Yesterday evening after dinner my little gosling had me on repeat for quite a while reciting “Hey diddle diddle” again (or rather encore or, as he has it, “enco”) .. and again …and again. Then we went on to “Cock-a-doodle-doo” and “Two little dicky birds”. If we hadn’t managed to distract his attention towards bath time, I suspect we would have continued with “Hickory dickory dock”.
I got the Ladybird big book of “Favourite Nursery Rhymes” months before he turned one. I was looking for short poems to recite or sing to him before bedtime or when he needed soothing. Very soon he wanted to play at turning the pages. It’s quite a sturdy book and the pages can withstand some baby action, but his very young, uncontrolled and imprecise movements quickly made some victims. Nothing that mommy could not easily fix with some scotchtape, though. I would read the rhymes that most appealed to me. My favourites were the three little kittens who had lost their mittens and the owl and the pussycat who were married by a turkey on a faraway island.
When little gosling was about 16-17 months, he started bringing rhymes from “school”. First one he asked for was “Baa, baa black sheep”. For months it was one of his favourites. He would come to me and ask “ba ba” or later “sing ba ba”, whilst moving the weight of his body from the left to the right foot and reverse. Then came “Mary had a little lamb”, to keep to the same animal family. Good thing one can listen to them on youtube to learn the melody. As a non-native English speaker, I was not familiar with them.
“Head, shoulders, knees and toes” came next, exercise included. We do it together, facing each other, and never just once. This is a particularly entertaining one (at least for us, parents). He can locate the different body parts in the song, but struggles to keep up touching them with the singing of the song, no matter how slowly I sing it. He tries to anyway. He manages to sing and do the first and last movements of the verse (head…. toes…..eyes….nose). And he has fun throughout.
“Incy wincy spider” followed. The idea of up-down and sun coming out was what retained baby’s attention. And now he asks for the song every time we encounter a spider in other books (“sing that”, he would say to me, pointing to the spider).
“Hey diddle diddle” is the current favourite. He knows all the nouns in the poem, but none of the connectors. He wants to repeat it so many times, as if he wanted to learn it by heart. He listens carefully and, like filling in blanks, I take a pause and let him say the nouns: cat… fiddle…cow jump…moon…dog…(ha ha – cause I add wherever I can, funny sounds)…fun…dish… way (his version of “away”)…spoon!!!! The last word is always said with excitement, almost victoriously.
He finds the sound of “cock-a-doodle-doo” funny. He’s so happy when he shouts “cock-a-dooo”!!! Then we play the same game, I recite it and he completes with the last word of each verse (shoe…. “fiddlestitch”…doo!!!).
At “Two little dicky birds”, he likes the ample arm movements we do when we tell Peter and Paul to fly away or come back.
He also has his favourite songs in Romanian – the one with the fox (“Vulpe tu mi-ai furat gasca” or “Oac, oac, diridiridam”) and he recently started bringing home songs in French from school.
We have fun reciting or singing nursery rhymes. We learn words, repeat them, move around theatrically, add animal sounds, laugh a lot. They are also one of our tools to have music in our daily routine.