Have you heard the old Woody Guthrie song “Grassy Grass Grass”? It starts off “Grassy grass grass, Tree tree tree, Leafy leaf, leaf, One two three.”
You can hear Pickles doing that line here:
Yes, Pickles has started reciting the poem. A lot. Whenever we go outside, eating breakfast, in the car. Sometimes I’ll hear him just singing it to himself in bed. He has it stuck in his head and so consequently it is also stuck in the heads of the rest of the family.
When he was learning to speak, Pickles’ emerging language came in rhyme patterns.
I don’t know enough about typical language development to know if this is what usually happens, but it wouldn’t surprise me.
Kids seem to have that ability to pick up rhythm and rhyme. They are naturally drawn to it. So many children’s books are written in rhyme. You can read about some of our favourites in The Reading Corner.
And then there are nursery rhymes.
Knowledge of nursery rhymes in very young children has been shown to be a predictor of success in a whole range of skills that are developed later on, such as reading and spelling.
If you think about it, if you can have an even basic understanding that duck rhymes with truck, you also have a basic understanding that words are made up of different sounds. Tr-uck. D-uck. So two completely different words might have similarities in their component parts.
Of course, your two year old reciting Humpty Dumpty is not going to be considering any of this. Nor should they. Two is a time for play. But you are laying these foundations for later.
In a 1989 study, Bryant, Bradley, Maclean and Crossland wrote:
“All in all, our results have shown a powerful and lasting connection between the children’s early knowledge of nursery rhymes and aspects of their linguistic development later on. The nursery rhyme scores are connected to the development of phonological sensitivity over the next two to three years and, through that sensitivity, are linked to the children’s success in learning to read and spell as well.” (pp. 426-427)
So, you may have noticed that I’ve done a bit of reading on this topic. I know, I’m a big nerd, but I find it so interesting!
Here are some things I have learned:
1. A fun way to introduce your child to rhymes is to invent your own. Use words that your child already knows so they can join in even for parts. So, when Pickles was saying “Duck, duck, duck, truck truck, truck” I used to say this rhyme to him in the car when we saw a truck. He loved it.
2. When you are reading a rhyming book that you have read a few times, leave space for your child to complete the end of the rhyme. This will become their favourite part of the book! The more you can involve your child in reading, the better.
3. Add music to your nursery rhymes. Try this one.
4. Play around with rhymes. When we arrive home, I’ll often say some variant of the “To market, to market to buy a fat pig, home again, home again jiggety jig” rhyme. Today for instance I said “Home again, home again sniggety snig”. Pickles immediately picked it up. “Silly old Mummy! You said the wrong words!” Despite being called silly and old, I loved it. This is exactly what I want him to start being able to pick up.
5. Add movement to your nursery rhymes. Try this one.
As with any activities you are doing with your kids, only persevere if they’re enjoying it. Childhood is about fun! The best thing about music, books, and nursery rhymes is that they can be a lot of fun too.
If you’re a nerd too, you can find these journal articles (and many more!) online:
PE Bryant, L Bradley, M. Maclean and J Crossland, “Nursery Rhymes, Phonological Skills and Reading” Journal of Child Language (1989) July, p.p. 407-428.
Jonathan Bolduc and Pascal Lefebvre, “Using Nursery Rhymes to Foster Phonological and Musical Processing Skills in Kindergarteners” Creative Education (2012) Vol 3 No. 4, 495-502.
It’s 6:14am. Last night was the first time that Pords slept through. Hip hip hooray.
Yet for some reason I woke up with a jolt at 4:47am terrified that Pickles has been eating too much bad food recently so I got up and since then I have been peeling, chopping, steaming, and arranging a rainbow of fruits and vegetables.
Now that I’ve filled boxes and plates and eaten my own breakfast and had three cups of tea I’m sitting at the kitchen table in a completely quiet house.
Any minute now the day will begin. Mum! And I probably won’t even remember what it was like to sit in silence. Mum! So I’m recording this as a testament that there is such a thing. Mum! And as a reminder to myself to try to get up before the day begins and have a cup of tea in peace and quiet before the world is filled with Muuuuummmmmm!!
