Babies, Music, Toddlers

Tickle Rhymes for Little Ones

Hello! It’s been a while, hasn’t it?

There have been a lot of changes around here. If I can ever find a way to explain it all, I will eventually, but for now I’ll give the short and sweet bullet-points version

  • We are schooling four different ways, which is enough to make my head spin. The youngest two are spending their days with my friend who also has three little ones and are having an amazing time. The middle two are at our local elementary school a couple of blocks away and are adjusting nicely. Oldest daughter is homeschooling using Palomar K12 and oldest son is cyberschooling and will be going to CAPA, the public arts magnet school, next year. I’m so proud of all of them.
  • I am now working at an amazing early childhood center. I’ve been there for two weeks and love it so far. As some of you may know, I was working towards my masters in early childhood education and stopped when my husband went into seminary and I began having children. In many ways, this picks up where I left off 15 years ago.
  • I have also been active in several local theater companies. I am currently rehearsing for the Pittsburgh premiere of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Utopia Limited and will soon begin rehearsing for The Magic Flute with Undercroft Opera. Chorus roles, but that’s pretty much what my life can bear right now. I’ve also been doing a bit of educational outreach for the companies and an hoping to relearn some of the tech stuff I previously enjoyed. The children have also been involved in the arts, both on their own—Michael plays cello with the Three Rivers Young People’s Orchestra, Katie Grace dances with Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre School, and Nicholas is learning trumpet (!!!!) and is taking an architecture class at Carnegie Mellon University—and with me. Nicholas and Daniel both recently played little human sacrifices in the opera Norma. Michael is playing in the pit orchestra of Utopia and Katie Grace will be onstage with me. There’s something amazing about being able to pass on the love of something you’re passionate about to your children.

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  • My husband and I are currently separated and working towards an amicable divorce. When I tell people this, the immediate response is “I’m sorry,” which is interested to me. I honestly feel that this is the best thing and am trying to move forward with as much grace, love, and good will as possible, always ALWAYS keeping the children as the central focus of all my concerns. It is not easy, but I do believe it’s for the best.
  • We’re continuing to enjoy the “community as campus” and fall more and more in love with Pittsburgh every day. While I will be the first to admit that this winter has been brutal, it’s been fun to explore the changes in the rivers and in our own backyard as well as checking out some of the local indoor attractions. I never thought I would say it, but I love Pittsburgh. Look forward to more posts about what this community has to offer!
  • I started drinking coffee. IT’S AMAZING.


That brief update out of the way, I’ve been working with infants for a bit and have been reminded how much babies and toddlers love tickle rhymes. I thought I would share some here that have been big hits. Before that though, why are tickle rhymes such an integral part of infant and toddlerhood? Well, there are a couple reasons why they’re so universal.

Obviously, a good time is had by all. It’s a great chance to bond with baby. You’re happy and smiling. They’re happy and smiling. It feels good to laugh and share a happy moment together, which is great for emotional development. Skin to skin contact is also an essential human need, so playing with your baby in this way will bring the two of you closer. Additionally, face-to-face play is a wonderful way for little ones to increase their emotional intelligence. When they see you smiling and happy, they mirror it back to you. In a way, they are learning from you how to be happy and have fun. What an amazing this to teach! You, in return, are responding to your child’s cuing, both the “More!” (whether said or signed) and the signs that they are all finished.

Working rhymes into your daily routine help introduce your child to the predictability of everyday habits and can serve as a cue for what is coming next. If Daddy just did This Little Piggy, it must mean that next we put on socks and booties! When you put yourself into your toddler’s shoes, life can be pretty frustrating. You’re at the mercy of adults and even though they might try their best to keep up a routine, you never quite know how the daily rhythm is going to go. Rhymes can serve as signposts that tell your child what is coming next.

Tickle rhymes often isolate body parts, bringing a body awareness to little ones who are pretty new to this whole “having a body” thing. When you isolate a finger or a toe, you draw attention to it in a way that shows your child “Look! This is a part of you! You can move it, wiggle it, touch it, keep it still!” In Waldorf philosophy, we talk about children coming into awareness of who they are. They go from this floaty ethereal in-the-womb world to being earthside and having a growing awareness of their bodies. Rhymes like this help their growing body awareness.

Obviously, there’s a lot going on in the language development department as well. Rich vocabulary experiences, introducing rhyme schemes, linking words to actions or specific body parts to aid in labeling, articulation and enunciation, repetition and eventual memorization—these are all part of attaining language in early childhood. And because they’re short, small children are able to give attention and gain all these amazing benefits.

Finally, I would be a poor musician if I didn’t point out that the steady beat found in rhymes is an essential part of early musical development. Steady beat is that underlying unchanging pulse in music. It’s that underlying heartbeat of a song, much like the heartbeat your child heard within the womb or the pulse that now beats in your child’s own body. It’s not only a fundamental part of music, but a fundamental part of being. We were made for rhythm. Helping your child discover steady beat doesn’t just help musically, but also with self-awareness, coordination, physical development, and even reading when the time comes!

baby toes
Baby toes!

On with the rhymes! The first are really simple. You can do the “round and round” parts on the palms of hands, fat tummies, or backs. “Under there” or “little house” can be under shirts, chins, or armpits.

Round and round the garden like a teddy bear.
One step! Two steps! Tickle you under there!

Round and round the garden goes the little mouse.
One step! Two steps! In his little house!

And if you’d like to help your child view bees as friendly, helpful creatures from early on, there’s this one.

Bumblebee was in the barn
Circle finger in the air
Carrying dinner under his arm.
Move finger closer to baby

Catch Me & Kiss Me & Say It Again (sadly, out of print!) has been a long-time favorite of mine. All of my children have enjoyed the “tickledy tickle” of Here Comes a Mousie.

Here comes a mouse,
Mousie, mousie, mouse.
With tiny light feet
And a soft pink nose,
Tickledy tickle
Wherever he goes.

He runs up your arm
And under your chin.
Don’t open your mouth
Or the mouse will run in!

Toe-tickle rhymes are a little more involved unless shoes and socks are already off, but many of them also transfer well to fingers. There’s This Little Piggy of course, which I won’t write out here, but we also enjoy This Little Cow.

This little cow eats grass.
Tickle the pinky toe and make chomping noises.
This little cow eats hay.
Tickle the next toe and make more chomping noises.
This little cow drinks water,
Tickle the middle toe and slurp.
And this little cow runs away.
Tickle the next toe and then run your finger up one side of your child and down
the other.
But this big cow does nothing
But just lie around all day.
Grab the biggest toe; end by making snoring noises.
So we’ll chase her and we’ll chase her and we’ll chase her away!
Tickle, tickle, tickle!

Catch Me and Kiss Me and Say It Again has their own variation on a piggy rhyme.

This little pig found a hole in the fence.
This little pig jumped through.
This little pig headed straight for the garden.
This little pig did too.
This little pig said, wee, wee, wee—Look what I see!

This little pig said, Mmmm! Juicy berries!
This little pig said, Nice sweet lettuce.
This little pig said, Here comes the farmer!
This little pig said, Better run or he’ll get us!
This little pig said, Wee, wee, wee! Can’t catch me!

And finally, here is one of my favorite rhymes I wrote for Seasons of Joy.

There was a little gnome
Who had a little crumb
Touch side of mouth
And over the mountain he did run.
Run hands over top of head
With a belly full of fat
Tickle belly
And a tall point hat
Make a point on the top of the head
And a pancake stuck to his bum, bum, bum!
Tap their little tushie.

PicMonkey Collage 3 years
No reason for this pic. They’re just really cute.