Nursery Rhymes for Babies, Nursery Rhymes for Toddlers
Bookshops and libraries were once full of books of nursery rhymes for kids. I have a lovely collection of books of nursery rhymes which dates back to the years when my children were small and their dad and I have lots of beautiful memories of reading those poems and rhymes with our three little ones.
But finding a good book of nursery rhymes these days can be surprisingly hard.
Why is this?
I’m not sure I have the answer but I wonder if it’s simply a case of supply and demand. With all the options available to parents these days, both in terms of books and in terms of entertainment generally, perhaps our awareness of – and interest in – nursery rhymes has just fallen away.
Why do nursery rhymes matter?
I don’t really know why interest in nursery rhymes seems to have waned in recent years but, as a teacher, I do know that nursery rhymes and poems continue to play an important role in the learning-to-read journey of our kiddos.
There’s actually lots of research around this. Did you know that, as well as being great fun to share, nursery rhymes contribute to the development of a rich vocabulary? They’re also great stimulators of phonological awareness, a critical pre-reading skill which starts developing at birth (possibly even before birth).
Reading aloud – whatever you read – is known to stimulate the development of phonological awareness but the research shows that reading rhymes and poems is especially powerful. This means that it’s a great idea to begin reading nursery rhymes aloud right from your baby’s earliest days.
Choosing a Book of Nursery Rhymes
When I was creating my Nursery Rhyme Gift Basket for little ones, I went hunting for the best books of nursery rhymes for babies and young children. This was a surprisingly difficult task. I found quite a few books with cartoon-type illustrations (as a rule, I don’t like these) and a few based on characters like Peter Rabbit but, overall, there weren’t many books of nursery rhymes in the shops.
I persevered with my research (OK, I really love doing this kind of thing so it wasn’t a chore) and my top 12 books are reviewed below.
These nursery rhyme books can be roughly divided into three groups:
- bigger, hardcover books (with paper pages) containing a wide collection of nursery rhymes;
- smaller board books containing a small selection of nursery rhymes;
- books about nursery rhymes which contain excerpts of nursery rhymes or which feature well-known characters from nursery rhymes. We can probably call these nursery rhyme-themed books;
The hardcover books are great to share with children at story time while the smaller board books can also be carried around and ‘read’ by your little ones themselves. My daughter did this for ages, from the time she was about two.
If you’re looking at buying books of nursery rhymes for kids, I recommend buying one big hardcover book and a couple of smaller board books for your baby’s library. Books of nursery rhymes for babies also make wonderful baby shower gifts, new baby gifts and, of course, birthday gifts for small humans.
The Puffin Book of Nursery Rhymes is a large-format, hardcover book (22cm x 29cm) containing 250+ nursery rhymes for babies and young children. Illustrated by Raymond Briggs, this is a lovely book to give as a gift or to buy for your own family.
A Child’s Treasury of Nursery Rhymes is a large hardcover book (23cm x 28cm) containing over 75 classic nursery rhymes and songs divided into four sections: Welcome, Little Baby; Toddler Time; In the Schoolyard; and All Join In. The illustrations in this book are gorgeous.
The Orchard Book of Nursery Rhymes is a larger book (25cm x 27cm) containing 75 of the most popular nursery rhymes for kids. The illustrations are quite traditional and very cute.
Usborne Illustrated Nursery Rhymes is a beautifully-illustrated collection of 100 nursery rhymes in a medium-format book (17cm x 22cm). It has a beautiful padded cover which makes it a lovely book to give as a gift. This is one of the books included in our Nursery Rhyme Gift Basket.
This larger-format board book (21cm x 21cm) is a 2021 release and it’s very cute. It’s a lift-the-flap book which older babies and toddlers really love and Eric Carle’s instantly-recognisable illustrations are a delight. The book features five nursery rhymes, with the last line being hidden behind a flap for little ones to discover. The nursery rhymes in this book are: Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Old MacDonald Had a Farm, Hickory Dickory Dock, The Itsy-Bitsy Spider and Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed.
Lucy Cousins’ Nursery Rhymes is a gorgeous, bright little board book (15cm x 18cm) which makes a wonderful introduction for babies into the world of nursery rhymes. If the illustrations look familiar, Lucy Cousins is the creator and illustrator of the Maisy books.
Clare Beaton’s Nursery Rhymes is a chunky board book (17cm x 16.5cm) which is perfect for little ones to read on their own. There are seven nursery rhymes in total, with each double-page spread featuring one rhyme or song. Clare Beaton has created a series of these little nursery rhyme board books and each book is delightful.
Clare Beaton’s Action Rhymes is a chunky little (16cm x 17cm) board book containing a selection of seven popular nursery rhymes for kids with easy-to-follow actions to help build movement, co-ordination and language skills.
Each Peach Pear Plum is hands-down one of my favourite nursery rhyme books for babies and young children. This charming board book is really a rhyming game of I Spy where little ones are invited to find their favourite characters from popular nursery rhymes until, at the end, all the characters are found having a picnic together. The illustrations by Janet and Allan Ahlberg are delightful and the rhythm and rhymes are lovely to read aloud. This was one of my own children’s favourite books when they were small and I can still recite the whole book by heart!
Good Night, Sleep Tight is a lovely board book (18cm x 19cm) written by Mem Fox. It’s the story of Bonnie and Ben whose favourite babysitter recites nursery rhymes to them before they go to bed.
Bonnie and Ben Rhyme Again is a sequel to Mem Fox’s popular Good Night, Sleep Tight, about a brother and sister and their babysitter, Skinny Doug. In this book, the trio go off on an adventure, rhyming as they go. Illustrated by the wonderfully-talented Judy Horacek (see the green sheep on the cover?) this book is great fun for 1-5-year-olds. Even better, it’s now available in a board book (I love board books).
I’m Felicity - a parent to three young humans and a primary school teacher who loves books.
I’m passionate about helping parents discover the joy of reading to their little ones and I love helping you discover quality picture books to share with the babies and small humans in your lives.
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Over to you
Do you read nursery rhymes to your little ones?
Or are you a teacher who reads nursery rhymes to the small people you hang out with?
Have I missed your favourite nursery rhyme book?
I’d love to hear what you think so drop me a line in the comments.