Nursery Rhymes (W18)


  • We decided to collect nursery rhymes from Dartmouth students because we found that these rhymes played a major role in their childhood memories. The nursery rhymes people heard in their childhood can shed a glimpse into their family dynamic, cultural background, and their family’s or friends’ folklore. It was important for us to collect from Dartmouth students because we all come from different places, whether it be from towns across the state, from states across the country, or countries across the world. We now share a community and it is important to recognize where people came from before Dartmouth. Collecting nursery rhymes shows us that there are similarities across the nation between children’s culture, and there are also some less popular traditions shared amongst others.

  • We collected our Dartmouth nursery rhymes by interviewing students ranging from freshmen to seniors. We asked our informants what their childhood lives were like, what nursery rhymes they had been told when they were younger, and the circumstance(s)/context(s) in which they were told. Some primary similarities between the rhymes were: the social context of sharing the nursery rhymes (usually with family or friends), the purpose of singing the rhymes, and the textual meanings of the rhymes. However, there were also major differences among the nursery rhymes such as the settings, the accompaniments of the rhymes (i.e., with dance moves or with games) as well as when they were told.  In addition, it was interesting to find similarities and differences between the nursery rhymes collected that we, the group members, heard/sung as children.

  • An interesting question that arose throughout our analyses of the nursery rhymes was: “Would nursery rhymes be considered children’s folklore or children’s oriented folklore (with the exception of lullabies that are children’s-oriented folklore)?” Although some nursery rhymes are created by adults, it is very likely that others have been created by children, too. When children first learn to speak, they typically exhibit a pattern based on placing (or not placing) stress on particular words. It has been found that most nursery rhymes exhibit this same stressed/unstressed pattern, such that they mirror the way in which children speak. Therefore, it would be logical to assume that perhaps children, in fact, were and can be the primary creators of certain types of nursery rhymes. Contrary to the aforementioned idea is the possibility that adults were the primary creators of the rhymes and were trying to simplify  language such that it would be easier for children to understand and repeat.



  • Avery Schuldt
  • Elise Petit
  • Breiana Campbell
  • Lauren Douglas


Dartmouth Nursery Rhyme Folklore


[Dartmouth, Children, Stories, Rhymes, Traditions, Riddles, Oral, Dances, Nursery Rhymes]