Dear Father Hood: what’s the best way of learning nursery rhymes?

nurseryrhymes

You’ve come to the right man. As my neighbours will testify, I’ve been singing and making up nursery rhymes for around two hours a day every day since my son was born 15 months ago. That equates to nearly 1,000 man hours and this makes me more than qualified to release my own training programme or audio book series. Sadly, I don’t have time to do either – those nursery rhymes don’t sing themselves – so you’re going to have to make do with my five-point plan for global nursery rhyme domination.

1. Go to baby classes
I never, ever expected to reach a point in my life where I responded to the question “What are you up to today?’ with the words “going to Boogie Babies”. But, unlike a lot of dads, I do go to Boogie Babies. And I go to Tumble Tots. I’ve also been to Heartbeeps and Ady’s Music Group. And while they are all different, they all blow bubbles out of a machine and they all play the same music. As a result, it only takes a few sessions to nail the old favourites. No, I’m not talking about Sinatra’s My Way or Sedaka’s Oh! Carol. I’m talking Wind The Bobbin, Twinkle Twinkle, Three Little Monkeys and, my personal favourite, Dingle Dangle Scarecrow – he can shake his hands like this and shake his feet like that!

2. Actions speak louder than words
There’s a reason why someone, somewhere made up a dance to go along with the words, ‘1, 2, 3, 4, 5 once I caught a fish alive.’ And that reason is that it’s much, much easier to perfect the words of a song when you associate them with a move or an action. Conclusion? Don’t be shy or worry about the fact people might be looking in the window. Put that left hand in, take that left hand out and begin to shake it all about.

3. Don’t worry about the tune
One of the best things about babies is that they have absolutely no idea about the concept of quality. Negatively, this means they’ll attempt to shove everything from sand to cigarette butts via dirty tissues down their windpipes. Positively, it means they’ll smile and applaud some of the most tone-deaf singing that’s ever seen the light of day. I know this because I sound like I’m strangling a set of bagpipes and my son still claps like a performing seal during most of my performances.

4. Use the force
No, this isn’t a cheap May the 4th be with you Star Wars gag. It’s the reveal of my most potent parenting secret. She’s called Alexa and I bought her from Amazon. This description makes her sound a little like a sex doll, but she’s actually a kick-ass, voice-controlled device that plays whatever song or group you ask her to play. Better still, her back catalogue includes loads of nursery rhymes. Sure, at times this ultra-twee musical onslaught makes you understand why some armies use music to torture prisoners, but if you survive the first couple of days you’ll soon a) know all the words and b) become immune to the pain.

5. Be confident
Psst. Do you want to know a secret? You do. Brilliant, here goes. I’m a charlatan. As in a fraud (as opposed to a member of the 1990s indie band). What I mean by this is, although I act all knowledgeable and come across like a musical maestro, I actually have no idea whether I wonder who, what or how you are (I’m talking Twinkle, Twinkle). But do you know what? I get away with this lyrical faux pas because I make an extra special effort to sing that line with gusto. It’s a move that always works for me at weddings and one I’d recommend to anyone who suffers from PNRAS (Pre Nursery Rhyme Anxiety Syndrome). In other words, don’t fret. If in doubt, belt it out.

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