The Cow Jumped Over the Moon — Really?

  • Published on November 13, 2020

The Cow Jumped Over the Moon - Really

Nursery rhymes are fun, especially nonsense nursery rhymes like Hey Diddle, Diddle.

Benefits of Nursery Rhymes

But nursery rhymes are not just fun. They are often a child’s first introduction to our literary heritage and have many benefits for young children.

  • They help children learn the sounds and rhythms of the language.
  • They are short and easy to remember so help to develop memory.
  • They introduce children to rhyme and alliteration and help to develop phonemic awareness which is important to the development of skills in reading and writing.
  • They encourage a joy in language and inspire a playfulness that contributes to further language learning.

Australian author Mem Fox is often quoted as saying that

“Experts in literacy and child development have discovered that if children know eight nursery rhymes by heart by the time they’re four years old, they’re usually among the best readers by the time they’re eight.”

We know that success with literacy learning often correlates with success later in life. Most early childhood teachers agree that children who have been spoken to, sung to (including nursery rhymes) and read to before school find literacy learning much easier in our classrooms. However, the value of nursery rhymes doesn’t end when children begin school. They can be the focus of learning throughout school.

World Nursery Rhyme Week

If you are not already aware of it, you may wish to check out World Nursery Rhyme Week  that begins next week on 16 November and continues until 20 November. The purpose of World Nursery Rhyme Week is to promote the importance of nursery rhymes in early education. Follow the link to find lots of free resources to join in the worldwide celebration of nursery rhymes.

Learning with Hey Diddle, Diddle

Let’s begin with ten lesson ideas based upon the nonsense nursery rhyme Hey Diddle Diddle. I’m sure you are familiar with the rhyme.

Hey Diddle Diddle rhyme

The rhyme Hey Diddle Diddle can be enjoyed simply for the sheer nonsense that it is. However, why not have a little fun learning while playing with it as well.

Here are some suggestions.

Note: It is not necessary to do all the activities and definitely not in one session. Choose the activities that appeal most or that fit your program best and leave the others.

  1. Words that rhyme with diddle

griddle, middle, piddle, riddle, twiddle

Make up some new substitute lines; e.g.

The cat told a riddle.

Cat had a fat middle.

Cat cooked on a griddle.

(I’ll leave piddle up to the children.)

  1. The cow jumped over the moon.

‘over the moon’ means to be excited about something.

How else could we say that the cow was excited? What do you do when you’re excited? Invite children’s suggestions no matter how crazy, e.g.

jumped up and down

clapped her hands

squealed out loud

set off the fireworks

  1. The cow jumped over the moon. The cow was excited.

Invite children to suggest why the cow might be excited. List the suggestions and discuss the scenarios. Children may like to write a story about reasons for the cow’s excitement; e.g.

first cow in space

is going to have a calf

doesn’t have to be milked any more

mean boy swaps cow for beans to a kind farmer (Jack and the Beanstalk)

the cow’s holiday (The cow went over the mountain)

the cow has a new electric blanket to keep her warm (Click, Clack, Moo Cows That Type)

  1. The cow jumped over the moon.

What words could you substitute for ‘jumped over’? e.g.

fell into

walked through

sat on

swam under

tiptoed across

Invite the children to suggest the funniest actions they can think of.

They may like to illustrate their choice and write about what happened and why.

  1. The cow jumped over the moon.

Using the alternatives to ‘jumped over’, now change the moon to another place and make up the silliest things you can think of, e.g.

The cow tiptoed across the quicksand.

The cow fell into a block of cheese.

The cow sat on a hedgehog.

  1. The little dog laughed to see such fun.

Sometimes the word sport is used instead of fun.

Brainstorm other words that could be used instead, e.g.





  1. The dish ran away with the spoon.

A dish and a spoon are used together, but they don’t run away together.

Brainstorm other things that are used together, e.g.

hammer and nail

bat and ball

shoe and sock

pencil and paper

cracker and cheese

  1. Words that rhyme with moon and spoon, teaching the long oo sound.

croon, goon, hoon, loon, noon, soon

balloon, cartoon, cocoon, baboon, harpoon.

