Can You Recall These Childhood Nursery Rhymes?

Isadora Teich

"Baa, baa, _______ sheep / Have you any wool?"

The tune for this children's rhyme comes from the 1761 French tune, "Ah! vous dirai-je, maman." The earliest version of the text of this English rhyme dates to 1731, thirty years before the tune.

"An ________ a day / Keeps the doctor away"

This first appeared in 1860, but the text was originally, "Eat an apple on going to bed, and you'll keep the doctor from earning his bread." Roughly three decades later, it changed to the version most people are familiar with. At the time, eating apples with caraway seeds in them was thought to be very good for one's health, especially the caraway seeds, for which the apple was simply a vehicle.

"The ________ go marching one by one / Hurrah, hurrah"

"The Ants Go Marching" is a classic children's rhyming song set to the tune of the American Civil War song, "Johnny Fill Up the Bowl," a soldier's drinking song. The tune was also used for "When Johnny Comes Marching Home."

"Hi-ho, the derry-o / The ________ in the dell"

"The Farmer in the Dell" is a classic rhyme much longer than most people think. There are over half a dozen verses featuring wives, children, mice and cheese. The rhyme was first recorded in Germany in the early 1800s.

"Fee! Fi! Fo! Fum! / I smell the blood of an _____________."

"Fee Fi Fo Fum!" is most often associated with what the giant says in "Jack and the Beanstalk," the English fairy tale. It actually originally appeared in a 1596 pamphlet by Thomas Nashe. The pamphlet was part of a multi-year literary feud.

"This little pig went to the _________. / This little pig stayed home."

"This Little Piggy" is a popular nursery rhyme. Some parents recite it while counting their young children's toes as a fun game. As far as scholars know, the first full version of "This Little Piggy" was printed in 1760 in "The Famous Tommy Thumb's Little Story-Book."

"Georgie Porgie, puddin' and pie, / Kissed the girls and made them _______."

"Georgie Porgie" is an old English rhyme. It actually refers to Regency Era King George IV, who was famously immoral by the standards of the time.

"Good night, sleep tight, / Don’t let the bedbugs _______."

There are two versions of the "Good Night Sleep Tight" nursery rhyme. One involves killing bedbugs, while the other is about getting enough sleep so you can be the best person you can be. The full text of the second is, "Good night, sleep tight/ Don't let the bed bugs bite/ Wake up bright/ In the morning light/ To do what's right/ With all your might."

"Hark! Hark! The dogs do bark, / The __________ are coming to town."

"Hark, Hark! The Dogs Do Bark" is a very old rhyme. One theory as to where this rhyme originated states that beggars used to chant it during the Elizabethan era as they begged the queen for food and water. However, it's possible that this rhyme dates back even earlier, perhaps even to the 11th century.

"Here we go 'round the __________ bush, / So early in the morning."

"Here We Go 'Round The Mulberry Bush" is a long rhyme which details doing chores and basic hygiene. Many children mime these things as they sing the song to help them learn. It originated in the mid 19th century as a children's game in England.

"Hey, diddle, diddle, / The _______ and the fiddle,"

There are two theories behind the "Hey Diddle Diddle" rhyme. One is that it's a pure nonsense rhyme. The other is that the characters all relate to a constellation visible in the night sky during planting season, and it functioned as a reminder to early Europeans for them to plant their crops.

"There was an old woman who lived in a ________. / She had so many children, she didn't know what to do."

"There was an Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe" is a rhyme with a less-than-happy ending. To conclude: "She gave them some broth/ Without any bread/ Whipped them all soundly, and sent them to bed." The first version was printed in 1794.

"You do the Hokey Pokey, / And you turn __________ around."

The Hokey Pokey is considered a participation dance, which means a group of people dance it together. It's originally based on a British folk dance from the early decades of the 19th century. It's called the Hokey Cokey in England.

"Humpty Dumpty sat on a _________. / Humpty Dumpty had a great fall."

"Humpty Dumpty" is a classic rhyme. While many assume he's an egg, the rhyme never actually says that he's an egg. The first time he was explicitly described as such was in "Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There," by Lewis Carroll.

"Hush, little ________, don't say a word / Mama's gonna buy you a mockingbird"

"Hush Little Baby" has been a popular lullaby for generations. It is believed to have originated in the American South. However, it's specific origins are unknown, as is the case with many folk songs.

"I see the _________ / and the moon sees me"

"I See the Moon" is a rhyme that ends in the person asking for God's blessings. It ends "God bless the moon / and God bless me." It originally appeared in print in the 1784 British collection, "Gammer Gurton's Garland, or, the Nursery Parnassus."

"It's _______, it's pouring; / The old man is snoring."

"It's Raining, It's Pouring" is a classic modern rhyme. It doesn't appear until the early 20th century. It was first recorded in 1939 by Herbert Halpert.

"I've been workin' on the __________, / All the live-long day."

"I've Been Working on the Railroad" was first published in 1894, but it wasn't recorded until 1927 when it was performed by the Sandhills Sixteen. The song is actually composed of two songs strung together. The second song was originally called, "Old Joe, or Somebody in the House with Dinah." That song is from the 1830s or 1840s.

"Yankee Doodle came to town, / A-ridin' on a pony; / He stuck a ________ in his hat / And called it macaroni."

