The top 10 creepy nursery rhymes and songs we sing to our children

Colorful magnetic letter spelling nursery rhymes on blue board

Something weird has been happening recently. As my toddler has undergone that insane language leap that two year olds tend to experience, and become more aware of language, so have I, and I’m starting to wonder just how we have got away with singing creepy nursery rhymes and songs that are just so WRONG to our children?

Yes, once we actually stop to listen, and then think about the lyrics to some of these culprits…well, you might not really fancy them anymore because they will really start creeping you out. And so without further ado, I present to you my top 10 creepy nursery rhymes and songs we sing to our children:


Hush-a-by baby, on the tree top,

When the wind blows, the cradle will rock.

When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall,

And down will fall baby, cradle and all.

Wow seriously? This all time favourite is enough to stop any child wanting to go to sleep ever in case they start having nightmares about falling from a great height from a tree. As if we don’t have enough problems at bedtime.

Creepy factor: 7/10


In a cavern, In a canyon, Excavating for a mine,

Dwelt a miner forty-niner, And his daughter Clementine.

Oh my darling, Oh my darling, Oh my darling Clementine,

You are lost and gone forever, dreadful sorry Clementine.

Etc etc then…

Ruby lips above the water, blowing bubbles, soft and fine;

But Alas! I was no swimmer, so I lost my Clementine.

This one I had sung to me as a child and cluelessly carried on the tradition during my sleep deprived baby times. Once I got more sleep I wised up – holy shit! We’re singing to our kids about some idiot man who let their child drown because he was ‘no swimmer’?

Creepy factor: 8/10


There was an old woman who lived in a shoe

She had so many children, she didn’t know what to do;

She gave them some broth without any bread;

Then whipped them all soundly and put them to bed.

Oh yeah, this one’s really nice. Be totally irresponsible and have so many kids that you can’t even feed them and then dish out a nice bit of child abuse to end up the day before bedtime. Nice, really nice.

Creepy factor: 7/10


Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water,

Jack fell down and broke his crown, and Jill came tumbling after.

Yup don’t go up a hill ever kids because you will fall down and crack your head open and then you’ll kill your sister in the process. How endearing.

Creepy factor: 7/10


Three blind mice. Three blind mice.

See how they run. See how they run.

They all ran after the farmer’s wife,

Who cut off their tails with a carving knife,

Did you ever see such a sight in your life,

As three blind mice.

Wow this one really teaches our littles ones compassion and non-violence. Poor buggers those blind mice. Don’t take pity on them, just get a big fat knife, chop of their tails and see the blood spurt.

Creepy factor: 6/10


Wee Willie Winkie runs through the town,

Up stairs an’ downstairs in his night-gown,

Rapping at the window, crying at the lock,

“Are the children all in bed, for it’s now ten o’clock?”

Woah there? Some creepy old man running through the streets in just his nightgown (WTF!) and then tapping on your window? That is enough to make nobody ever want to go to bed…ever…including us adults! And thanks for the unhelpful 10pm bedtime there Willy!

Creepy factor: 8/10


Ring-a-ring o’ roses,

A pocket full of posies,

A-tishoo! A-tishoo!

We all fall down.

OK so this one is not overtly creepy but once you know the meaning behind it – namely that it was used to describe the plague and the deaths it caused , suddenly all that sneezing and falling down does not sound that cute.

Creepy factor: 7/10


Goosey goosey gander,

Whither shall I wander?

Upstairs and downstairs

And in my lady’s chamber.

There I met an old man

Who wouldn’t say his prayers,

So I took him by his left leg

And threw him down the stairs.

Firstly – why is their some random old man loitering on the stairs? And secondly…why are we teaching our kids that it’s even ok to take someone by the leg and throw them down the stairs? Yeah, who cares if they break every limb once they are hurled down…clearly not the person that made this delightful one up.

Creepy factor: 6/10



Three men in a tub,

And who do you think they were?

The butcher, the baker,

The candlestick-maker,

They all sailed out to sea,

‘Twas enough to make a man stare

Yup, three weird men in a bath tub together? Like we don’t have enough problems trying to get our kids into the bath without the thought of these three men getting nice and cosy together at bath time.

