Nursery rhymes for kids in songs and books help children playfully learn meter and rhyme, giving them a literacy and storytelling foundation from a young age.
What are the other benefits for kids?
In addition, nursery rhymes help develop language as a child’s ear attunes to the sounds in language. Not to mention, saying them out loud improves speech.
Plus, singing nursery rhyme such as the Itsy Bitsy Spider, Old MacDonald Had a Farm, or Five Little Ducks teaches kids patterns in language, vocabulary, and memorization. And since the lyrics include lots of repetition, kids have many opportunities for success with memory and beginning reading.
Add in movement as you sing the songs like you can in 10 Little Monkeys or Wheels on the Bus and you’ll see a boost in motor skills as well.
Remember “This little piggie went to market” with the toes on your feet or the fingers on your hand? That’s another good one to add movements to–it’s great for a child’s cognitive development.
Or have the child sit on your lap and sing “The Noble Duke of York” while you bounce your legs and raise and lower your knees.
Sing “London Bridge is falling down,” while you hold your hands up to form a bridge with a partner and someone runs underneath.
So what’s not to love!?
But aren’t nursery rhymes weird and outdated?
Some of them are, no doubt.
My recommendation is to skip the duds with stereotypes or violence — and keep the gems. Because there are so many gems!
Here are popular nursery rhyme books that I think you’ll want to keep in rotation with your baby, toddler, and preschooler.
Nursery Rhymes for Kids
Board Books & Picture Books
The Itsy Bitsy Spider (Indestructibles) by Maddie Frost
Indestructibles are chew-proof, rip-proof, and nontoxic books for babies and toddlers. In this sweet book, you’ll read the classic nursery rhyme about the itsy bitsy spider and watch a rainy day turn into a sunny day.
Itsy Bitsy Spider Finger Puppet Books
Kids LOVE these puppet board books –and this is a darling spider who gets to interact with your readers as you read the nursery rhyme.
Old MacDonald Poke-a-Dot Board Book (Melissa & Doug)
Read and sing along with this fantastic interactive book in which little fingers get to click and pop the buttons on each page.
Ditty Bird Children’s Songs
Read and sing along with the songs accompanied by the super cute child singing music for: The Wheels on the Bus, Five Little Monkeys jumping on the Bed, If You’re Happy and You Know It, B-I-N-G-O, Head, Shoulders, Knees & Toes, and Five Little Ducks. Very exuberant!
Five Little Ducks by Raffi, illustrated by Jose Aruego and Ariane Dewey
Five little ducks when out one day. Mother Duck calls them back with a quack quack quack. But only four come back, then three, two, one, and none. In the spring, they come back with their own families. A darling counting book that you can also sing along to.
The Ants Go Marching by Dan Crisp
Repetition, rhyme, and counting make this darling book the classic that it is but in this story, watch Little Ant get distracted and peek through the die-cut holes.
Twinkle Twinkle Little Star (Indestructibles) by Maddie Frost
An adorable mouse watches the sky and imagines all sorts of things before going to sleep.
Little Elephants / Elefantitos by Susie Jaramillo
Sing along with the classic Latine Los Elefantes nursery rhyme song in English or Spanish as you watch the elephants balancing on the spider’s web. Lift the flaps on the English number to read the number in Spanish.
The Cow Tripped Over the Moon A Nursery Rhyme Emergency by Jeanne Willis, illustrated by Joel Stewart
The cow fell, the Rock-a-Bye Baby did, too. Someone fell off a wall and a weasel goes pop. The Nursery Rhyme ambulance helps Cow Who Jumped Over the Moon, the Baby in “Rock-a-bye Baby”, Humpty Dumpty, and more in this clever rhyming story.
Just Itzy by Lana Krumwiede, illustrated by Greg Pizzoli
I LOVE this book! Itzy combines all the spider stories/songs into one funny story about Itzy going to kindergarten. First, he chases a fly and accidentally scares a little girl eating curds and whey on a tuffet only to get swallowed by an old lady (who also swallowed a lot of other crazy things!) When he’s coughed back up, he tries to build a web. As he does, it starts raining and he struggles to keep going up the yes, you guessed it, the waterspout. Hilarious, right?!
Interrupting Chicken: Cookies for Breakfast by David Ezra Stein
Little red chicken loves when his dad reads aloud to him–and he loves to modify the stories, too. This morning, he really wants cookies so he helps his dad read the nursery rhymes adding new rhymes with cookies in them. For example, “Hickory, Dickory, Dock,” reads the dad. Then little red chicken jumps into the story and adds, “I sure like cookies a lot!” Eventually, Papa suggests that instead of cookies for breakfast, they have cake…a pancake. Entertaining, funny, and playful.
