Classic nursery rhymes are a great and time-tested tool for teaching kids new words, improving their language skills and helping them learn rhythm. But here’s the thing: Many classic rhymes for kids are centuries old, and they haven’t aged well. You might not be aware, because you blithely sang them as a child without knowing what they meant. Many are quite dark, which is most definitely amusing for adults — but not appropriate for young children.
The best nursery rhymes can help lull kids to sleep, as with “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,” or get them laughing. They let kids play with language and humor, from the cryptic rhymes of old to catchy contemporary songs and poems. We combed through more than a hundred rhymes to find the ones that will make your kids giggle. Get ready to sing, whisper, and shout your way through these dozen nursery rhymes for kids.
1. Wheels on the Bus
This classic nursery rhyme needs no introduction. Just reading the title probably immediately caused this rhyme to get stuck in your head for the rest of the day. You’re welcome.
2. Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe
This silly little nursery rhyme is a great counting tool, and it’s got a tiger in it. Kids loves tigers.
Eeny, meeny, miny, moe,
Catch a tiger by the toe.
If he hollers, let him go,
Eeny, meeny, miny, moe.
3. Little Miss Muffet
You might need to explain what some of these words mean, because “curds” and “whey” probably aren’t words they encounter. Spiders simultaneously made people laugh and get scared back then, and they still do now.
Little miss Muffet she sat on her tuffet, eating her curds eating and whey
Along came a spider who sat down beside her
And frightened miss Muffet away
4. Row, Row, Row Your Boat
This song just has a nice rhythm and is simple to sing. Your kids could make it more amusing by speeding it up, screaming it or miming rowing a boat with some pillows on your couch.
5. Frère Jacques
Your kids will get to learn a few French words — and have fun imitating clock-noises.
Frère Jacques, Frère Jacques,
Sonnez les matines! Sonnez les matines!
Ding, dang, dong. Ding, dang, dong.
6. Itsy Bitsy Spider
This classic nursery rhyme even has its own set of hand motions that go along with it. The spider’s eternal struggle to get to the top of the waterspout is amusing rather than depressing for children.
The itsy bitsy spider climbed up the waterspout.
Down came the rain
and washed the spider out.
Out came the sun
and dried up all the rain
and the itsy bitsy spider climbed up the spout again.
7. Peter, Peter, Pumpkin Eater
This is a weird rhyme, but the thought of someone living in a pumpkin is funny to children.
Peter, Peter, pumpkin eater,
Had a wife and couldn’t keep her;
He put her in a pumpkin shell,
And then he kept her very well.
Peter, Peter, pumpkin eater,
Had another, and didn’t love her;
Peter learned to read and spell,
And then he loved her very well.
8. Little Bo Peep
If Little Bo Peep would just give it up already, the sheep would come back. It’s a mini-lesson. And kids think sheep are cute.
9. Four and Twenty Blackbirds
No blackbirds were harmed in the making of the nursery rhyme. The ending of this rhyme is a little dark, but tons of characters met gruesome ends in fairytales, and we still read those to kids.
Sing a song of sixpence, a bag full of rye,
Four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie;
When the pie was opened the birds began to sing,
And wasn’t this a dainty dish to set before the king?
The king was in the parlor counting out his money;
The queen was in the kitchen eating bread and honey;
The maid was in the garden hanging out the clothes,
There came a little blackbird and nipped off her nose.
10. Pat a Cake
This classic rhyme is fun for kids. They can learn clapping games and even mime making their own cakes.
Pat a cake, pat a cake, Baker’s man;
So I do, master, as fast as I can.
Pat it and prick it and mark it with T,
And then it will serve for Tommy and me.
11. Little Boy Blue
The humor in this nursey rhyme is a little subtle for kids and might need to be explained, but they’ll get it.
Little Boy Blue, come blow your horn,
The sheep’s in the meadow, the cow’s in the corn.
What! Is this the way you mind your sheep,
Under the haycock fast asleep?
12. Hey Diddle Diddle
This classic is just funny on every level for kids. Cows can’t jump over the moon, and dishes and spoons can’t move!
High diddle diddle,
The cat and the fiddle,
The cow jumped over the moon;
The little dog laughed
To see such craft,
And the dish ran away with the spoon.