Learning & Development: Rhymes for birth to three - Garden snail gets ticklish!

Slowly, slowly, very slowly,
Creeps the garden snail.
Slowly, slowly, very slowly,
Up the wooden rail.

Quickly, quickly, very quickly,
Runs the little mouse.
Quickly, quickly, very quickly,
Round and round the house.

This is a wonderful 'tickly rhyme', which is similar to 'walking round the garden, like a teddy bear, one step, two step, tickle you under there!' - but less familiar. The Early Years Foundation Stage recognises the crucial role of the key person and the genuine bond with children that underpins a settled close relationship. Tickling games and rhymes are just one way to develop such close connections between practitioner and child.


- With very small babies, make sure the child is feeling safe and secure before introducing the rhyme. It may be enough to chant the rhyme gently as the baby is securely held on the lap of the key person.

- At the start of the rhyme, 'creep' your fingers around the baby's hand, and then move up the arm as the words 'up the wooden rail' are said. Finish the rhyme with a tickle under the chin or arm - you will know the individual baby best!

- Later, introduce the second verse, but carry out all the actions more quickly. Consider tickling legs, arms, chins and tummies with the words 'round and round the house'.

- Older babies and toddlers still like to be tickled, but consider encouraging the children to mimic your actions. Help them to 'walk' their own fingers around their palms and up their arms, and encourage them to act out the rhyme on your hand too. Children who are more mobile may enjoy very physical activity indoors and outdoors, such as creeping slowly on the floor acting as a snail or running around and around the room as a little mouse.

Judith Stevens is an early years adviser in London.

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