Tuesday, April 14, 2020

SOL Tuesday - Nursery Rhymes

Slice of Life Tuesday
April 14, 2020
"Nursery Rhymes"

I've been thinking a lot today about nursery rhymes.

Children these days aren't as familiar with all the nursery rhymes that I grew up with. What I've observed, while teaching young children in recent years, is that parents don't seem to be teaching nursery rhymes to their toddlers and pre-schoolers as much as previous generations did. I've felt a little sad about that, since I think that nursery rhymes teach kids about the rhythm of our language, and help them in developing phonemic awareness, among other things. It's my opinion that there is now a lag in phonemic awareness development, which becomes apparent when children reach school age. When exposed to it at school, some children learn quickly, but there are other students who just can't figure out how to play with the sounds of words. Not having the ability to hear rhymes and alliteration and such, and manipulate sounds into different words, can cause real difficulty in learning to read and write. 

It is my personal belief that there has been more of a lag in phonemic development over the past twenty or so years, and I've wondered if the lack of teaching nursery rhymes to very young children has played a part in that. I wonder if any other teachers of young children have noticed some of the same things I've noticed about that subject. (On a side note, there aren't too many teachers left that have been around as long as I have, to be able to have noticed any changes! Younger teachers really wouldn't have anything to compare it to, would they?) Anyway, I'll need to ponder that a bit more, some other day. 

What I really set out to write about today is the nursery rhymes themselves, the ones I remember from my childhood. Here is a list of ones that come to mind immediately:

Jack and Jill
Rock-a-Bye Baby
Little Jack Horner
Humpty Dumpty
Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep
Jack Sprat
Good Night, Sleep Tight
Sing a Song of Sixpence
Little Bo Peep
Mary Had a Little Lamb
Hey Diddle Diddle
Baa Baa Black Sheep
Mary, Mary Quite Contrary
Little Miss Muffet
Hickory Dickory Dock
Little Boy Blue
Old Mother Hubbard
Jack Be Nimble
It's Raining, It's Pouring
London Bridge is Falling Down
Georgie Porgie
One, Two, Buckle My Shoe
Diddle Diddle Dumpling, My Son John

That is actually quite a long list I've made! Here is the nursery rhyme that started me thinking about the subject in the first place:

Good night
Sleep tight
Don't let
The bed bugs bite

Then I started thinking about the lullaby which parents have sung to sleepy babies for years:

Rock-a-bye baby on the treetop
When the wind blows, the cradle will rock
When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall
And down will come baby, cradle and all.

Oh my goodness.

Looking back at my list, I realized how many of these nursery rhymes end with the characters suffering a not-so-good fate! Jack and Jill tumble down a hill; Humpty Dumpty falls and is irreparably broken; a baby, complete with its cradle, falls out of a tree; a blackbird snips off a maid's nose; an elderly man bumps his head in a fall; sheep and other livestock are lost; an old woman's dog has no food; bridges are falling; girls are crying; spiders and bugs are descending upon poor defenseless children.... OHHH  MY!  Maybe that's why nursery rhymes have fallen out of favor with modern people. So many of the rhymes have such trauma and tragedy in them! Once upon a time, trauma and tragedy were facts of daily life for many people, and that's one of the reasons why the unfortunate happenings occur in the nursery rhymes that were written at the time. In modern times, we try to protect our children and not expose them as much to the harsh realities of life. Is that why parents these days don't recite nursery rhymes with their children?

Not all nursery rhymes are full of gloom and doom, thank goodness. I was always amused, as a child, by the thought of Mary's little lamb following her to school, and all the children laughing and playing because of it. And there was something about a mouse running up a grandfather clock, then scurrying back down when frightened by the gong of the clock, that always made me smile. I always liked envisioning in my head a cow jumping over the moon, a boy leaping over a candlestick, and Mary growing her garden. I have fond memories of many of the nursery rhymes I knew as a child.

I'm not sure what other people think about nursery rhymes -- or IF they even think about them at all -- but I am sad that young children these days don't know very many of them. If I have anything to say about it, this traditional part of my childhood will never become just a forgotten part of history! :-)

~ ~ ~

Diddle Diddle Dumpling, My Son John
Diddle diddle dumpling, my son John
Went to bed with his stockings on;
One shoe off and one shoe on,
Diddle diddle dumpling, my son John.

Little Jack Horner
Little Jack Horner sat in the corner
Eating his Christmas pie.
He stuck in his thumb and pulled out a plum
And said, "What a good boy am I!"

Hey, Diddle Diddle
Hey diddle diddle, the cat and the fiddle,
The cow jumped over the moon.
The little dog laughed to see such sport,
And the dish ran away with the spoon!

~ ~ ~

JudyK  April 14, 2020


  1. I enjoyed the rhymes. Two years ago, I read aloud Dan Satant’s book, After the Fall” I realized not all kids had heard about Humpty Dumpty!
    I wanted to add the rest of the lines to Good night...
    If they do
    Take a shoe
    And beat them
    Til they’re black and blue!

    1. Haha, Pat! I didn't know the rest of the lines to Good Night when I was little, because my family never said that part of it! But when I was in college, my roommate taught me them. Up until now, I thought that her family had made that part up! But along you came, reciting those same lines...and now I know that my roommate's family didn't invent that part after all. I had no idea! Haaa! That is just too funny! ;-)


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