Once upon a nursery rhyme

When they’re learning the amazing skill of talking, it’s not just about mastering sounds. Little ones also have to learn to listen, look, take turns, use gestures and expressions appropriately and understand and respond to what others say. By taking the time to enjoy stories, songs and rhymes with your baby, you’ll be providing a great foundation for them to become confident communicators.

Picture books

It’s never too early to start enjoying simple picture books with your baby. It’s a wonderful way to build a loving relationship, increase their language skills and help them develop a lifelong love of reading. Research shows that reading for pleasure helps children do well at school and increases their wellbeing, so make reading part of your daily routine from the start if you can.

Baby looking at picture book

Very young babies like black and white books with bold pictures which help them strengthen their eye muscles. They will also grow to enjoy sensory and board books with different textures and flaps to lift. Wait to see what they’re looking at and talk to them about it. They may want to lift a flap over and over again, and by saying what’s underneath each time, you’ll be helping them to remember that word. Similarly, saying ‘gone!’ each time will turn it into a fun game.

Talk to your health visitor about Bookstart – it’s the national programme that provides free reading packs for all babies and pre-school children. Babies in their first year will get a pack containing free books as well as other fun resources.

This film provides lots of ideas on the kinds of books, songs and rhymes you can introduce right from the start to help your baby learn to communicate.

Songs and action rhymes

Songs like ‘Pat-a-cake’, ‘Row, row, row your boat’, ‘Incy Wincey Spider’ and ‘The wheels on the bus’ are great to sing with babies as they have simple actions. At the end of the song, pause because your baby may well show you they want another turn by clapping, holding out their hands or repeating one of the actions.

As well as enjoying these songs at home, many Children’s Centres and libraries run play sessions that involve singing and rhymes. Not only are these groups fun for babies, they’re a great way to meet other new parents in your area.

Useful links

Page last reviewed: 26-08-2020

Next review due: 26-08-2023