Most Popular Children’s Nursery Rhymes
June 3, 2019
The best and most popular children’s nursery rhymes are long-lasting for a reason—a few, in fact! They’re fun, educational and thanks to their ear worm melodies, usually impossible to forget… That’s the power of nursery rhymes, and why they’ve been passed along from generation to generation, some as far back as the 1600s!
Whether you’re looking for classic English nursery rhymes, Spanish nursery rhymes, French nursery rhymes, the most popular nursery rhymes or the most interactive nursery rhymes, you’ll find them all here. Scroll to see the 20 that made The Bump’s top list!
What qualifies as popular nursery rhymes for babies? The ones that not only get stuck in your head, but are easy enough for a little one to wrap his tongue around with a little practice. These nursery rhymes may be inspirational (“Star Light, Star Bright”), funny (“Three Blind Mice”), even interactive (“This Little Piggy”). But all of these nursery rhyme songs have one thing in common: They’re adored by even the littlest singers.
“Star Light, Star Bright”
Bump Love: “Star Light, Star Bright” is one of the most popular nursery rhymes of all time—as it should be. It’s the original “When You Wish Upon a Star,” and perhaps the easiest way to encourage a kid to dream.
Star light, star bright, First star I see tonight, I wish I may, I wish I might, Have this wish I wish tonight.
“Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”
Bump Love: “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,” adapted from a 19th century poem by Jane Taylor, is one of the prettiest nursery rhymes, which is why so many people have composed to it—including Mozart!
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!
(Fun fact: There are two more verses, should you want to include them!) 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 traveler 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!
“Jack and Jill”
Bump Love: When it comes to famous nursery rhymes, who can resist the tale of the mischievous siblings who made it to the top of the hill, only to roll all the way back down? (Also, #RealLifeLessons.)
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.
“I’m a Little Teapot”
Bump Love: If you have a little one who’s nervous about hitting the dance floor, teach him or her the pantomime-friendly “I’m a Little Teapot” (by George Harold Sanders and Clarence Z. Kelley). The nursery rhyme and accompanying choreography was created for the youngest students at Kelley’s dance school in 1939, and indeed, kids have been rocking “The Little Teapot” ever since.
I’m a little teapot Short and stout Here is my handle; [one hand on hip] Here is my spout. [other arm out straight]
When I get all steamed up Hear me shout: [lean over toward spout] “Tip me over and pour me out!”
“Baa, Baa, Black Sheep” Bump Love: It’s perfect for a baby, because nearly everything in it is easy to pronounce. And what little guy can resist the idea of snuggling up to a big, fluffy lamb?
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.
“The Muffin Man” Bump Love: Carbs! (Kidding.) No, “The Muffin Man” is one of the most popular nursery rhymes thanks to its guessing-game style. (A hilarious tribute in Shrek doesn’t hurt either.)
Oh, do you know the muffin man, The muffin man, the muffin man, Oh, do you know the muffin man, That lives on Drury Lane?
Oh, yes, I know the muffin man, The muffin man, the muffin man, Oh, yes, I know the muffin man, That lives on Drury Lane.
“This Little Piggy” Bump Love: One of the most interactive nursery rhymes, “This Little Piggy” is the one that’s all about the toes! Wiggle one toe for each “little piggy” and baby will be reduced to giggles. Every. Time.
This little piggy went to market, This little piggy stayed home, This little piggy had roast beef, This little piggy had none, And this little piggy went Wee, wee, wee, all the way home!
“Three Blind Mice” Bump Love: “Three Blind Mice” makes the list for being one of the most popular Mother Goose nursery rhymes of all time—despite the fact that it’s actually quite dark! (Three mice, out for adventure, who end up blind and tail-less? Very un-chill.)
Three blind mice, Three blind mice See how they run, See how they run!
They all ran after The farmer’s wife She cut off their tails With a carving knife Did you ever see Such a sight in your life As three blind mice?
“Itsy Bitsy Spider” Bump Love: The message here? Resilience! Which is always a good one in nursery rhymes. And since it’s so popular, this is also a fun one to teach in Spanish.
The itsy bitsy spider went up the waterspout. Down came the rain and washed the spider out. Out came the sunshine and dried up all the rain, and the itsy bitsy spider climbed up the spout again.
“Old MacDonald Had a Farm” Bump Love: What’s great about “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” as a nursery rhyme is that you can take it anywhere. Each verse gets a new animal and a new animal sound, which can be really fun for children—and sneakily educational.
