Updated: May 26, 2021
A Companion Guide to Busy Toddler's Playing Preschool Curriculum
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I have a confession. I was not super stoked about this unit. I know young children have been learning nursery rhymes for generations but some are just ridiculous and some are downright morbid (“when the bough breaks, the cradle will fall… Jack fell down and broke his crown… blackbirds baked in a pie…) Just not my favorite teaching material. Perhaps it is some kind of oral language tradition, the English teacher in me thought. But I was curious, so I Googled it.
“There’s a reason we learn nursery rhymes as young children. They help us develop an ear for our language. Rhyme and rhythm highlight the sounds and syllables in words. And understanding sounds and syllables help kids learn to read!” - ReadingRockets.org
In addition to language, learning nursery rhymes contributes to children’s development - both emotionally and intellectually - as there is the social aspect of singing them in groups, being able to follow a simple story line and exploring wordplay. (Okay, so Susie knows what she’s talking about.) So my toddler and I set out to conquer this unit and while I still don’t particularly love nursery rhymes, they aren’t written for adults, after all. But in the end, I did enjoy seeing him embrace them in that fanciful, innocent way children do.
Building Background Knowledge
Since most nursery rhymes were written hundreds of years ago ("Jack Sprat" is 400+ years old), your toddler is likely to encounter some unfamiliar vocabulary words like "fleece," "cupboard" and "pail". Be sure to point them out and illustrate with real life objects where you can. I also like to show simple videos that show the object/action the poem is describing. For example, Hickory Dickory Dock talks about a mouse running up a clock, but I imagine few children these days have ever seen a grandfather clock. In addition, these rhymes have a song or rhythm to them that the video conveys better than a book.
*Books with an asterisk are my Top 5 Picks to Add to Your Home Library for this unit
Additional Book List
Books in bold are also the suggested books in another unit.
Mary Engelbriet's Mother Goose* - Engelbriet, Mary
Each Peach Pear Plum* - Ahlberg, Janet and Allan <-- Absolutely delightful! This book uses characters from well-known nursery rhymes to play hide-and-seek
Peter Rabbit: Nursery Rhyme Time - Potter, Beatrix
My Wonderful Nursery Rhyme Collection* - Silver Dolphin Books --> Recommended by a member of our Facebook community. A beautifully illustrated collection.
Favorite Nursery Rhymes from Mother Goose - Gustafson, Scott
Vtech Rhyme and Discover Nursery Rhyme Book* (interactive book with several nursery rhymes)
After the Fall (How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again)* - Santat, Dan (promotes growth mindset)
Humpty Dumpty Climbs Again - Horowitz, Dave
Tea Rex - Idel, Molly --> A fun companion to "I'm a Little Teapot"
Pete the Cat and the Itsy Bitsy Spider - Dean, James
Mary Had a Little Lab - Fliess, Sue
Mary Had a Little Glam - Sauer, Tammi
Mary Had a Little Lamp - Lechner, Jack
The Three Little Kittens - McClintock, Barbara
Three Little Kittens (Folk Tale Classics) - Galdone, Paul
Hey Diddle Diddle: Re-versed Rhyme - Everett, Melissa
1 2 Buckle My Shoe - Hines, Anna Grossnickle
Hickory Dickory Dock - Baker, Keith
The Itsy Bitsy Spider (Finger Puppet Book)
Bake Muffins with this Muffin Man Sequencing Activity
Jumping with Jack Be Nimble Gross Motor Activity
Letter Review with Twinkle Twinkle Little Star Name Recognition Activity
Listen to Down by the Bay and practice inserting rhyming words without missing a beat!
If you have a book with a collection of nursery rhymes, let your child look through and pick the ones that pique his interest. Some of the illustrations are pretty zany and there are sure to be a few you haven't heard so have fun exploring new rhymes.
Think creatively! Write your own silly poem or use another book as a starting point and add rhyming verses and illustrations.
Learning life skills: In the spirit of "Mary, Mary... how does your garden grow?" involve your toddler in some aspect of gardening or landscaping. See tips on gardening with preschoolers here.
Instead of making the tissue box dice that the Hickory Dickory Dock activity calls for, you might consider a set of dry-erase dice. They actually roll better because most tissue boxes aren't a perfect square plus you can use them multiple times throughout the curriculum.
You do want your child to commit these nursery rhymes to memory so you will probably want to review them throughout the day and the rest of the week. Try "skipping" words and letting them fill in the blanks.
For the sorting silverware activity, I would have them sort just the forks, spoons and butter knives in another area. Once my toddler saw all the fun gadgets (oh look, a corkscrew!) and other dangerous flatware, he just wanted to explore the rest of the drawer.
What was your favorite part of this unit? What other books did you read? What other activities did you do? Please share photos and feedback in the Playing Preschool with Busy Toddler Curriculum Facebook Group in Units→ Nursery Rhymes
Until next time, may your coffee be warm and your toddler be busy!
"Nursery Rhymes: Not Just for Babies" Reading Rockets. 2007. Retrieved January 22, 2020 https://www.readingrockets.org/article/nursery-rhymes-not-just-babies
"Children are no longer learning traditional nursery rhymes, and that's sad news" iNews. November 5, 2017. Retrieved January 22, 2020 https://inews.co.uk/inews-lifestyle/people/children-no-longer-learning-traditional-nursery-rhymes-thats-sad-news-518147
Up Next: Playing Preschool: Unit 4 - Clothing