Why are Nursery Rhymes so important? World Nursery rhyme week

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Why Children Need Nursery Rhymes on their Walls

Ever thought about nursery rhymes? Perhaps not – they’re just the slightly repetitive, sometimes nonsensical ditties we are obliged as parents to read to our offspring.


But why after hundreds of years are these old fashioned (and often dark) rhyming tales still so popular?


Nursery rhymes really caught my attention for the first time back in 2008 when my little girl was born. Here I was whiling hours away with this tiny precious gal and boy did we do some reading together. It was then that I began to understand the relevance of nursery rhymes and why, amongst countless new literature and rhymes, the oldies are still the goodies.



They also got me creating again – my Nursery Rhyme series was my first collection of work in almost fifteen years and has sold globally including in John Lewis.


Why so? What’s so good about nursery rhymes?


History – The Grand Old Duke of York

The first nursery rhyme I tackled was The Grand Old Duke of York which I’d sing with my little charge, doing the actions as we went. But did you know that the origins are believed to date back to the 15 century and refer mockingly to the defeat of  Richard “Grand Old Duke of York” in the War of the Roses? Richard marched his troops to his castle at Sandal and took up a defensive position against the Lancastrian Army. The castle was built atop an old Norman motte and bailey fortress 10m above ground level (marched them up to the top of the hill). In a moment of madness he left the hill to make a direct attack on the Lancastrians (marched them down again). He was killed and his army overwhelmed and that was the end of Richard Duke of York but little did he know he would live on in nursery rhyme form for hundreds of years.



Richard The Duke of York – not a bearskin hat in sight!

Counting – Hickory Dickory Dock

Hickory Dickory Dock seems to have fewer historical connections and was published in 1744 as part of Tommy Thumb’s Pretty Song Book”* It was created primarily as a counting rhyme and was thought to have been based on the astronomical clock at Exeter Cathedral. The clock has a tiny door below the clock face for the resident cat to hunt mice!


Hickory Hickory Dock, Helena Tyce, 2011


Talking & Reading – The Wheels on the Bus

“The Wheels on the Bus” was penned by Verna Hills in 1936. What fun children of many generations have had singing and doing the actions to this great little song. Not to mention the countless other versions which have been created by little minds! How many children had “bus” as their first word? I’ll bet this little rhyme had plenty to do with it!


The Wheels on the Bus, Helena Tyce, 2011


The rhyme has been recreated many times in picture books enabling novice readers to crack the magic code of letters and sounds by using the supplementary pictures.

Nursery rhymes also help little ones to hear sounds and syllables in words which also helps them to read as does the repetition of the verses.


Sinister origins…

But many nursery rhymes have their roots in the dark past. “Mary” in “Mary Mary Quite Contrary” is reputed to be Mary Tudor or Bloody Mary, the daughter of King Henry VIII. Queen Mary was a staunch Catholic and the garden is said to be an allusion to graveyards which were increasing in numbers to acommodate the “protestant martyrs” who continued to adhere to their protestant faith!


Three Blind Mice (1609) is said to have referred to the three Protestant loyalists who were accused of plotting to kill Queen Mary I. The three men were burned at the stake.


And Old Mother Hubbard allegedly refers to Cardinal Wolsey with the cupboard being the Catholic Church, the dog is Henry VIII and the bone is the annulment Henry demanded in order to end his marriage to Katherine of Aragon.


Nursery rhymes are fun and educational – they can help us to read and recognise sounds, develop musicality, interact with our peers and help to ground us in rich British history.


This is why all children’s bedrooms need nursery rhymes on their walls and, I’m guessing, why the nursery rhyme range is still one of Helena Tyce Designs’ biggest seller. But don’t take my word for it…here’s what customer say about the nursery rhyme prints:


“Absolutely love these prints. Really original design and beautifully framed…they look gorgeous in my baby son’s nursery!”


“Fantastic Prints..really well presented and packed – overall really impressed.”


I literally spent hours searching for prints for my little boy’s room and these really stood out from the rest. The designs are fantastic and they arrived promptly and well packaged. I suspect I’ll be ordering a few more!


You can see the full range and buy your nursery rhyme prints, cards and clothing at www.helenatyce.com
Take care and KEEP LEARNING!

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