5 Action Songs for Language Development

Why teach nursery rhymes?

  • Nursery rhymes provide a foundation for literacy.
  • Children who know their nursery rhymes tend to have strong language skills.
  • Nursery rhymes help babies to develop listening skills and tune into rhyme and voice inflections.
  • They help babies to imitate hand gestures and sounds.

Nursery rhymes are best learnt when they are practiced frequently and made fun. As your baby gets used to the song, try to do LESS so that your baby can do MORE. This shows your baby is learning and is laying all the basics for language development and literacy.

Forgotten the words to any of these rhymes?  Check out a nursery rhyme book.  RIF also has video clips of someone doing the actions and the words.


1.  This Little Piggy

A great rhyme to do from the start with a newborn.  You can do it on the hands or feet.  Your baby will begin to anticipate the final tickle and this shows Learning!  As your baby gets older, she will like to do this action rhyme on other children (or dolls) and again this is more Learning!!  We also use a great puppet mitt in the clinic which is great fun.

2.  Twinkle Little Star

This old favourite is an early one to teach babies.  There are really only 3 actions to learn!

1.  Start with just hands in front of your face and wiggle the fingers.  This is a good way to get baby looking at you.  Help baby to do this action and move his arms if needed.

2.  Lift babies hands above head for ‘Up above the world so high’.

3.  Accept any ‘diamond’ shape your baby makes!!

3.  Row Your Boat

horseyride1-264x300Sit down opposite toddler and hold hands.  Move back and forth pulling the child’s arms as you go.

1.  Stop every now and again to encourage your toddler to wiggle/hop to show you to keep going!  If your child can, try a word here too, like ‘more’ or ‘row row’.

2.  Pause at the end and then throw your hands up and scream (if you see a crocodile………don;t forget to……….ah!)  See if your child learns to do an ‘ah!’ before you do!


4.  Grand Old Duke

Another one with lots of movement.  Seat your toddler on your lap facing you and bump along to the song.

1.  Stop at the ‘when they were……… up’ and see if your baby goes up or says ‘up’

2.  Same with ‘when they were……..down’!

5.  Head Shoulders Knees & Toes

head shouldersThis is a great one to do with a few kids.  Everyone can copy each other!

You can help your child by lifting hands onto each body part when it’s time.  As your child gets used to it, give less help.