"Yankee Doodle" is an American folk song/rhyme that lyrically dates to before the Seven Year's War. The melody likely dates back to a folk song from Medieval Europe. Also, in 18th century England, macaroni was a word used to refer to a fashionable man rather than a type of pasta.

"One for the money, / Two for the ______"

"One for the Money" is a part of a rhyme that appeared in print in 1872 in the book, "Striking for the Right," by Julia Arabella Eastmen.

"Star light, star bright, / First star I _________ tonight,"

"Star Light Star Bright" is a nursery rhyme that focuses on stars and wishes. Wishing on stars is a common theme in children's songs, poems, rhymes and literature. The precise origin of this rhyme is unknown.

"No doors there are to this stronghold / Yet thieves break in and steal the ________."

"In Marble Walls as White as Milk" is both a rhyme and a riddle. The answer to this riddle is a noun that can be scrambled or poached. The rhyme originated in England.

"Monday's child is fair of face, / Tuesday's child is full of _________,"

"Monday's Child" is an old English nursery rhyme. It ascribes different traits to children born on different days of the week. First published in 1838 in "Traditions of Devonshire," it was officially collected as a rhyme a couple decades later by James Orchard Halliwell.

"The people always _________ / There goes John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt!"

"John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt" is an American children's song, with likely (although not certain) origins in vaudeville. It was well-known by the middle of the 20th century, though.

"This old man, he played one, / He played knick knack on his ________,"

The precise origins of the version of "This Old Man" that most people are familiar with are unknown, however, it appears to have come from a Welsh rhyme called "Jack Jintle" that existed as early as the 1870s, if not earlier.

"One, two, buckle my _______; / Three, four, knock at the door;"

"One, Two, Buckle My Shoe" is an English nursery rhyme. A version of it was recorded in 1805 in "Songs for the Nursery." It was used in America to help children learn how to count.

"Solomon Grundy, / Born on Monday, / Christened on _________,"

"Solomon Grundy" was collected by the fervent collector of nursery rhymes and English Shakespearean scholar, James Orchard Halliwell, in 1842.

"Peter, Peter, _________ eater, / Had a wife and couldn't keep her."

"Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater" is an old English nursery rhyme. It was first in print in the 1790s. The rhyme is likely related to the short children's poem "Eeper Weeper" about a homicidal chimney sweep.

"River Jordan's deep and wide, / Hallelujah / Milk and ________ on the other side, / Hallelujah"

"Michael Row Your Boat Ashore" was originally sung by former slaves on the South Carolina island, St. Helena, during the Civil War. In 1867, it was published for the first time in the song book, "Slave Songs of the United States."

"On top of spaghetti, / All covered with _______, / I lost my poor meatball / When somebody sneezed."

"On Top of Spaghetti" is a children's song that's sung to the tune of the folk song, "On Top of Old Smokey." It was written by Sharon Ruth and Philip Anders in 1962.

"A man in the wilderness / Asked this of me, / "How many strawberries / Grow in the __________?"

"The Man in the Wilderness" is a nursery rhyme that might prove to be a thinker for younger kids. It concludes: "I answered him / As I thought good, / "As many red herrings / As swim in the wood." The rhyme is from England.

"________ Piper picked a peck / Of pickled peppers;"

"Peter Piper" is a well known nursery rhyme and tongue twister. The earliest version of this was published in London in 1813. Some scholars think that French botanist Pierre Poivre is the person Peter Piper is based on. Poivre means "Pepper" in French! And Pierre? Yep, that's French for Peter.

"The Queen of Hearts, She made some _________ / All on a summer's day."

"The Queen of Hearts" is a nursery rhyme meant to teach kids a lesson. In it, the Knave of Hearts steals her tarts and gets beaten for it. The modern poem is based on an earlier poem from 1805.

"Little King Boggen, he built a fine hall / Pie-crust and pastry-crust, that was the _______;"

"Little King Boggen He Built a Fine Hall" is a truly whimsical rhyme. It describes a house made out of treats with a pancake roof. The rhyme originated in England.

"Little Miss Muffet, sat on a tuffet / Eating her curds and whey / Along came a _______"

"Little Miss Muffet" is a classic nursery rhyme that was first printed in 1805, although it became one of the most widely printed rhymes of the mid-1900s. Despite its later popularity, it might have originated as early as the 16th century.

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About This Quiz

Are you a nursery rhyme expert who always knows how to fill in the blanks? For centuries, children in the Western world have sung, spoken, played, learned, recited and been entertained by all kinds of nursery rhymes. These rhymes are so influential, that many adults still love and remember them. We'd bet the farm that you know what comes after the line "hickory dickory dock!" Nursery rhymes are often referenced in music, movies, books and other types of popular culture, like when Maureen references "Hey Diddle Diddle" in the Broadway musical, "Rent."

Some nursery rhymes are relatively modern, becoming part of the canon of nursery rhymes in the 20th century, while others are centuries old. Some even date back to the time of Shakespeare or the Medieval era. While some teach rudimentary lessons to kids, others are pure nonsense. In fact, some of the most seemingly fun nursery rhymes actually refer to darker stories. Do you know which one is partially based on a  children's poem about a homicidal chimney sweep? We didn't think so.

If you are a true nursery rhyme lover and a real expert who knows the difference between Monday's Child and Thursday's Child, put your rhyming prowess to the test with this challenging and fun nostalgic nursery rhyme quiz! 

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