Old MacDonald had a farm E-I-E-I-O And on his farm he had a cow E-I-E-I-O With a moo-moo here And a moo-moo there Here a moo, there a moo Everywhere a moo-moo Old MacDonald had a farm E-I-E-I-O
For The Bump’s purposes, the only real difference between popular nursery rhymes for babies and popular nursery rhymes for kids is the difficulty level. The nursery rhymes in this category can be a little wordier (“Wynken, Blynken, and Nod”). They can be a little more complicated (the coordinated clapping of “Bingo”). And sometimes, they just hit your heart in a different way (like “Lavender’s Blue”). This group of nursery rhymes is for preschoolers and up.
“Bingo” Bump Love: This English folk song, first published in 1780, is beloved around the world—there’s even an Italian translation: “C’era un contadino che aveva un cagnolino di nome Bingolino.” There’s endless clapping involved, and everyone knows that clapping nursery rhymes are the best nursery rhymes.
There was a farmer who had a dog, And Bingo was his name-O. B-I-N-G-O! B-I-N-G-O! B-I-N-G-O! And Bingo was his name-O!
There was a farmer who had a dog, And Bingo was his name-O. [Clap]-I-N-G-O! [Clap]-I-N-G-O! [Clap]-I-N-G-O! And Bingo was his name-O!
There was a farmer who had a dog, And Bingo was his name-O! [Clap - Clap]-N-G-O! [Clap - Clap]-N-G-O! [Clap - Clap]-N-G-O! And Bingo was his name-O!
There was a farmer who had a dog, And Bingo was his name-O. [Clap - Clap - Clap]-G-O! [Clap - Clap - Clap]-G-O! [Clap - Clap - Clap]-G-O! And Bingo was his name-O!
There was a farmer who had a dog, And Bingo was his name-O. [Clap - Clap - Clap - Clap]-O! [Clap - Clap - Clap - Clap]-O! [Clap - Clap - Clap - Clap]-O! And Bingo was his name-O!
There was a farmer who had a dog, And Bingo was his name-O. [Clap - Clap - Clap - Clap - Clap] [Clap - Clap - Clap - Clap - Clap] [Clap - Clap - Clap - Clap - Clap] And Bingo was his name-O!
“The Grand Old Duke of York” Bump Love: While it doesn’t sound like the Duke of York was the most productive of Dukes, we love the melody of this classic nursery rhyme. Plus, it encourages movement: The kids can stand when the soldiers go up and sit when the soldiers go down. (And they can have a jolly good time figuring out what to do when the soldiers are “neither up nor down.”)
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 down again.
And when they were up they were up. And when they were down they were down. And when they were only halfway up, They were neither up nor down.
“Little Jack Horner” Bump Love: File this one under great holiday nursery rhymes. (Also see: “Deck the Halls” and “I Have a Little Dreidel.”)
Little Jack Horner Sat in the corner, Eating a Christmas pie; He put in his thumb, And pulled out a plum, And said, “What a good boy am I!”
*_“Lavender’s Blue” *_Bump Love: While the earliest versions of the “Lavender’s Blue” nursery rhyme date back to the 1600s, we especially love this romantic take, which appeared in Disney’s live-action Cinderella (2015).
Lavender’s blue, dilly, dilly, Lavender’s green, When I am king, dilly, dilly, You shall be queen.
Ho told you so, dilly, dilly, Who told you so? ’Twas my own heart, dilly, dilly, That told me so.
Call up your men, dilly, dilly, Set them to work, Some to the plough, dilly, dilly, Some to the fork.
Some to make hay, dilly, dilly, Some to cut corn, While you and I, dilly, dilly, Keep ourselves warm.
Lavender’s green, dilly, dilly, Lavender’s blue, If you love me, dilly, dilly, I will love you.
Let the birds sing, dilly, dilly, And the lambs play, We shall be safe, dilly, dilly, Out of harm’s way.
I love to dance, dilly, dilly, I love to sing, When I am queen, dilly, dilly, You’ll be my king.
Who told me so, dilly, dilly, Who told me so? I told myself, dilly, dilly, I told me so.
“This Is the Way” Bump Love: Sung to the tune of “Here We Go ‘Round the Mulberry Bush,” “This Is the Way” is one of the few nursery rhymes devoted to something crucial: making getting ready to go to school fun! (Because, let’s face it, even kids can get a case of the Mondays.)
This is the way we wash our face, wash our face, wash our face. This is the way we wash our face. Early in the morning.
Wash wash wash Wash wash wash.
This is the way we comb our hair, comb our hair, comb our hair. This is the way we comb our hair. Early in the morning.
Comb comb comb Comb comb comb.
