Saturday, September 4, 2010

Storytelling with Children :: Nursery Rhymes

Recently I wrote here about movement and lullabies as the first stories the child experiences. From lullabies, flow nursery rhymes. Sometimes they overlap with nursery rhymes sung as lullabies and often accompanied by movement and touch. An example,

Sleep, baby sleep,
Thy father guards the sheep,
Thy mother shakes the dreamland tree and from it falls sweet dreams for thee,
Sleep baby sleep.........

One way to bring nursery rhymes is with touch, movement, song and gesture. Baby might like a game of pat-a-cake while the first grader loves Hey diddle dinkety poppety pet! (try saying that fast and articulately five times)

For baby:

Pat- a -cake, pat-a- cake bakers man,
Bake me a cake as fast as you can.
Pat it and Roll it and mark it with a B,
And pop it in the oven for baby and me!

Clap hands together and apart, you can do this holding babies hands, and trace the B on the child's arm of back or belly.

Here's another version:

Pat-a-cake, pat-a -cake, baker's girl,
Bake me a cake with a strawberry twirl.
Pat it and roll it and mark it with a B,
And pop it in the oven for baby and me!

When you say strawberry twirl, you can make a twirl on the child's arm or back.

Here's one of my son's favorites, for the first grader, to sing and do with gestures touching the body:

Hey diddle dinkety, poppety pet,
The merchants of London they all wear scarlet.
Silk in the collar and gold in the hem,
So merrily march the merchant men.

The child's sense of touch can be soothed or stimulated with nursery rhymes.

This little piggy went to market,
This little piggy stayed home,
this little piggy ate roast beef,
This little piggy had none,
And this little piggy cried wee! wee!
All the way home!

Wiggle the toes with each verse then trace the way home on the child's foot bottom, around the ankle and up the leg

We can move the child's foot at the ankle, up and down or clasp the soles together while saying or singing a nursery rhyme. Here is an example from Mary Thienes Schunemann's nursery rhyme book in her series Naturally You Can Sing!

When I push very young children in the swing, I sing a little song that I made up and follow it with some nursery rhymes.

The song:

Up I go in my swing
Oh so merrily
Up I go in my swing
With a fiddle di di-di di

With little ones, I push from in front of them on the swing so they can see me and make eye contact. I push from their feet with the palms of my hands lined up with the soles of their feet and sing:

All around the cobblers bench
The monkey chased the weasel
The monkey stopped to ties his shoes
Pop! goes the weasel

A penny for a spool of thread,
A penny for a needle
That's the way the money goes,
Pop! Goes the weasel.

For the pop I make a popping sound with my pointer finger inside my cheek.

Baa, ba black sheep, have you any wool?
Yes sir, yes sir, three bags full.
One for my master and one for my dame
One for the little boy who lives down the lane
Baa, baa black sheep, have you any wool?
Yes si, yes sir, three bags full.

Another nursery rhythm with a pop:

Higgledy, piggledy, pop!
The dog has eaten the mop.
The cat's in a hurry,
The pig's in a flurry
Higgledy, piggledy, pop!

More on nursery rhymes, rhythm, and speech for the young child tomorrow.

What's your favorite nursery rhyme?



  1. I love this! We still sing nursery rhymes often in the day, even though my daughters are now 6 and 10. So nice for circle times too, you have already explained some of the movement aspects, but also it is really helpful for mom... I was trying to teach myself a new late summer circle for our first weeks of school and since it included several nursery rhymes that I already knew it made it much more easy to memorize!

    We do so love Mary Thienes Schunemann.
    I don't know that I could pick a favorite right now, too many...

  2. thank you for commenting Renee, I posted Suzanne Down's piece to give more on the nirsery rhymes importance

    Nursery rhtmes really are our folk tales that are passed down orally

    Blessings on your beginnings of the school year.

  3. We have so many favourites! I sing Rowan (2) to sleep with a version of Sleep Baby Sleep. :)

    We also love: row row the boat; diddle diddle dumpling; ten little fingers; wind the bobbin up; I'm a little teapot; there was an old woman (tossed up in a blanket); tweedle dee dee (once in a wood there was a tree); incey wincey spider; pat-a-cake; and a newer favourite of ours is dip dip dip (Dip Dip Dip, My little blue ship, sails across the water, like a cup and saucer, Dip Dip Steady, I am ready!)

  4. We enjoy "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star", "Mary, Mary", "Incey, Wincey", "Mary Had a Little Lamb" and "Baa, Baa Black Sheep" (although we usually sing white sheep as my youngest has a white toy sheep that's very special to her). There are various others that we might sing, but those are the ones my youngest will ask for

  5. I love nursery rhymes! I shared them with my son every night at bedtime when he was little. One of my favorites is, "I see the moon and the moon sees me. God bless the moon and God bless me."


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