Toddler/Preschool Nursery Rhyme Unit

This can be a one week unit, or a multiple week unit, depending on your child’s interest and how many activities you want to do. 

How to Begin: Exposure

  • Read to them. Most Nursery Rhymes can be found online, but they will absorb more if they can hold a book–especially one with colorful illustrations. 
  • Watch Nursery Rhyme videos. 
  • Learn finger plays, acting out the rhymes, looking at pictures of the rhymes, etc.
  • Spend a little time each day reading new or favorite Nursery Rhymes and choosing activities to go with them.

Expanding Vocabulary: 
Throughout the week, constantly pull words from Nursery Rhymes and give your child real world, hands on experiences with those words. Show them photos, let them hold or touch the objects, taste new foods, etc.  Possible vocabulary words: Pail. Candlestick. Tarts. Curds and Whey (cottage cheese). Fiddle. Kettle. Wool. Posies. Cupboard. Fleece. (also see Crafts for ways to strengthen their connection to word and object) This is also a great time to make sure they know the names of animals, vegetables and other every day objects. 

Fine and Gross Motor:

  • Build a wall, knock an egg off of it: Humpty Dumpty. Act out the rhyme with toy horses, etc.
  • Walk crooked: The Crooked Man. Tape a crooked line on the carpet, or draw with chalk outside. Have fun walking crooked, sitting crooked, talking crooked, doing everything crooked.
  • Be the cow: Hey, Diddle Diddle. Draw a paper moon and let your child pretend to be the cow. Then use paper plate and plastic spoon to act out the rest.


  • Make Spiders: Little Miss Muffet   
  • Decorate an egg: Humpty Dumpty
  • Pigs: This Little Piggie Went to Market      Paper Plate Pig   Pig Nose craft
  • Stars: Twinkle, Twinkle
  • SheepBaa Baa Black Sheep, Mary Had a Little Lamb, Little Bo Peep
  • Candlestick: Jack Be Nimble (also see Dramatic Play) 
  • Cow and Moon: Hey Diddle Diddle
  • Make a Pumpkin House: A fun fall activity. Since an adult needs to do a lot of the work, you can make this a more child-centered activity by asking your child for a lot of input. What does a house need? Where should the door go, the windows, what goes inside, etc. (A quick search of “pumpkin house” on Pinterest gives lots of cute examples.) Peter, Peter Pumpkin Eater
  • Vocabulary Painting: Instead of a paintbrush, let your little one paint with objects found in various Nursery Rhymes. A swatch of wool, flowers, etc. OR, paint on scraps of fleece or wool, bricks, wooden spoons, etc. instead of paper. 

Personal Skills:

  • Lace up a pair of shoes or boots: There Was An Old Woman
  • Helping around the house: Here We Go ‘Round the Mulberry Bush


  • Gardening: Plant or pick flowers Mary, Mary Quite Contrary; Oats, Peas, Beans, and Barley Grow
  • Baking: Pat-A-Cake, Little Jack Horner, etc. (also see baking ideas under Lunch)
  • Mother Goose Cookbook
  • Make plum cake: The Lion and the Unicorn 


  • Finger play/subtraction: Ten Little Children, Five Little Ducks, Five Little Monkeys
  • Play with magnet, felt, wood or die cut numbers. One, Two Buckle My Shoe; One, Two, Three, Four, Five
  • Count potatoes: One Potato, Two Potato
  • Make a paper plate clock and talk about time. Hickory Dickory Dock

Dramatic Play:

  • Pretend to be Jack jumping over the candlestick.
  • Act out the motions to I’m a Little Teapot.
  • Pretend to be Jack and Jill, walking up a hill with a pail. Roll down the hill together. *Make sure this is a small, safe hill with no obstructions at the bottom, no large rocks or twigs.
  • Act out One, Two, Buckle My Shoe–up to 10. Gather a shoe with a buckle, several sticks, a stuffed hen. 
  • Act out: Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear
  • Finger play: The Itsy Bitsy Spider
  • Turn an old boot into a home for Little People or other small dolls. There Was an Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe. 
  • Grab a bunch of stuffed animals and act out Ten in the Bed (just make sure your little one plays the little one in the rhyme)
  • Make or buy animal masks and re-enact rhymes such as Hey Diddle Diddle, Baa Baa Black Sheep, Old MacDonald, This Little Piggy, Little Bo Peep, Three Little Kittens.

Lunch: Read to them while they experience new or familiar food.

  • Bread and butter: Little Tommy Tucker
  • Plum Cake: The Lion and the Unicorn Easy Plum Cake Recipe
  • Golden pears: I Had A Little Nut Tree
  • Pumpkin: Peter, Peter Pumpkin Eater
  • Pie: Simple Simon, Little Jack Horner
  • Cottage Cheese: Little Miss Muffet (curds and whey)
  • Apple pie: Apple-Pie Alphabet/A Was An Apple Pie
  • Peas: Five Fat Peas
  • Pudding: Georgie Porgie
  • Cherries or cherry pie: Cherries are Ripe
  • Tarts: The Queen of Hearts Make super easy tarts using Pepperidge Farm puff pastry cups, instant vanilla pudding and fresh fruit.

Bed Time/Nap Time
  • Read Brahm’s Lullaby
  • Read Bedtime
  • Read Hush, Little Baby
  • Read Rock-a-bye Baby
  • Read Ten in the Bed
  • Read Sleep Little Child
  • Read Golden Slumbers, then sing Hush, Little Baby or Rock-a-bye Baby
  • Read Star Light, Star Bright. Find the first star and make wished

Field Trips:

Websites to Check Out:

Favorite Nursery Rhyme Books and DVDs:

Videos/Technology Extension:


Other Resources:

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