Nursery Rhymes in Storytime

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Though Storytime‘s regular Poems and Rhymes strand is mostly dedicated to children’s poetry, we like to mix it up and include classic nursery rhymes or songs. In Storytime Issue 44, we’ve mixed it up even more by featuring a fairy tale by L Frank Baum, which explains the fantasy origins of the famous nursery rhyme Hey Diddle Diddle. We’ve thrown in the rhyme too for good measure.

Hey Diddle Diddle is an iconic nursery rhyme bursting with imagery that fires up the imagination. On closer inspection – like most nursery rhymes – it makes little sense. Many intellectuals have tried to trace the origins or deeper meaning of this rhyme, but the general consensus is that it’s nonsense – nonsense powerful enough to have lasted for hundreds of years though.

Hey Diddle Diddle in Storytime Issue 44 with art by Begona Fernandez Corbolan.In this time, there have been a few variations of Hey Diddle Diddle. A fork ran away with the spoon at one point and, in some versions, a pig jumped over the moon, which makes more sense because, as we all know, pigs can fly.

Perhaps our favourite legacy of this nursery rhyme is that it spawned the phrase ‘over the moon’, meaning extremely happy.

We’re over the moon to feature both the story and the nursery rhyme in Storytime, because we know that nursery rhymes play a crucial role in improving childhood literacy.

5 Reasons to Read Nursery Rhymes


1. Lots of studies, including this one, show that sharing nursery rhymes with young children has a positive impact on their phonics skills and language abilities as they grow older. It helps them develop an ear for language and the rhythm and beat of how sentences are structured.

2. If you take a break from saying nursery rhymes out loud and refer to our magazine or a book, make sure you point out the words as you read them. This helps children to make the link between sounds and letters, improving their recognition of words and also their ability to use rhyming words at a later stage.

3. If you play as you share nursery rhymes, the result is even more powerful. You can clap along, use puppets, act out the rhyme with toys, do actions – whatever works best for you and your child. The simple act of bringing a nursery rhyme to life makes it more memorable, but also makes it more engaging and fun, leaving your child with a good feeling about language and reading. Download our Hey Diddle Diddle Finger Puppets here.

4. Hearing nursery rhymes improves listening and concentration skills, but hearing them repeatedly also boosts memory skills. Try to miss out words when you say an oft-repeated nursery rhyme out loud and, in time, your child will fill in the gaps.

5. Finally, sharing nursery rhymes is an opportunity to spend quality time with your child and it brings you closer together. Possibly the best reason of all.


And there’s no need to abandon nursery rhymes when your children are older. Kids enjoy the absurd and many nursery rhymes are equal in absurdity to the works of literary greats like Edward Lear and Lewis Carroll. This is one of the many reasons that nursery rhymes have endured. Plus you can challenge older children by asking them to make up their own nonsense nursery rhymes, or ask them to change rhyming words or characters in existing rhymes. What happens if the word ‘Diddle’ changes in Hey Diddle Diddle? Or if the cow jumps over the sun?

If you want to expose your children to more beautifully illustrated nursery rhymes, then see the rhymes and songs we’ve featured in Storytime so far…

Nursery Rhymes in Storytime

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  • Old Mother Hubbard (Issue 2)
  • There Was An Old Lady who Swallowed a Fly (Issue 5)
  • As I Was Going to St Ives (Issue 6)
  • Animal Fair (Issue 11)
  • The House that Jack Built (Issue 16)
  • She’ll Be Coming Round the Mountain (Issue 19)
  • Tom, Tom the Piper’s Son (Issue 33)
  • Have You Ever, Ever, Ever? (Issue 43)

You can pick up these issues in Storytime’s Back Issue Shop.


We hope you enjoy sharing L Frank Baum’s story (just in case you didn’t realise, he is the brilliant creator of The Wizard of Oz) and have fun sharing nursery rhymes too. Don’t underestimate how powerful they can be!


Happy rhyming!