This is the way we brush our teeth, brush our teeth, brush our teeth. This is the way we brush our teeth. Early in the morning.
Brush brush brush Brush brush brush.
This is the way we get dressed, get dressed, get dressed. This is the way we get dressed. Early in the morning.
This is the way we go to school, go to school, go to school. This is the way we go to school. Early in the morning.
“Wynken, Blyken and Nod” Bump Love: Eugene Field’s 1889 tale, originally titled “Dutch Lullaby,” has been many things: a poem, a nursery rhyme, a lullaby, even a film. (It was part of Walt Disney’s Silly Symphonies.) No matter how you remember it, it’s a whimsical story, made all the more so when accompanied by the beautiful illustrations of Coral Keehn.
Wynken, Blynken, and Nod one night Sailed off in a wooden shoe, Sailed on a river of crystal light Into a sea of dew. “Where are you going, and what do you wish?” The old moon asked the three. “We have come to fish for the herring-fish That live in this beautiful sea; Nets of silver and gold have we," Said Wynken, Blynken, and Nod.
The old moon laughed and sang a song, As they rocked in the wooden shoe; And the wind that sped them all night long Ruffled the waves of dew; The little stars were the herring-fish That lived in the beautiful sea. “Now cast your nets wherever you wish,” “Never afraid are we!” So cried the stars to the fishermen three, Wynken, Blynken, and Nod.
All night long their nets they threw To the stars in the twinkling foam, Then down from the skies came the wooden shoe, Bringing the fishermen home: ‘Twas all so pretty a sail, it seemed As if it could not be; And some folk thought ‘twas a dream they’d dreamed Of sailing that beautiful sea; But I shall name you the fishermen three: Wynken, Blynken, and Nod.
Wynken and Blynken are two little eyes, And Nod is a little head, And the wooden shoe that sailed the skies Is a wee one’s trundle-bed; So shut your eyes while Mother sings Of wonderful sights that be, And you shall see the beautiful things As you rock in the misty sea Where the old shoe rocked the fishermen three: Wynken, Blynken, and Nod.
Yep, you guessed it! This is where the international portion of our nursery rhymes begin. We’ll start with two of the most popular French nursery rhymes, perfect for the budding Francophile.
“Frère Jacques” Bump Love: There are a number of lovely French nursery rhymes, but since this one has an English translation built right into it, it’s perfect for French lessons!
Frère Jacques, Frère Jacques, Dormez-vous? Dormez-vous? Sonnez les matines, Sonnez les matines. Ding, Dang, Dong, Ding, Dang, Dong.
(English verse, which you can alternate between) Are you sleeping, Are you sleeping? Brother John, Brother John? Morning bells are ringing, Morning bells are ringing. Ding, Ding, Dong, Ding, Ding, Dong.
“Alouette” Bump Love: If you’re teaching your little one French (or are French!), “Alouette,” about plucking feathers from a bird who wakes you up at the crack of dawn, is another favorite among French nursery rhymes. Yes, the story is a touch aggressive. But the tune is an undeniable earworm! And it’s the perfect song to sing first thing in the morning.
Alouette, gentille alouette, Alouette, je te plumerai.
Je te plumerai la tête, Je te plumerai la tête, Et la tête, et la tête, Alouette, alouette… Ooooh!
And last, but certainly not least, we have two popular Spanish nursery rhymes. While many of the English nursery rhymes on this list have been translated into French or Spanish, too—here’s “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” sung in Spanish—there are a few nursery rhymes that are unique to Spanish-speaking countries. Here are two of our favorites.
“Cucú Cantaba la Rana” Bump Love: A beauty among Spanish nursery rhymes, “Cucú Cantaba la Rana” is about a singing frog with a beautiful call and all the people she passes in a day. Just listen to it performed.
Cucú, cucú cantaba la rana Cucú, cucú debajo del agua Cucú, cucú paso un caballero Cucú, cucú de capa y sombrero Cucú, cucú paso una señora Cucú, cucú con traje de cola Cucú, cucú pasó un marinero Cucú, cucú vendiendo floreros Cucú, cucú pidiole un ramito Cucú, cucú y no se lo dieron Cucú, cucú se puso a llorar Cucú, cucú
“A Mi Burro” Bump Love: “A Mi Burro,” about a donkey having a sick day, is one of the most popular Spanish nursery rhymes. Because nearly everything hurts the donkey at one point in the song, kids learn all about the body and the importance of resting up to feel better.
A mi burro, a mi burro le duele la cabeza; y el médico le ha dado una gorrita gruesa.
Una gorrita gruesa, mi burro enfermo está mi burro enfermo esta