General Question

PoiPoi's avatar

Why do we use nursery rhymes like "Mary Had a Little Lamb", or "Peter Piper" to learn about things in Kindergarten or Preschool for?

Asked by PoiPoi (274points) December 3rd, 2008

What’s their purpose, are they really important for kids to know, and is it still important for adults to know too?

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15 Answers

cdwccrn's avatar

They teach music and poetry and rhyme and rhythm and tongue dexterity. If you want a young child to remember something, like her address or phone number, make ups song and teach her the song. I taught my grandson about 911 that way.

augustlan's avatar

@cdwccrn: That is exactly how my three children learned our address and phone numbers! Worked like a charm.

cdwccrn's avatar

911, 911. You only call it if you need it. 911!

gailcalled's avatar

The old epic stories (Aeneid, Odyssey, Iliad,
Gilgamesh, Beowolf,etc) used meter and rhyme so that the bards or minstrels could memorize them. It was part of the oral tradition.

”...epic poetry has its roots in oral, rather than literate tradition. These stories were originally passed on by bards, or professional poets who made their living by singing folk tales and epic poems to audiences. While the details of the poem often shifted from one telling to the next, the most important elements of the story always remained the same.” Source

Judi's avatar

Some of the stories are pretty morbid, but we learn them and then when we’re older we learn their place in history.
“Ring around the rosie, pocket full of posey, ashes, ashes we all fall down.”
I don’t really understand Rock a Bye Baby though.

cdwccrn's avatar

It comes from Native American tradition of hanging baby cradles in trees where the wind would gently rock them.

girlofscience's avatar

Just watched that again.

Don’t sit on a wall if you’re an egg.
Don’t send horses to perform medical procedures.

lollllll, I love Ricky Gervais.

augustlan's avatar

@GoS: Thanks for that link…very funny!

steelmarket's avatar

Great answer, @gail, about the oral tradition. This powerful method of preserving history is almost dead today. In its place we now each have encyclopedic memories of all the episodes of Frazier or The OC.

Ria777's avatar

little things like nursery rhymes form the basis of culture. as for how those particular ones got passed down to us, by memetic selection I think (google it). the most catchy rhymes ones got passed around and survived.

gailcalled's avatar

(@Ria: Thanks for the new word…memetic.)—

tonedef's avatar

Judi inspired me to do some research on Rock-a-bye baby. It turns out that the wikipedia article is actually the most comprehensive source of possible origins for the rhyme. There are lots of suggestions and rumors of its beginnings, but no definitive answer. But the first one listed here, that native american women would hang their birch cradles in trees so that the wind would rock them, seems to fit best.

Judi's avatar

Funny that “Rock a By Baby” is a native American song. I just never would have imagined it!

tonedef's avatar

Well, according to that story, an English settler wrote it to describe this “alien” practice that he encountered in the new world. Also, rumor is, it’s the first English poem to be written in the New World! The first english American poem is about negligent infanticide.

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