What is Baby Rhyme Time?
Baby Rhyme Time is called different things in different library systems – sometimes it’s just rhyme time, others call it Babies, Books and Rhymes. But the set up is usually pretty similar – parents and babies (and toddlers) sit together, often on the floor in a circle, and enjoy a series of nursery rhymes and songs together. There’s a lot you can get out of rhyme time – including major language development – especially if you follow a few simple steps to make sure rhyme time is enjoyable and valuable for everyone!
1. Choose the Rhyme Time that Suits You
Not all rhyme times are created the same. I’ve seen rhyme times where the same songs are repeated every week, and other rhyme times which constantly introduce new songs. I’ve heard of rhyme times where the leader maintains strict order and children are expected to sit at all times, and others where the leader accepts normal toddler behaviour (Oh! Rhymes! Oh! Toy over there! Must investigate! Oh! Music! Must come back!) I’ve seen small and huge rhyme times and even heard of a rhyme time where the leader plays guitar!
The trick, if possible, is to find a rhyme time which works best for you. If you have a quiet child, they might benefit from a different rhyme time than a more boistrous child. Try out different libraries, different times, different styles. (Of course, if you only have one library in a reasonable distance, this might not be possible. Check out nearby libraries when you’re travelling though – a different rhyme time every now and again can be a lot of fun)
2. Get Involved
Time for an example from a rhyme time we went to recently. Several mothers were sitting with their babies on the couches at the side of the rhyme time – definitely close enough to be part of the action. But instead of getting involved, they spent the whole rhyme time in conversation with each other. They were so oblivious to where they were, they didn’t even hear the leader talking to them. It was like they were just attending because it was on a list of things they ‘should’ be doing.
The best benefits for parents and babies come when you get more involved. Sit in the circle, participate in the rhymes and songs, do the movements and actions. The more people who participate, the more confident everyone gets and the better it is for the whole group. When people sit back and don’t join in, other parents feel like they’re performing for them – and not everyone is comfortable being a performer!
Rhyme time is about exposing children to simple melodies and rhythms, as well as the wide range of language used in rhymes. It really is an activity which is about the children, not a social activity for the adults. By getting involved, you ensure all the benefits are received by your child and others.
3. Sing Along
While you’re getting involved, make sure you sing along! It doesn’t matter how bad you think you sing, your baby thinks you’re amazing! Babies have a connection to our voices from before they are born when they hear us all the time. Squirm turned towards my voice before he was even a week old! By hearing us sing, they have a better connection to the words, rhymes and melodies we are sharing.
Also, this is the one time and place where no one’s going to look at you and glare if you completely mangle Incy Wincy Spider – they’ll just be thankful that there’s another voice there to encourage them to sing along!
4. Turn Your Baby Around to Face You
A lot of the time, babies spend their rhyme time facing in to the circle. While this is great for babies to see other babies, choose a rhyme or two to turn your baby around to face you. This lets them see how you are moving your mouth to make the sounds and lets them have a better connection with you. This works particularly well with songs and rhymes which involve body parts – Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes or This Little Piggy, for example.
5. Sing the Songs at Home
If you only attend rhyme time once a week, there’s a long time between songs! Try and sing the songs at home as well – repeating them makes the language and rhythm more common for the babies. Ask if your library has a copy of some of the songs, see if you can borrow a book with nursery rhymes in it or borrow or buy a CD with common nursery rhymes and songs on it. (We’re kind of in love with the ABC for Kids CDS. ABA also has a great CD and music book)
When can you sing? All the time! We sing when Squirm is being changed and when we dry him and dress him after a bath. We sing when we’re in the car and we even make up little nonsense rhymes when we’re doing chores around the house.
6. Monitor Your Child’s Behaviour
This is more for older babies and toddlers, but it has the potential to impact on everyone. Babies and toddlers do have a normal set of behaviours, particularly being distracted, which we may not accept in older children. They might get shy and not want to join in, or they might want to find out what the shoe of the person sitting next to them tastes like. These behaviours are absolutely fine, and if anyone does have a problem with them, they should probably realise they are at a baby rhyme time.
But make sure that your child isn’t the one continuously throwing puppets at the leader of the session or the one who is acting in an unsafe way to the younger babies in the group. Make sure that your child is behaving in a way that makes rhyme time safe and enjoyable for the whole group. If your child is going through a stage where that really isn’t possible, think of the greater group and keep them away from rhyme time for a little while – it’s not fair if one child makes the whole rhyme time uncomfortable, upsetting or unsafe for everyone.