Mother Goose rhymes may seem silly and senseless and we may be tempted to pass them by in favor of more 'meaningful' books. As Christians we may feel that our childrens' time would be better spent on more uplifting thoughts. But the popularity of Mother Goose goes farther than nonsensical fun, it actually helps children with speech, words and later appreciation of literary works. It is an entertaining, painless way to prepare children for a living books education later.
"Children entering kindergarten would have better speech habits, and first-grade children would have a greater power with and feeling for words if more were done with Mother Goose in the homes. Knowing dozens of the verses expands the imagination, increases the vocabulary, and develops an ear for the music of words. Enjoying Mother Goose predisposes children to other books" (May Hill Arbuthnot, of Flora Stone Mather College, Western Reserve University from her book "Children and Books," 1947)
The child who loves to hear and repeat the rhymes as he plays and even moves his body to their rhythm is doing more than having fun, he is assimilating language. Arbuthnot says, "Such spontaneous recitations and physical responses train the child to more vigorous speech, even as his ears are trained to enjoy the various sound combinations that make Mother Goose such a splendid introduction to English poetry."
Besides familiar favorites such as Rock-a-bye Baby, The Mulberry Bush, Old King Cole, One Misty Moisty Morning, Three Little Kittens, The House That Jack Built and The Old Woman and her Pig, Arbuthnot recommends specific titles that appeal to children. Babies will enjoy hearing Hush-a-bye-Baby, Bye Baby Bunting, Pat-a-Cake, How Many Days Has My Baby to Play and This Little Pig Went to Market.
The musical quality of many Mother Goose verses make them an excellent introduction to poetry, especially such musical selections as Hippity Hop to the Barber Shop, Goosey Goosey Gander, Ride a Cock Horse, The Grand Old Duke of York, A Diller A Dollar, Tom Tom the Piper's Son, Wee Willie Winkie, Hark Hark The Dogs Go Bark, Sing a Song of Sixpence, Higgledy Piggledy My Black Hen, A Farmer Went Trotting Upon His Grey Mare, A Frog Went a-Wooing, I Had Four Brothers Over the Sea. Also musical are I Saw a Ship A-Sailing, Bobby Shaftoe, Johnny Shall Have a New Bonnet, Lavender's Blue Dilly-Dilly, The North Wind Doth Blow, I Had a Little Nut Tree.
Children love the rapid action of verses like Jack and Jill, Miss Muffet, Old Mother Goose When She Wanted to Wander, Hey Diddle Diddle, Polly Put the Kettle On, The Man in the Moon Comes Down Too Soon.
Some tell stories, such as The Queen of Hearts, Dapple Gray, Old Mother Hubbard, Babes in the Woods and The Frog who Went A-Wooing. Arbuthnot writes "the brevity of these verse stories make them acceptable to children as young as two years old and prepares the way for longer and more involved prose stories."
Children who haven't matured to appreciate more subtle adult humor love Humpty Dumpty, Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater, and verses about Tom who was beat goes running down the street, a pig flies up in the air, a man jumps into the bramble bush to scratch his eyes in.
For the full Mother Goose experience, use a well illustrated version with color pictures that go well with the poems. Arbuthnot recommends illustrations by Blanche Fisher Wright (The Real Mother Goose, which is online), Mr. Leslie Brooke, Pelagie Doane, Kate Greenaway, Arthur Rackham, H. Willebeek Le Mair, and Tasha Tudor ("unusual").
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