June, prune

Compose sentences using two of the rhyming words; e.g.

The boy used a harpoon

To burst a balloon.

  1. The cat played a fiddle

A fiddle is another name for a violin.

Look at images of violins.

Listen to violin music; for example:

Identify and list other musical instruments.

Discuss musical instruments children play.

Role play playing musical instruments; for example, using the song I am a music man.

  1. The cat played a fiddle.

Provide children with a variety of recycled materials and have them construct their own working models of musical instruments, for example:

  • a box and rubber bands or string for stringed instruments, including a fiddle
  • plastic containers for drums
  • cardboard tubes for wind instruments
  • CDs for cymbals
  • rice in plastic bottles or paper cups for maracas

What musical instruments can the children design?

Learning with Hey Diddle Diddle

These suggestions are now available in one easy-to-download printable resource Learning with Hey Diddle Diddle.

Hey Diddle Diddle illustrations are used courtesy of by Laura Strickland.

At readilearn we have other resources available to assist in your celebration of Nursery Rhyme Week, including:

The Humpty Dumpty suite of resources

the accident - a story about Humpty Dumpty's fall

The Accident — Humpty Dumpty’s Fall an original story that innovates on the nursery rhyme by providing a scenario that might lead to Humpty’s falling from the wall. It is a digital estory which can be displayed and read on the interactive whiteboard. It can be read as a story on its own or as part of the writing unit Humpty Dumpty — a story in five sittings. (Note: if you wish to implement the writing unit, do so before reading the story.)

Teaching writing in lower primary classroom using Humpty Dumpty as stimulus

Humpty Dumpty — a story in five sittings — a series of five lessons in writing based upon the nursery rhyme. Each lesson provides opportunities for children to think creatively and imaginatively and to write using a basic narrative structure. It presupposes children already have an idea of sentence structure and some experience writing stories of their own.

Of course, before attempting to read or write an alternative, it is important that children are familiar with the nursery rhyme. We have that covered too, with a printable copy of the nursery rhyme Humpty Dumpty to download.

Humpty Dumpty the nursery rhyme - printable

The lovely illustrations used in these Humpty Dumpty resources were done exclusively for readilearn by Kari Rocha Jones.

Little Miss Muffet

Little Miss Muffet themed lessons for reading and writing

Let’s read and write with Little Miss Muffet is a series of lessons developing oral language, reading, writing and imagination, ready to teach on the interactive whiteboard. The lessons encourage children to contribute ideas to discussions that may lead to writing. Writing can occur at almost any point throughout the lessons and may involve modelled writing by the teacher, collaborative writing or independent writing.

Little Miss Muffet illustrations are used courtesy of by Laura Strickland.

Find My Rhyme

children identify rhyming words - an interactive resource - develops phonological awareness for beginning readers

Find My Rhyme is a series of interactive lessons ready to teach on the interactive whiteboard. While it does not include nursery rhymes, it does help children develop the concept of rhyme.

readilearn teaching resources for the first three years of school

While you’re here, remember to check out the complete readilearn collection of

over 440 teaching resources for the first three years of school
Resources beyond worksheets – lessons for teachers made by teachers.
Let readilearn lighten your workload.


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    A very fun post Norah. I just recently read another post about alternative nursery rhymes. I think it was Robbie? Maybe nursery rhymes are making a new comeback lol 🙂

    This is a lovely post, Norah. I also wrote a post about the benefits of nursery rhymes this week and I did get the idea from an earlier post of yours. These learning aids and ideas are wonderful.

    Thank you so much, Robbie. I’m pleased I inspired you. I hope to read your post this evening.

    This is brilliant. I always enjoy stretching the magic of a few lines into something altogether more universal and rich.

    Thank you so much, Dimity. It is fun going beyond the words to the magic of imagination.

    Thank you, Carol. I always enjoyed the Music Man – as a child, a parent and teacher. 🙂

Please share your thoughts. I love it when you do.

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