ones that will become family classics, to be handed down for generations to come.

For great nursery rhyme and pat-a-cake books, visit us at



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Contact Information

Phone: (902) 470-6487 or (902) 470-7763
IWK Health Centre 
5850/5980 University Avenue 
PO Box 9700
Halifax, NS B3K 6R8
Fax: (902) 470-8785


Thanks so much for your books. We have really enjoyed them. In fact, some of our favourite books are from the "stash" that we have received from your organisation. We also love the CD. What a wonderful program you have developed. We are truly grateful.
- Krissy

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