Don’t worry, I haven’t gone completely mad because I’m still at the point of realising that being up chopping vegetables before 5am is completely mad. That’s catch-22 isn’t it? You can’t be mad if you know you’re mad. I’m the Yossarian of health kicks.
I certainly won’t be repeating the 4:47 food folly. Particularly when 3/4 of my labour ends up rejected. But I do recommend a quiet house. It’s good for the soul.
Before You Were Awake
Before you were awake
I had a cup of tea,
And sitting all alone
Was quite pleasant company.
The house was still and silent
I could listen to a thought.
(Although frankly on that front
There’s not too much to report).
I really love our noisy days
When you’re up and around.
Your busy, chatty, crashy play
Makes for a happy sound.
But sometimes for a little change
I like the quiet too.
And so from now I’m going to try
To get up before you.
I’ll tiptoe to the kitchen
And sit down quietly.
So before you are awake
I can have a cup of tea.
Watching a baby develop has got to be one of life’s greatest joys; being there for all of those incredible firsts. It’s simply magical.
But when you’re a parent sometimes it’s easy to get hung up on the firsts you miss.
As babies do, Pords has been going through an amazing period of development. She has been getting around for a little while now and trying to climb on everything, just like her brother used to do (still does!), but she has just recently started trying to take steps while holding on to furniture. She now waves at appropriate times (rather than just randomly). She has been trying to get the hang of clapping and has just mastered that too.
Every day she does something new. It’s just wonderful to watch.
My husband saw her stand up for the first time the other morning. He called me in excitedly and said: “Look, she’s standing!” I had been busy doing something else and so, quite dismissively, said “She’s been able to do that for ages!”
That same morning she waved goodbye to him as he left for work. He said: “Is that the first time she’s waved?” This time I was a little less curt about it but still had to say no. “I never get to see any of the firsts,” He said sadly.
The truth is, even as a mostly stay-at-home parent, I don’t get to see all of the firsts. I was at my parents house and my Dad said “She’s clapping!” I thought he just meant the awkward hit-and-miss clapping that she’s been doing for a little while. But later she crawled over and started clapping again like she had just seen a brilliant show. Of course, first applause deserves a hearty applause. She was probably clapping herself; she had surely earned it. But it wasn’t the first applause, it was the second. I’d missed the first.
For a moment I was sad, just as my husband had been. But then I thought about it. Maybe she’s been clapping for weeks. Practising in secret in her cot at night. Fact is, it doesn’t really matter. As she grows I’ll be there for fewer and fewer of her firsts. But I’ll still think she’s spectacular when she tries new things. I’ll still support her when she needs help to learn. I’ll still applaud when she gets it right.
I can still marvel and find happiness in every little thing she does.
When her Dad got home that night, I told him that he had in fact seen a first that day. He had witnessed the first time that she waved to her Daddy. And that was a very special first indeed.
I was in the car by myself on the weekend, which doesn’t happen very often these days. I caught myself pointing out a digger that I drove passed. Out loud. To no one in particular.
Then, when I got where I was going, I realised that I had also had the kids’ CD playing the whole time and had been singing along.
I think these are definite signs that I need to get out more.
It was was particularly amusing (horrifying) given a similar incident that had happened the week before that I had posted a poem about on Facebook.
I find the psychology fascinating. When I get little glimpses of myself like this it makes me think that parenthood has completely rewired (melted) my brain. It’s amazing that I can ever hold an adult conversation at all. I wouldn’t be surprised if one day someone just comes clean with me and tells me that I’ve been speaking in Seussian rhyme for the last two years and everyone has assumed I’m mad.
It’s not all bad news of course. Having this sort of perspective is quite refreshing. It’s nice to pay attention to all the little details that a child would notice. When Pickles goes for a walk he literally does stop and smell the roses. He takes delight in lots of things that most adults would probably just walk straight passed.
I’m happy to encourage and nurture this quality in my children by helping them to notice things. I also think it’s a good thing if I stop and smell the roses even when Pickles isn’t there to lead by example.
But there is probably a time and a place for it. I probably don’t need to be noticing things out loud to myself in the car. Hopefully at some point my brain will be able to snap back.
If it ever it does though, I really hope that a little spark of that childish wonder remains.