A teacher asked me for some nursery rhyme activities for toddlers and preschoolers. Firstly, here is a resource to find a fantastic collection of English nursery rhymes:
I found this to be the best source of information:
Here, you’ll discover nursery rhymes predominantly from England, America, and Scotland. You get the words, origins, folklore, as well as notes for the erudite!
Nursery rhyme activities
In my Preschool Games book for children learning English, you’ll find plenty of nursery rhyme activities, games and ideas to use while you chant the rhyme. If you have the preschool games book already, check out these games to use with rhymes:
Boom Chica Boom
Duck Duck Goose
Head to Head
Who Is It 2?
And see the section on rhymes too.
Nursery rhyme activity example
Here is a taster if you don’t have my preschool games book.
Boom Chica Boom
Category: Step 3 speaking drill and naming vocabulary
Group: Any number of children
Space: Can be done at desks if no space is available
Pace: Calm to wake up
Materials: A rhyme and some flashcards
While useful for vocabulary revision, the main purpose of this game is to help fluency and pronunciation by having children repeatedly use the same rhyme or phrase.
How to play
Choose a silly rhythmic phrase, which everyone says together in rhythm, clapping on the stressed syllables. For those who know music, imagine two four-beat bars in this example. Place stress on the syllables in bold. It takes the same time to say “I said a” as it does to say “boom”.
Boom chica boom, I said a boom chica boom,
Boom chica rocka chica rocka chica boom.
Children each have a flashcard that they do not show to anyone. At the end of the phrase, a chosen child acts out the picture on their flashcard. The other children attempt to guess and name the word. When done, repeat the rhyme and have another child act out their picture, and so on. More advanced children can give a sentence with the word in instead of simply naming single vocabulary words.
Exploit this game for fluency and pronunciation skills by having children repeatedly use the same rhyme. Make one up that targets phonemes pupils need to learn. For example, with French preschool children try this one:
Thicker thacker thumper, thicker thacker thump
Thicker thacker thicker thacker bump bump bump.
French children have difficulty with the ‘th’ sound, so this rhyme is handy for pronunciation even though the words are nonsense. However, if you use this example, you must insist on the correct pronunciation of the ‘th’, with the tongue being placed between the teeth to make the sound. If left to their own devices, French children will say ‘Zicker zacker zump’, which does somewhat defeat the purpose of the activity!
Other Nursery Rhyme Activities
1. Have children draw pictures of characters or objects in the nursery rhyme or give them pictures to colour.
2. Say the nursery rhyme in a high squeaky voice, in a deep low voice, very fast and very slow.
3. Do a craft based on a character or key object in the nursery rhyme.
4. Act the nursery rhyme and see if your pupils can guess which one you are acting.
5. Make sock puppets of the key character/s in your nursery rhyme.
6. Play hide and seek with your puppet or a key object mentioned in the nursery rhyme.
7. Make a model set, use objects or toys to stage the nursery rhyme.
For example, this could be a shoe for There was an old woman who lived in a shoe, a farm for Baa baa black sheep, a wall for Humpty Dumpty, a clock and toy mouse for Hickory, dickory dock. And so on.
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