Nursery Rhyme Skills

mother goose

Why are nursery rhymes still used with young children? Read through the following nursery rhyme to begin this discussion:

“Peter, Peter, pumpkin eater,

Had a wife and couldn’t keep her,

Put her in a pumpkin shell,

And there he kept her very well.”

-Traditional Nursery Rhyme

When children are participating in musical activities involving nursery rhymes, the following skills are being encouraged:

  • Steady Beat : There is a natural rhythm that occurs in these poems.
  • Rhyme : Some argue this helps with word segmentation, a skill also used in literacy.
  • Rhythmic Patterns : Children learn about patterns in math, language, and science, so why not music? Tap your leg on each syllable as you say the poem out loud. The majority of this poem has ‘short sounds’ (eighth notes). There is one ‘long sound’ (quarter note). Did you find it?
  • Length : Children understand through repetition and they enjoy hearing things multiple times. If nursery rhymes were long, we probably couldn’t recite very many of them as adults!
  • Vocabulary : new words (i.e. pumpkin shell is a new term to young children)
  • Literature : comprehension of the story; fiction or non-fiction
  • Content from other Subjects : This is being learned as these subjects are integrated into music through lyrics (i.e. science, literature, etc.)
  • Culture : We aren’t finding wives in pumpkins, but there are pumpkin patches and they symbolize a certain time of year and are associated with certain holidays in the United States.
  • Imagination : No one has ever really witnessed this before. What might this look like if you were to imagine it? How big would the pumpkin need to be? Why did he put her in a pumpkin shell?
  • Stood the Test of Time : Many poems have been written all around the world, but these are some that continue to be passed down from generation to generation.

How many of the following nursery rhymes do you know from your childhood?

  • Jack & Jill
  • Mary Had a Little Lamb
  • Itsy Bitsy Spider
  • Hickory, Dickory, Dock
  • Hey Diddle, Diddle
  • Jack be Nimble
  • Pussy Cat, Pussy Cat
  • To Market, To Market
  • This Little Pig Went to Market
  • Yankee Doodle
  • Humpty Dumpty
  • Old Mother Hubbard
  • Sing a Song of Sixpence

To learn how to use these nursery rhymes with your young child, join us in January for a Wee Music Studio Class in Troy, Ohio! For more information, visit or visit to sign up!

Interested in a nursery rhyme book? Here is a link to one that I have in my own collection and would recommend:  Favorite Nursery Rhymes from Mother Goose


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