Short poems and songs help language learning as they increase text predictability, i.e. it is easier to guess what word will finish the next line if it should rhyme with the last word in the previous line.

Ever since Maximilian and Zoë were born, we had a tradition to sing at least four lullabies when the children were getting ready for bed: two songs in Swedish and two – in Russian. We would sing every single night!



In addition to the poems from the books that we regularly read, like Gruffalo, I have learnt a few rhymes that are accompanied with finger movements:1) (bending the fingers from the thumb to the little finger)

Этот пальчик – дедушка, 
Этот пальчик – бабушка, 
Этот пальчик – папочка,
Этот пальчик – мамочка,
Этот пальчик – Зоенька/Максичек,
Ну, а это я! Это вся моя семья!

(The last line is pronounced  while patting oneself on the chest. Both Max and Zoe love this rhyme. I use it often to cut their fingernails).


This finger is the grand-father,
This finger is the grand-mother,
This finger is the father,
This finger is the mother,
This finger is Zoe/Max,
And this is I! This is my whole family!

All our manicure sessions are accompanied by this short poem, which makes this otherwise unwelcome procedure a bit more tolerable for Max and Zoe.

2) В гости к пальчику большому
Приходили прямо к дому
Указательный и средний,
Безымянный и последний,
Сaм мизинчик-малышок
Постучался о порог.
Вместе пальчики-друзья,
Друг без друга им нельзя.


The thumb was visited by
The index finger, and the middle finger,
and the ring finger, and the last finger,
The little finger knocked on the porch himself.
The friends, fingers, are all together,
They cannot do without each other.

eksmoFurthermore, I pick short rhymes from little books published by Eksmo (Эксмо), for example, from the books “Мелкая моторика” (Fine motor skills) or “Веселые пальчики” (Merry fingers) by T. Tkachenko. We got six of these books during our trip to Russia when Max and Zoe were 17 months old. At that age I found it difficult to keep them interested by the poems accompanied by rather complicated movements. However, at the age of 2 years we learnt 3 such poems. Max and Zoe could “sing along” and do the movements. When I am writing this Max and Zoe are 2 years and 5 months, and it seems to me that the time for these books has truly come. Now the children like copying what we do, they sing and dance all day long, and their linguistic and cognitive skills are sufficiently developed to actually understand what the rhyme is about and why there are these or those movements.

A. Barto’s short poems for children are loved by all generations of Russians. Here’s Zoë reciting some of Barto’s poems with my help.


From the first day Max and Zoe arrived home they were exposed to popular Russian children’s songs. I often sing to them; I also created playlists on YouTube which consisted of popular songs from children’s cartoons. I would play them as a background, and would sing a few myself. When Max and Zoe were 18 months old, their favourite songs were:
  1. Песенка Красной Шапочки,
  2. Оранжевая песенка,
  3. Вместе весело шагать по просторам

I also translated the English/Swedish songs about the spider into Russian, as the kids simply love this song and the movements that accompany it: 

Имсе паучок по дереву ползет,
Падает на землю, если дождь идет.
Вот вышло солнце тучи разогнать!
Имсе паучок на дереве опять! 
I also translated a little song about a monkey which could not stop eating bananas:
Сидела обезьяна, сидела и глазела,
А если не глазела, то чистила банан.
Ела банан, ела банан,
ела банан, ела банан, ела банан!
I must say that I am in love with Swedish children’s songs: they are simple, the melody is memorable, and it is a lot of fun to sing them and do all the fun movements with the arms and legs. Unfortunately, they are not as easily translated into Russian as I wish they were. I keep trying!
15th August 2013
I have finally translated the Swedish song about a snail into Russian (see the opposite column)! It is Max’s favourite song, so I am very pleased:
Tы, улитка, берегись
Берегись, берегись!
Ты, улитка, берегись!
Мне не попадись!

I know, it looks primitive, but keeping the message close to the original while looking for a good rhyme for the melody sometimes is not an easy task, even when rather simple songs are involved.

At the age of 3 years the children sang along most songs in Russian from popular Soviet cartoons. They could say what character sang a certain song: “Енот поёт песенку!” (Rus. “The Racoon is singing the song!”). For the New Year’s celebration 2014-2015 we learnt both most popular songs in Russian about the Christmas/New Year tree: “В лесу родилась ёлочка“, “Маленькой ёлочке“. Our children sing all the time! The caregivers in the preschool report the same: Max and Zoe love singing and they sing non-stop!

Gunilla, my wise, patient and resourceful mother-in-law, taught a version of the following popular Swedish rhyme to Max and Zoe when they just turned 1 year. Zoe started copying her movements that accompany the rhyme the same day as she first heard it. Max followed shortly.
Baka, baka liten kaka,
rulla, rulla liten bulla,
ringla, ringla liten kringla,
mjöla den och pricka den
och… skjuts in i ugnen.
Bake, bake little cake;
Roll, roll the little buns,
Coil, curl the small pretzel,
Flour it and mark it
And… shove in the oven!

barnkammarMany rhymes in Swedish come from the series Barnkammar boken which also contain CDs. The CDs are great as they have a recording of the songs and rhymes from the book.


Martin has always been very good at singing songs in Swedish to our children. Max and Zoe’s favourite songs in Swedish are:
Det var en gång en apa
Som bara satt och gapa
Och när han inte gapa
Så skala han banan
Skala banan ……knäpp, knäpp
Skala banan ……knäpp, knäpp
Skala banan, Skala banan …..knäpp, knäpp
Imse vimse spindel
klättra’ upp för trå’n.
Ner faller regnet
spolar spindeln bort.
Upp stiger solen,
torkar bort allt regn.
imse vimse spindel
klättra’ upp igen!


Lilla snigel, akta dej,
akta dej, akta dej,
Lilla snigel, akta dej,
Annars tar jag dej.


En kulen natt, natt, natt
Min båt jag styrde
På havets vågade, vågade våg
Så skummet yrde
Och vart jag sågade, sågade såg
På havets vågade, vågade våg
Där ner I djupet-e-pet-e-pet-e-pet
En fisk jag såg
Och det var DUUUU!


Ekorrn satt i granen
skulle skala kottar
Fick han höra barnen
då fick han så bråttom
Hoppa han från tallegren
stötte han sitt lilla ben
och den långa ludna svansen.


Hjulen på bussen snurrar runt, runt, runt…

We have a fantastic book Barnkammar boken which also contains a CD. This CD is great as it has a recording of the songs and rhymes from the book. We play it often in the car, and the kids simply love it! It also works like magic when someone is cranky in the car: all the whining stops with the first chords.

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