The Wheels on the Bus by May Nakamura (CoComelon)
JJ is on a field trip and on the bus during which he and his classmates get to sing a song. The bus ride story of rain, sunshine, and questions about their arrival is juxtaposed with the lyrics to the song. These characters are from the popular tv show Cocmelon on YouTube and Netflix.
Humpty Dumpty by Charles Reasoner
A fun retelling of this familiar Humpty Dumpty nursery rhyme.
Miss Muffet Or What Came After by Marilyn Singer, illustrated by David Litchfield
We loved this quirky, hilarious Little Miss Muffet book that goes into DETAIL like you wouldn’t believe about Miss Patience Muffet whose dad is obsessed with bugs and even owns a talking spider. Although her mother disapproves, Patience just wants to play the violin. So, she runs away and has quite an exciting adventure with Bo-Peep, robbers, and the talking spider.
Three Little Kittens by Barbar McClintock
You’re going to love this playful update on an old nursery rhyme with kittens who are silly, kind, and problem solvers. First, the kittens lose their mittens, and their dialogue with each other and their mom here and throughout the story is the best part of the story. They find their mittens to they do get to eat pie. But there’s more including hot pie, messy mittens, clean up, and feeding a mouse friend. A cheerful story not to be missed!
Mary Had a Little Lamb by Amy Pixton, illustrated by Jonas Sickler
Mary had a little lamb in Africa with gorgeous illustrations!
Little Bo Peep and Her Bad, Bad Sheep a Mother Goose Hullabaloo by A.L. Wegwerth & Luke Flowers
Nursery rhymes pay little attention as Little Bo Peep tries to find her ba ba black sheep but in this case bad sheep — pigs are off to market, the spider is trying to swallow a fly, and so much craziness is happening that your kids will love looking at all the nursery rhyming details of each illustration. I totally adore this book.
The Real Dada Mother Goose A Treasury of Complete Nonsense by Jon Scieszka, illustrated by Julia Rothman
I love this book — but it’s not for your preschoolers, it’s for readers who will get the humor of the wordplay and writing. Scieszka’s changed the familiar nursery rhymes in hilarious, smart ways — fill-in-the-blanks, recipes, anagrams, new verbs, new nouns, scientific approach, pig Latin, and more.
Jack and Jill illustrated by Charles Reasoner and Marina Le Ray
Cute illustrations show the nursery rhyme characters acting out the story with simple dialogue bubbles added in for extra fun. Part of the Charles Reasoner collection.
This Little Piggy by Vanja Kragulj
I love the illustrations because in this inclusive Little Piggy story, it shows a pig family getting ready for a meal and I like that the little one is riding on the back of mommy pig’s bicycle and saying “wee wee wee” in delight to get home for a meal together at the table.
Hickory Dickory Dock illustrated by Charles Reasoner and Marina Le Ray
Mice running up the clock? That’s this simple nursery rhyme story, perfect for very young readers. Part of the Charles Reasoner collection.
Old MacDonald’s Things That Go by Jane Clarke, illustrated by Migy Blanco
In this Old MacDonald version, the farmer loves things that go. “And on that farm, he had a truck. He loved things that go! With a vroom-vroom here and a vroom-vroom there. Here a vroom, there a vroom, everywhere a vroom-vroom.”
Old McDonald Had a Truck by Steve Goetz, illustrated by Eda Kaban
Calling all truck fans — this is the book for you! Because Old McDonald has a lot of trucks — a bulldozer, front loader, motor grader, dump truck, and more. E-I-E-I-O! This is not just a favorite for age 2 readers but also a family favorite sing-along picture book.
Nursery Rhyme Collections
Over the Hills and Far Away: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes collected by Elizabeth Hammill, illustrated by more than 70 celebrated artists
A Pop-Up Book of Nursery Rhymes by Matthew Reinhart
Add three dimensions to your favorite Mother Goose nursery rhymes with fun pop-ups!
Nursery Rhyme Comics
Featuring fifty classic nursery rhymes illustrated and interpreted in comics by fifty of today’s preeminent cartoonists and illustrators, this is a groundbreaking new entry in the canon of nursery rhymes treasuries.
The Classic Collection of Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes illustrated by Gina Baek
Illustrator Gina Baek depicts the classic nursery rhymes in her capitating, rich style from Little Bo-Peep to Three Blind Mice and Hot Cross Buns.