Creepy factor: 6/10


Peter, Peter pumpkin eater,

Had a wife but couldn’t keep her;

He put her in a pumpkin shell

And there he kept her very well.

I have a particular problem with this one as a woman. What, are we teaching our kids that if women are too much of a pain in the ass we should just lock them up and be done with it? I literally want to punch that Peter Pumpkin Eater in the throat!

Creepy factor: 6/10

Which nursery rhymes and songs really creep you out? Do share any others that make you shudder when you think about them that didn’t make it onto here.

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  1. I sang “It’s raining, it’s pouring” to my daughter as we dashed through the rain the other day and then thought about the words “the old man is snoring. He went to bed and bumped his head, and couldn’t get up in the morning”!!! Cos he bumped his head and died in his sleep? Won’t be singing anything but the first line from now on!!

  2. Hahaha! I have almost this exact post in my draft folder…hurrah and now I don’t need to finish it! A consequence of too many long car journeys recently. Great post!
    Ok so 1, 5, 6 and 8 are in my list too…I know i’ve got nick nack paddy whack as well. Who is this old man and why is playing nick nack with my things..!? I also object to farmer in the dell, but not sure if it’s creepy or just annoying.
    And yes, raining and pouring in there too…a sad tale.

  3. Haha we were given a nursery rhyme book for Emma from someone and I was shocked at how creepy most rhymes are. Apparently, and I’m basing this on something I learnt off QI, the Ring-o-roses isn’t actually about the plague. Don’t take my word for it but I really really want to believe it isn’t lol 😉

  4. Seriously – I’ve thought this for frigging ages! Nursery rhymes are slightly terrifying when you actually think about them!

    The other one I think is pretty morbid is ‘It’s raining, it’s pouring’. Poor old guy bumps his head on the way to bed and dies. A friend made up a second verse for her kids because she was so horrified: “The next day he woke up, Feeling A-OK, Got up out of bed Put a hat on his head, And went off out to play”. Cheesy, but less traumatic!


  5. haha. I actually think about this all the time as I am reciting them. I’m seriously perplexed by the lady that lives in a shoe. Where did she get such a big shoe? Why in the world do they all live there? Can’ they find a bunch of smaller shoes? Thanks for posting. Gave me a good laugh for the day.

  6. I’ve often wondered why we sing these creepy songs to our kids. Especially Wee Willy Winky. He should be locked up, not sung about! 😉 x

  7. Kids nursery rhymes are properly disturbing. I believe Three Blind Mice relates to the reign of Mary I , the blind mice are three protestant preists (blind because they couldnt see the’ truth’ about religion) The Farmers wife is Mary herself, and the tails she cut off were their heads (although actually they were burnt at the stake) #MMWBH

  8. Its funny isn’t when you think about the words to these. They are worse than the average rap song and most parents wouldn’t dream of letting their children listen to them! I’ve never properly though about the words to clementine, but I think that’s actually one of the worst now! #MMWBH

    • You forgot the one about the old man and the grandfather clock . Also the one about the old woman who swallowed a fly .

  9. We’re so familiar with them we often don’t stop to think about the words and what they actually mean. How about the song that starts “oranges and lemons say the bells of saint Clements” then turns very sinister at the end:”here is a candle to light you to bed, here comes a chopper to chop off your head!” And another old favourite “what shall we do with a drunken sailor?” – we used to sing that at school! #TwinklyTuesday

    • Oh my goodness I think the version I had been listening to had thankfully censored that out because I didn’t realise that a chopper factored into that. What were these people thinking? That it would be soothing for kids to hear these things? Pah! As for Drunken Sailor that’s just pure physical abuse…

  10. This is just brilliant. I have so often thought similar about nursery rhymes – they are so blimmin weird. Humpty Dumpty has to be up there somewhere. I mean, how much death is really required within these cute things we sing to our children at night?! Great post 🙂 Thanks so much for linking up with #TwinklyTuesday

    • I know right? Death, battering and bruising! And they are worried about them picking it up from TV…ha! Glad you enjoyed the post and thanks as ever for hosting x

  11. Yeah….definitely creepy. I knew the one behind “Ring around the Rosie” but the others were new to me. Thanks for the heads up!

