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 The nation’s favourite nursery rhyme is revealed 

But a new survey shows that nursery rhymes are falling out of favour with parents. 

A new survey has revealed that the UK is falling out of love with nursery rhymes, with parents claiming that nursery rhymes are simply too old-fashioned to interest their children.    

Only 36% of parents surveyed regularly use nursery rhymes with their children, while almost a quarter admit that they have never sung a nursery rhyme with their child.  

More than 20% of young parents claimed not to use them because they were not considered educational.   

Over 2,500 people participated in the survey for National Bookstart Day, which took place Friday 9 October.  National Bookstart Day celebrates the Bookstart programme, which gives three packs of free books to every child in the UK and encourages sharing books and rhymes with children from as young an age as possible.                                            Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star                                        

The theme of this year’s National Bookstart Day is My Favourite Rhyme.

The nation’s favourite nursery rhyme is Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. 

The top ten across the UK are:

  1. Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
  2. Incey Wincey Spider
  3. Round and Round the Garden
  4. Baa Baa Black Sheep
  5. The Grand Old Duke of York
  6. If You’re Happy and You Know It
  7. Humpty Dumpty
  8. This Little Piggy
  9. Ring a Ring a Roses
  10. I’m a Little Teapot

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star was the favourite amongst all the regions in the UK, apart from the north east which chose Incey Wincey Spider.  

Gender and region played a significant role in the popularity and frequency of use of nursery rhymes. Of the men surveyed, 32% never use rhymes compared to 16% of women.  

Parents in the Midlands and Wales most frequently used rhymes, with more than 42% answering that they often sing nursery rhymes. Parents in Northern Ireland were the least likely to use nursery rhymes, with only 28% of parents saying that they sang them with their children.  

The research also revealed that:  

  • The younger generation no longer knows all the words to traditional rhymes: over 74% of 55+ year olds knew all the words to Little Miss Muffet, compared to only 58% of 16-24 year olds.
  • Similarly, over 72% of 55+ year olds knew all the words to Hey Diddle Diddle compared to 46% of all 16-24 year
  • 33% of young parents surveyed (16-24) said that nursery rhymes were too old-fashioned to interest their children while 20% claimed that they were not educational enough to use with their children  
  • Men are far less confident about singing nursery rhymes. 52% of men surveyed knew all the words to Twinkle Twinkle Little Star compared to 83% of women
  • Only 45% of men surveyed knew all the words to Incey Wincey Spider compared to 78% of women
  • 63% claimed that they used nursery rhymes because they make children laugh, while 18% of parents use them instead of reading a bedtime story.

The survey also revealed the powerful impact of early exposure to nursery rhymes as more than 70% of those surveyed could remember all the words to eight rhymes or more. Humpty Dumpty, Jack and Jill and Baa Baa Black Sheep were the rhymes that were most easily recalled.  

Humpty Dumpty and Other Nursery Rhymes: Jigsaw Book - Time for a RhymeOne million books of the nation’s top eight rhymes will be produced and distributed in celebration of Bookstart, to help today’s parents develop a strong love of rhymes and give them the confidence to share nursery rhymes with their children.  

Thousands of families from across the UK will be invited to take part in a range of activities at libraries, nurseries, schools, early years centres, shopping centres and bookshops to highlight the fun of book-sharing. These will include Bookstart Rhymetimes which enable the whole family to share and enjoy rhymes with children, appearances from the Bookstart Bear and song and story telling sessions. 

Borders, Waterstones and independent bookshops across the country will be running nursery rhyme-themed events in support and celebration of National Bookstart Day.  

Dr Tanya Byron, broadcaster commented:
‘Sharing rhymes and books with your child is a fantastic way to enhance your special bond and to encourage them to develop their language, reading and communication skills through play. My children loved to join in with the actions on favourites such as Incey Wincey Spider and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, and as a family we all looked forward to embarking on new adventures through treasured bedtime stories. Bookstart, with its offer of free book packs and Rhymetime sessions, is a valuable provision that helps to support this interaction, at such a magical stage of your child’s growth.’

Rosemary Clarke, Director of Bookstart and Bookgifting:
‘A love of reading is a priceless gift that every mother, father and grandparent can pass on to a child.  Sharing stories, songs and rhymes from the well-known traditional fairytales, to those that may only be known to your family or in your culture, helps babies and toddlers in so many ways. It helps children to build a wider vocabulary and enables them to achieve more in their reading and writing when they start school. Children are taught how to read at school, but it is even better when they already have a love of books.  Bookstart aims to encourage every child on their reading journey.’  

Professor Roger Beard, Head of Primary Education, Institute of Education:
‘Sharing rhymes with young children is as important today as it ever was. It helps them to enjoy playing with language and to learn about its patterns and rhythms. Some favourite rhymes date back 200 years or more. For instance, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star has an enduring simplicity, while also allowing children and grown-ups to share in their wonderment about the night-time sky. The appeal of other rhymes, like Incey Wincey Spider, is probably linked to the simple actions that accompany them and which are easily shared with small children.’

Bookstart is run by Booktrust, an independent national charity that encourages people of all ages and cultures to engage with books. Bookstart is the national bookgifting programme that encourages all parents and carers to enjoy books with children from as early an age as possible. We want every child in the UK to develop a lifelong love of books. Bookstart is a public and private partnership and is generously sponsored by children’s book publishers, Central funding is provided through the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and, the Department of Education in Northern Ireland and the Department for Children, Schools and Families in England.  Working through local authorities and primary care trusts, Bookstart gives the gift of free books to children at around eight months, 18 months and three years, along with guidance materials for mothers, fathers and other carers. Bookstart also aims to foster a love of books through a range of fun activities. Parents wishing to receive a pack should speak to their Health Visitor or contact their local library.


Booktrust is an independent charity dedicated to encouraging people of all ages and cultures to engage with books.  The written word underpins all our activity and enables us to fulfil our vision of inspiring a lifelong love of books for all. 



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