When we think of childhood nursery rhymes, Mother Goose and her odd collection of friends most frequently come to mind: a worn-out mother living in a shoe, young Willie Winkie running around after dark in his nightgown, and a fiddle-playing cat. The rhymes are fun to recite, but they also have a strong educational value for children, especially in the earliest years.
“Not only does (reciting nursery rhymes) help literacy skills but it also helps social/emotional development,” says Jeanine Coleman Ph.D., clinical assistant professor at the University of Denver. “It’s actually when those activities are done throughout daily routines and daily activities (that) the parents and caregivers can help support that language and really help scaffold that language for very young children in lots of different ways.”
Beyond language development, these rhymes also bring to mind colorful, vivid imagery that can inspire creative projects. Here are three common nursery rhymes paired with a hands-on activity. Recite the rhymes together as you work on these projects, or dream up your own.
Pieces of Humpty Eggshell Succulent Planter
Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again.
- 4 extra large eggs
- 4 extra small succulents
- ½ cup of soil
- Egg dye (optional)
- Hold one egg at a time on its side. Slowly tap the pointed side of the egg with a knife until you are able to pop off the “cap.”
- Pour the egg white and yolk into a bowl (use in a recipe, like scrambled eggs for breakfast).
- Rinse the shell with warm water and set it on a towel.
- Prepare the egg dye (optional). Dip the shell into the dye then let dry on a towel.
- Carefully poke a small hole into the bottom of the egg to create a drainage system.
- Place uprooted succulent into the shell and surround with soil, making sure to cover the roots.
- Place egg in a carton bottom to hold it upright.
Note: Succulents can be replanted later in a larger pot or garden, eggshell and all.
Blackbird Berry Hand Pies
Sing a Song of Sixpence
Sing a song of sixpence,
A pocket full of rye,
Four and twenty blackbirds
Baked in a pie.
When the pie was opened
The birds began to sing—
Wasn’t that a dainty dish
To set before the king?
- 6 oz. blackberries
- 6 oz. raspberries
- 1 egg (beaten)
- 1 tsp. lemon juice
- 3 tbsp. all-purpose flour
- ½ tsp. cinnamon
- 1¼ cup sugar
- Pie dough (homemade or purchased) enough for 4 single-crust pies
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Rinse and cut the berries in half then place them in a medium bowl with sugar, lemon juice, cinnamon, and flour.
- On well-floured counter, roll out the pie dough. Use a large cookie cutter (3½ to 4 inch diameter) or other round object to cut out hand pie crusts in an even number.
- Place one crust on baking sheet and spoon 1½ tbsp. of filling into the center.
- Place another crust on top of the filling. Press the edges firmly with fingertips or a fork to seal.
- Make two or three small slits in the top of the pie and brush with beaten egg.
- Repeat for each hand pie.
- Bake for 20 minutes until golden brown and flaky (or follow directions on premade dough).
Optional: Before baking, create a small bird stencil out of cardboard and cut excess dough into bird shapes to decorate the hand pies. Score the pie top and the back of a bird with a fork, place the bird on the pie, and brush with egg. Sprinkle the bird shape with cinnamon to help it stand out. Bake as directed.
Three Blind Mice Stuffed Toy
Three Blind Mice
Three blind mice! Three blind mice!
See how they run! See how they run!
They all ran after the farmer’s wife,
Who cut off their tails with the carving knife!
Did you ever see such a sight in your life
As three blind mice?
Supplies (makes one mouse)
- 1 sheet of gray felt
- 1 sheet of pink felt
- 1 scrap of black felt
- Extra strength fabric glue
- Black fabric marker
- Needle and thread
- Beans, cotton, or shredded tissue paper
- Fold the sheet of gray felt in half; cut along the fold to create two even pieces. Cut both pieces into vertical triangles.
- From the scraps of gray felt, cut two medium teardrop shapes for ears and two small teardrops for hands.
- Cut ¼ of the pink felt sheet into an oval for mouse tummy. Then cut two pink teardrops for the inside of the ears (slightly smaller than the gray ears) and a tiny triangle for the nose.
- Cut black fabric into small sunglasses.
- Stack the two gray triangles and trim the three points so they are rounded.
- Glue the stomach, hands, nose, and sunglasses in place on the front triangle. Draw whiskers with black marker. Glue the pink teardrops onto the gray teardrops. Tuck the point of the teardrops behind the head and glue in place for ears. Let dry.
- Stack the back and front triangles and sew together (a simple whip stitch was used here), leaving an inch or two open for your child to stuff the mouse body.
- Stuff body with cotton, beans, or shredded tissue paper, and sew the opening closed.
- Glue string to the back of the mouse for a tail.
These mice are meant to look rustic so perfect gluing and stitching is not necessary.