  12. I can never sing ring and ring a rosies to my kids, lol! Its about the plague for goodness sake, lol! Great list of creepy sing songs and all completely true! Why and how ANYONE thought rock a bye baby was a good nursery rhyme needs their head seen too, lol! Thanks for linking up with #MMWBH

    • As if we don’t have enough problems at bedtime…Nice very nice…killing his sister in the process…oh my God I could quote the whole thing. I may actually meet my death laughing at your blog posts. And Occupation Mother may be your bloggin twin but just remember who your blogging wife is. 😉 #BabyBrainMonday

  13. The Three Blind Mice one in particular…it’s that carving knife bit, it just seems so specific and brutal. I think maybe nursery rhymes used to be a way of keeping children in line. Also, let’s face it, kids often love the gruesome stuff. #babybrainmonday

  14. Hahhah brilliant and I think your list could go on and on. I sing these to my kids too. Creep old mother goose rhymes. Who ever was responsible for that book? Thats where most of these lie. EEK I think your creepy score are too kind. lol Great post. Thank you so much for linking up to Share With Me #sharewithme

  15. Oh gosh, I’m in hysterics! It’s funny how we sing and don’t really think about what the heck we’re singing lol. Thanks for linking up to #BabyBrainMonday x

    • Yup…seriously worrying I heard one today about a piggy lying down on the train tracks and getting his bones broken on a train I mean seriously WTF???!

  16. I wrote a similar post a while back about my own feelings about some of the nursery rhymes we sing, but missed out some of these horrors. They really are gruesome! I had forgotten about the old woman who lived in a shoe. I think some of these were made up specifically to scare the little ones into submission!

  17. Ha ha although not as bad as one we used to sing as children (this was a LONG time ago) that started the Sun Has Got His Hat On..I won’t go on but it certainly would not be acceptable today! Weird how things change and we look back and think why on earth did we ever think that was ok? Although to be honest it was just a song, I never really knew the meaning…..#effitfriday

  18. Love this. I used to use Willie Winkie to scare my son to bed, obviously amending the time to 8pm. We got a bit carried away and Willie Winkie turned into a real-life creepy guy who was the security guard for our local town hall. It worked. T was genuinely terrified into going to bed at a reasonable time. . .he may be in therapy for most of his adult year, however.

  19. Hahaha I think about this all the time! Some of the songs are just plain wrong! Who thinks them up I’ll never know, but kids love them! xx

  20. ok so Goose Goose Gander… that one has something to do with religion. This rhyme refers to priest holes—hiding places for itinerant Catholic priests during the persecutions under King Henry VIII and later under Oliver Cromwell. Once discovered the priest would be forcibly taken from the house (‘thrown down the stairs’) and treated badly.[1] Amateur historian Chris Roberts suggests further that the rhyme is linked to the propaganda campaign against the Catholic Church during the reign of Henry VIII.

    Other interpretations exist. Mark Cocker and Richard Mabey note in Birds Britannica that the greylag goose has for millennia been associated with fertility, that “goose” still has a sexual meaning in British culture, and that the nursery rhyme preserves these sexual overtones (“In my lady’s chamber”).

  21. Bahahahahaha!!!! This made me laugh!!!!! Now that you mention it these nursery rhymes are absolutely horrific!!!!!! I will never recite them with a straight face again!!!! Haha! x

  22. As for the Clementine one: the singer is not the father of Clementine. He specifically talks about a “miner forty-niner and his daughter Clementine”. So it’s a man who loved Clementine but is distraught because he wasn’t able to save her from drowning because he can’t swim.

  23. You guys are overthinking this. My childhood isn’t
    that far behind me (I’m 23) and I remember hearing these and even worse ones like This Old Man (kind of paedo-y) and Turkey in the Straw (racist) and I grew up compassionate and without that many phobias. So did you, right?

  24. I don’t know exactly what the name of the rhyme is. The lines are “the pig was eat/Tom was beat/and went crying down the street”. Wow

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