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Jack and Jill

by Maryann Whitfield

Humpty Dumpty, Pat-a-Cake, Pat-a-Cake, Itsy Bitsy Spider, Hickory Dickory Dock, Ring Around the Rosie, and so many more nursery rhymes and songs have captivated children and played an important role in their learning to talk, read, and write.  Two year old Andrew meets Jack and Jill while swinging in the backyard. 

Jack and Jill

Back and forth
Up and down
The backyard swing flew.
Little Andrew
Loved it so
The motion
and the rhythm
Of that swing.

Andrew was never ready for me to stop pushing.  “More!”  He’d demand as soon as I’d try to stop.  He was so small, but oh how he loved to swing.  And so, I’d begin to recite nursery rhymes as I pushed him.  I started with Jack and Jill.  Its rhythm was captured by the swing’s motion.  Andrew listened contentedly as the swing creaked.  I repeated the words over and over.

Jack and Jill
Went up the hill
To fetch a pail of water.
Jack fell down
And broke his crown
And Jill came tumbling after.

One day, just as the swing’s motion was set, I heard little Andrew’s voice.  “Jack and Jill.  Up the hill.  Jack and Jill.  Up the hill,” he recited and then looked up at me.  It was his cue I needed to continue the rhyme.  And so I did.  Soon his version became, “Jack and Jill up the hill.  Jack and Jill up the hill.  Jack falls down! Jack falls down!”

Eventually he mastered the whole nursery rhyme.  We recited it often as he rode in the car or in his little red wagon or while I cooked dinner.  Other nursery rhymes joined Jack and Jill to be recited and enjoyed.  These simple rhymes were like delicious food for a hungry mind that was learning to talk and was learning the mysteries of language — a mind that would soon be learning to read and write.


The Benefits of Nursery Rhymes

Little Andrew was learning to talk.  He knew many common words, and he was just beginning to form two-word sentences.  (“Jack and Jill. Up the Hill.).  His brain was soaking up the language that surrounded him.  Nursery rhymes were an inspiration as he learned the complexities of language.

The rhythmic beauty of these little rhymes help a child who is developing an ear for language.  The playfulness in the words pulled Andrew to them.  It was as if he recognized something in the nursery rhymes was different from the language structure he usually heard spoken.  He paid close attention.  And soon he began reciting them with me.  The rhyming patterns gave him something new to hear and notice in words.  The repetitive pattern helped him memorize them and his memory grew as well.  (“Jack and Jill. Up the hill. Jack and Jill.  Up the hill.  Jack falls down! Jack falls down!”).  The concept of up and down in Jack and Jill played a part in helping Andrew develop the more abstract ideas in language.  And oh, the delightful little stories!  Nursery rhymes help a young child understand how stories work, in that they have a sequence of events with a beginning, middle, and end. 

Nursery rhymes help children learn to talk, to read, and to write.  The good news is in a busy world, nursery rhymes easily fit into family routines.

In our family’s busy days we can:

• read nursery rhymes with our child at bedtime or other times during the day

• listen to nursery rhymes on electronic devices

• recite them together (while stuck in traffic, waiting at the doctor, while dinner is cooking, during bath time, or just any old time)

• act out the rhymes

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