Nursery rhymes and Piano lessons

Nursery Rhymes

As I spend more time giving one-to-one piano lessons to very young children (5 & 6 year olds), I find a distinct contrast between children who have been exposed to nursery rhymes frequently as opposed to those who perhaps rarely heard them during their baby & toddler years.

Just when you thought nursery rhymes were there to sing to our babies because it’s easy and fun, and they were the songs we knew off by heart (sung to us by our parents), these much-loved songs actually help children so much more as they reach the age where they can begin music instrument lessons. (And I experience this time and again as I teach children who have come from different (musical) backgrounds.

Take for example a simple song we know: ‘Hot Cross Buns’

Child A, who knows this song well, will correctly sing and play this song in 4 beats with a rest on the fourth beat:

Hot (1), cross (2), buns (3), pause (4)

Hot (1), cross (2), buns (3), pause (4)

Child B, who is unfamiliar with the song, will instead play this song matching each word per beat, without the pause:

Hot (1), cross (2), buns (3), Hot (4),

cross (1), buns (2) … no pause

Spending extra (lesson) time teaching Child B how to sing & clap to this simple song can be fun in itself, but it also delays Child B’s progress because there is less time for actual keyboard playing.

Hot Cross Buns in C-major

So don’t hesitate to show off your prowess when it comes to nursery rhymes!

  • Sing as many nursery songs as you can remember to your baby and young children – sing together, while pretending to strum on a wooden spoon or a broom (if a ukulele is not handy).
  • Hum the tune or make up the words if you can’t remember the lyrics – there’s lots of nursery rhymes readily available on-line if you need a refresher!
  • Make it visual – try and get your hands on nursery rhyme books so that you can point at the pictures while enjoying singing the songs together.
  • Make your own diorama – cut out a dog to call B-I-N-G-O so you can sing an all-time favourite dog song, or cut out animal photos from magazines so you can both make animal sounds and sing about your collection of farm animals in ‘Old Macdonald Had a Farm’

Farm Animals

In our Kindermusik classes, this ‘layering’ of music is applied in all levels throughout our curriculum so that a child, from baby all the way up to Kindy years, will have had experienced nursery songs in different formats and in many ways:

A simple nursery song may be presented in a lively orchestral setting for use in a parent/baby group dance (during Baby class), which we may then learn to sing together a-cappella (in Toddler Class), and which further on, your pre-schooler child may play on the resonator bars (during Big Kids class).

This way, our songs are best taught in the most beneficial and loving way, enriching our children’s experience with music all throughout their growing years.



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