12 Nursery Rhymes To Sing With Your Baby

Did you know that research h has shown that when a child knows 8 or more nursery rhymes by heart by the age of 4, then they usually have some of the best reading and spelling skills in their class by the time they turn 8. So these simple little songs can be an incredibly powerful tool in your child’s development and have benefits that last far beyond the years when they will most likely be singing them by themselves or with you. Last week I wrote a blog post about why you should sing to your baby, which you can read here, and of course a great type of song to sing with your baby or young child, would be a nursery rhyme.

OK, so that’s very easy to say, but as a new mum I looked at my little boy when he was first born and found myself trying and failing to remember a single nursery rhyme in my sleep deprived state! They came back eventually, but if you are similarly sleep deprived and can’t think of a single thing to sing with your baby here are 12 nursery rhymes, with their lyrics, for you.

You don’t need any equipment at all, or even accompaniment to sing these songs with your baby, as you will hear from the sound clips for each song.

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star

So it is the first verse of this song that people know, and those are the words that I sing whenever I sing this song, but I recently found out that there are actually 5 verses, so I will give you all 5 verse lyrics here, but as I said I only ever sing the first verse.

Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are!
Up above the world so high,
Like a diamond in the sky.
Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are!

When the blazing sun is gone,
When he nothing shines upon,
Then you show your little light,
Twinkle, twinkle, all the night.
Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are!

Then the traveller in the dark,
Thanks you for your tiny spark,
He could not see which way to go,
If you did not twinkle so.
Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are!

In the dark blue sky you keep,
And often through my curtains peep,
For you never shut your eye,
Till the sun is in the sky.
Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are!

As your bright and tiny spark,
Lights the traveller in the dark,-
Though I know not what you are,
Twinkle, twinkle, little star.
Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are!

So, what is the tune for this nursery rhyme? With all of the songs in this post, as soon as you hear it I am sure it will be familiar and you will remember singing it with your parents or with friends in your school days, but here it is:

Baa Baa Black Sheep

Have a listen to this song straight after you listen to Twinkle, twinkle, little star and see if you notice any similarities.

This is a much shorter song, well if you count all 5 verses of Twinkle, twinkle – otherwise it’s basically the same length. And it does talk about one bag being for the master and one for the dame, and only boys are mentioned rather than girls, but I often change the lyrics slightly to include girls, or family members, sometimes we change the colour of the sheep involved and I get my children to choose what colour the sheep is – in that way, this song has kept my children awake in the car when I have wanted to avoid one of those danger naps that messes up their night time sleep!

Baa, baa, black sheep,
Have you any wool;?
Yes sir, yes sir,
Three bags full.
One for the master,
One for the dame,
And one for the little boy
Who lives down the lane.

And here it is with the tune:

London’s Burning

This song is thought to have a historical context, and it is widely believed that it is all about the Great Fire of London which took place in 1666. Is this true? Well it is definitely about a fire running through the English capital city, but no one is 100% sure that The Great Fire of London was the inspiration for the nursery rhyme.

London's burning, London's burning.
Fetch the engines, fetch the engines.
Fire, fire! 
Fire, fire!
Pour on water, pour on water.

Listen to London’s Burning:

Mary Had a Little Lamb

This is a lovely little rhyme about a little girl and her favourite lamb. What is not to like about this?

Mary had a little lamb,
Its fleece was white as snow,
And everywhere that Mary went,
The lamb was sure to go.

He followed her to school one day,
Which was against the rules.
It made the children laugh and play,
To see a lamb at school.

And so the teacher turned him out,
But still he lingered near
And waited patiently about,
Till Mary did appear,

"What makes the lamb love Mary so?"
The eager children cry.
"Why, Mary loves the lamb, you know",
The teacher did reply. 

Listen to Mary Had a Little Lamb

Mary, Mary Quite Contrary

There are several theories about the origin of this nursery rhyme. Some theories suggest that the Mary of the song may be the Virgin Mary, the bells being the sanctus bells (small hand-held bells used in Catholic services mainly to make a joyful noise giving thanks to God); other theories suggest that the Mary in question may be either Mary I of England or Mary Queen of Scots.

Mary, Mary, quite contrary
How does your garden grow?
With silver bells and cockleshells
And pretty maids all in a row,
And pretty maids all in a row.

