Short nursery rhymes are a perfect way to practice early reading skills with toddlers and preschoolers. Children learn to read at their own pace, and there is no need to hurry this process along. But providing a strong foundational base in language, both written and oral, is extremely important.
By reading or singing short nursery rhymes out loud, you’ll be helping your child develop their memory, work on phonological awareness, and lay important groundwork for raising readers.
If you think back to your own childhood you’ll realize how many of these rhymes you know by heart, decades after you first heard them.
Kids love repetition, and after hearing these words over and over they will come to recognize them and enjoy them even more. When they start to anticipate the next line, young children will feel the sense of pride that comes from being “with it.”
Nursery rhymes are a fun and easy way to help your child develop important cognitive skills, while bonding with them at the same time. That’s a win win.
Here are 10 short nursery rhymes for toddlers and preschoolers.
Star Light, Star Bright
Star light, star bright First star I see tonight I wish I may, I wish I might Have this wish I wish tonight
Jack Be Nimble
Jack be nimble Jack be quick Jack jump over The candlestick
Mary Mary Quite Contrary
Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary How does your garden grow? With silver bells and cockle shells And pretty maids all in a row
A Tisket A Tasket
A tisket, a tasket A green and yellow basket. I wrote a letter to my love And on the way I dropped it. I dropped it, I dropped it And on the way I dropped it. A little boy he picked it up And put it in his pocket.
Baa Baa Black Sheep
Baa Baa Black Sheep Have you any wool? Yes sir, yes sir, three bags full. One for the master And one for the dame. And one for the little boy Who lives down the lane.
Jack and Jill
Jack and Jill Went up the hill To fetch a pail of water. Jack fell down And broke his crown And Jill came tumbling after.
London Bridge is falling down Falling down Falling down London Bridge is falling down My Fair Lady.
Ring Around the Rosie
Ring around the rosie A pocket full of posies Ashes! Ashes! We all fall down.
Wise Old Owl
A wise old owl lived in an oak. The more he saw the less he spoke. The less he spoke the more he heard. Why can't we all be like that wise old bird?
Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall. Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. All the King's horses And all the King's men Couldn't put Humpty Together again.
The History of Nursery Rhymes
Nursery rhymes often have interesting (and sometimes rather dark) stories behind them.
While your toddler is too young to care about history (to be fair, if I was a toddler I would only care about goldfish crackers too!), it’s really interesting to research the origins of these refrains.
Some stem from a significant historical event. Others were written as a sort of code – for example, if someone wanted to criticize the government, but was too afraid to do so outright.
Nursery rhymes have the distinct advantage of being easy to remember. This is why they’re great for young kids – and this is also why they were so important historically! Nursery rhymes could easily be spread through word-of-mouth, which was very important in populations of people who were illiterate.
If you’re interested in reading more about the stories and meanings behind some famous nursery rhymes, this post is really interesting.
If you’re working on reading with your young kids at home, you might also like The 50 Best Books for Toddlers, the 15 Best Books for Preschoolers, and The 100 Best Books for Kindergarten. With a mix of classics, award winners, and popular new children’s literature, these lists are a great way to fill out your home library.
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