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.

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 public health nurse (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

  • www.bookstart.org.uk – The site has lots of tips about ways to ensure sharing books and rhymes
  • Leicestershire libraries – Look out for ‘Wriggly readers’ sessions where parents/carers and babies can join in with stories, songs and rhymes.
  • Leicester city libraries – Weekly ‘Toddler time’ sessions are run for children. They include story-telling, singing, creative activities and stay and play with toys and puppets.
  • Book bus – these are mobile libraries for children
  • Hungry Little Minds

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Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust run’s a confidential secure text messaging service for parents of children aged 0-19 years called Chat Health. The service operates Monday to Friday between 9am and 5pm, excluding bank holidays. All texts will be responded to by a public health nurse (health visitor/school nurse) within 24 hours. Outside of the service working hours, you’ll receive a message back to inform you that your text will be responded to once the line reopens.

Should you require urgent health advice in the meantime, please contact your GP, visit an NHS walk-in centre or call NHS 111. For emergencies, dial 999 or visit A&E.

Leicester City: text 07520 615381

Leicestershire & Rutland: text 07520 615382

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