Listen to Mary, Mary Quite Contrary:

Old MacDonald Had a Farm

This has been one of my absolute favourites to sing both with my own children, and with children who I taught when I did baby and toddler music classes. It’s so much fun. You get to be really silly making loads of animal noises (teaching your children about the noises different animals make, and their names), but you could also use toys or puppets when singing this song, or pictures of different animals, whatever you have at home, to illustrate the animals you are singing about. This is also a great song to get your children involved in making the song – by this I mean choosing what animal Old MacDonald has on his farm, they choose the order of animals. And it doesn’t matter if the animals are farm animals or not, in fact my son really enjoyed adding in dinosaurs!

Old MacDonald had a farm
Ee I Ee I Oh
And on that farm he had a cow
Ee I Ee I Oh
With a moo moo here
And a moo moo there
Here a moo; There a moo
Everywhere a moo moo
Old MacDonald had a cow
Ee I Ee I Oh

Listen to Old MacDonald Had a Farm:

The Grand Old Duke of York

This is a great action song, and one that is brilliant for moving around the room with your baby. You can raise them up in the air as you are singing about going up the hill, bring them back down again when singing about coming back down. Even raising just their legs or arms up and down to match the words you are singing. It’s a good, fun song.

Oh the Grand Old Duke of York,
He had ten thousand men.
He marched them up to the top of the hill,
And he marched them back again.

And when they were up, they were up.
And when they were down, they were down.
And when they were only half way up,
They were neither up nor down.

Listen to The Grand Old Duke of York here:

Row, Row Row Your Boat

This is another one of my children’s favourite songs. Largely because they can either scream or roar at me when we are singing it! It is also a great song to sing in a round and start to introduce harmony to your child(ren) if you are so inclined (link to my post where I talk about Singing songs in rounds here).

Row, row, row your boat
Gently down the stream.
Merrily, merrily, merrily,
Life is but a dream.

Row, row, row your boat,
Gently down the stream.
If you see a crocodile,
Don't forget to scream!

Row, row, row your boat,
Gently to the shore.
If you see a lion there,
Don't forget to roar!

Row, row, row your boat
Gently down the river.
If you see a polar bear,
Don't forget to shiver!

Listen to Row, Row, Row Your Boat here:

Pat-a-Cake

Less of a song, and more of a rhyme, you can use a really expressive rhythmic voice here with this one.

Pat-a-Cake, pat-a-cake, baker's man,
Bake me a cake as fast as you can.
Pat it and prick it, and mark it with B.
Put it in the oven for baby and me.

Listen to Pat-a-Cake here:

Hickory Hickory Dock

This song is great for singing about numbers (as well as the time, of course), as you can decide whatever hour the clock struck – you don’t have to stick to one every time. You can also, with very small babies, move their hands, or their legs as the mouse is going up and down the clock, or raise them up and down. And singing a few tick rocks at the end can help your child start to develop a sense of the beat, or the pulse in music.

Hickory hickory dock,
The mouse ran up the clock.
The clock struck one, the mouse ran down.
Hickory hickory dock.
Tick Tock
Tick Tock....

Listen to Hickory Hickory Dock here:

Incy Wincy Spider

This is a good action song to sing with your baby. Like other songs in this list, you can either raise and lower your baby, or your baby’s limbs at the relevant parts of this song. Or you can sort of mime out the words of the song and one day your baby will be able to join you with miming the words as well.

Incy Wincy Spider climbed up the water spout.
Down came the rain, and washed poor Incy out.
Out came the sunshine, and dried up all the rain.
So Incy Wincy Spider climbed up the spout again.

Listen to Incy Wincy Spider here:

Hey Diddle Diddle

This is such a fun, silly nonsense song to sing with your little ones, with cows jumping over moons, laughing dogs and household items running off into the sunset. What is not to enjoy about this song?

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

Listen to Hey Diddle Diddle here:

My next post on this topic will give you 10 Lullabies to Sing With Your Baby, to give you ideas for somewhat calmer songs to help soothe your baby off to sleep. Once I have posted that blog post I will update this to include a link.

If you have enjoyed reading my blog post, thank you. I am always looking for ideas for the blog, so would love to hear from you with suggestions for topics you would like me to cover in the future. Also, if you would be interested in supporting me to keep this blog running, buying the books to review here, and supplies to make the DIY instruments, for example, I would be absolutely delighted if you would consider buying me a coffee using the following link: Buy Me A Coffee Thank you!!

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