I thought I knew my nursery rhymes. Although I ‘lost them’ during my college and graduate school years, I thought it would be like riding a bike – – and the rhymes would just magically appear when I reached parenthood.

Not so much.

Dickory, dickory, dare,
The pig flew up in the air…

Um, pig? What happened to hickory, dock, the mouse and the clock?

Need to amp up your nursery rhyme knowledge? Then you and your tot should definitely attend Mother Goose on the Loose Monday afternoon story time at Enoch Pratt Library’s Roland Park Branch. (It’s held at other branches, too. Just check out the website for the branch closest to your home!)

Using a mix of puppets, stuffed animals, books, songs, bells, felt board, sign language and movements, Ms. Stephanie and Ms. Karen led roughly a dozen babies/toddlers and their caregivers through a series of nursery rhymes. We threw pigs in the air. We pulled Humpty Dumpty off his wall. We shook our bells together. Every child had an opportunity to participate and receive positive reinforcement from the rest of the group. A great way to beat the 90 degree afternoon heat!

The facility, located on Roland Avenue in the Roland Park/Wyndhurst area of the city, is fantastic. Their children’s area is located on the first floor (yay! no elevators or stairs to hike with a loaded diaper bag or stroller!) and has a small amphitheater area that’s perfect for read alouds. The tiered area allows toddlers and tikes to see everything, no matter what row their seated in. The ledges are wide enough to sit comfortably and allow movement without too much fear of falling over.

And you will be moving. You’ll be up, down, and all around during this thirty-minute session. Afterward, you’ll want to gather with the other parents and tots on the circle rug to build with wooden blocks.

The only problem? I didn’t know my nursery rhymes. Even though they were each repeated twice, it was obvious this was our first time at Mother Goose on the Loose and I was definitely fumbling through. It would have been tremendously helpful if they had poster-size printed rhymes for the adults to follow. Might be a nice idea, too, so that even at a young age, participants could start associating spoken/sung words with print.

I did, however, learn the hand signs for duck, pig, cow and horse. Old MacDonald Had a Farm will now have a whole new meaning in our house!

This particular story hour was less raucous than others literacy programs we’ve attended. The jury is still out on whether or not that’s a good thing or a bad thing. While it was nice not to be distracted by toddling little people attacking the leader (we were politely asked to keep our children close), I had this distinct urge to break out in a ridiculously loud rendition of “Set Your Piggies Free?” and get everybody wiggling. Maybe it’s the gleek in me??

The program has been part of the library system’s family offerings since 1999 and was developed by then-Baltimore resident Betsy Diamant-Cohen. Mother Goose on the Loose is an award-winning program that, according to the website, provides effective pre-reading experiences that can help children develop literacy skills by:

  • helping children’s eyes to focus,
  • aiding them in recognizing objects and developing sensory awareness,
  • reinforcing basic concepts, and
  • giving children time for physical closeness, which is so crucial for their emotional and intellectual development.

The parent benefits? Here’s what the website says parents gain from participation:

  • Increasing parent knowledge of child development
  • Pointing out advances in children’s developmental progress
  • Helping parents to enhance their self-concept by alerting them to the fact that a parent is the child’s first and best teacher
  • Giving parents self-confidence regarding their parenting
  • Reducing the amount of parenting stress
  • Helping parents improve their own literacy skills
  • Alerting parents to resources available at the library for their children
  • Strengthening the relationship between children and their parents/caregivers
And, of course, you’ll dust off the nursery rhyme cobwebs.

If you have a child under 2, check out Mother Goose on the Loose at Roland Park’s library on Mondays from 1:30 PM – 2:00 PM. Are your kids between the ages of 2 and 3? The branch is introducing a brand new Toddler Jump program on Thursdays from 10:30 – 11:00. Pre-School Leaps, a story time for 3-5 year olds, is on Thursdays at 11:30.

The cost? Free. Well, a dime actually. You’ll need to pay for an hour of on-street parking.

View Larger Map

Image from prattlibrary.org