Monday, 5 October 2009

A fun way to learn the 3 Rs

 After having worn us out, Michela lures Grandma to the reading chair

I have always been intrigued by nursery rhymes as I grew up in Italy, where there isn’t such a rich heritage in children’s poetry.

Many nursery rhymes are ancient and have lost their original meaning (for instance, some experts believe that Humpty Dumpty was a cannon used during the Civil War). So I acquired the excellent Oxford Nursery Rhyme Book by Iona and Peter Opie years before I became a parent (alongside a good collection of children’s literature). I agree with the Observer’s reviewer that this is 'the best collection of nursery rhymes ever'. It’s not a children’s book, it has a grown-up, scholarly feel to it with its woodcut illustrations.

Incidentally, nursery rhymes are the theme of this year’s National Bookstart Day. To celebrate, events have been organised on Friday 9 October nationwide, if you wish to join in, visit And Bookstart is also giving away a booklet of favourite rhymes, voted in a national poll. Check out for your free download - I will certainly get mine!

My enthusiasm for nursery rhymes has rubbed on my daughter who has an amazing repertoire at her tiny fingertips. She was a precocious talker and learnt to sing nursery rhymes early on. I used to bring her to Rhyme Time at my local SureStart centre when she was only a few weeks old!

Thanks to nursery rhymes, Michela has improved her vocabulary quickly and learnt to count up to 10 correctly at barely two years old. Nearly six months later, she is counting up to 20 correctly and beyond (hit and miss). How did she learn: through nursery rhymes containing numbers!

Good numeracy can be achieved through One two three four five, once a caught a fish alive (up to 10) and One, two, buckle my shoe (up to 20 if you know all the verses). Other great rhymes are Ten in the bed, Ten little monkeys jumping on the bed, Ten speckled frogs... And what about the 12 days of Christmas?

As she can recognise figures and do simple maths, we have two of the three Rs covered, the reading one is a work in progress as she is starting to learn the letters.

As positive parenting is all about encouraging a child to learn at his/her pace, I’m in no way pushing Michela to learn anything. In fact it's the other way round, at the end of the day, I’m pretty exhausted by all the teaching, singing and explaining she demands – and her dad agrees!

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