What Nursery Rhymes Teach Us About Travel

By Abi King | Family Travel

Mar 27

Nursery Rhymes from Around the world via @insidetravellab

Today I’m going to talk about something that most of you probably haven’t thought about for ages.

Nursery rhymes.

Now, wait a minute, don’t click away or swipe me up on your phone to do away with me and save your battery juice.

Read on. There is a link. There is a point between talking about nursery rhymes and talking about travel.

And it’s about to become clear.

Nursery Rhyme sketches and designs


What is the point of nursery rhymes?

I don’t know about you but I’m currently just four months into the adventure called parenting and, perhaps not surprisingly, that involves nursery rhymes.

But what did surprise me was just how they came back. In hushed, whispered (sometimes desperate) tones as I paced the small area between the cot and bed or jigged up and down on the spot, wishing for a less squeaky floorboard and a more supportive bra. How they bubbled up at playtime, in the bath or when walking along the street (even, I’ll admit it, when my baby wasn’t actually there.)

I had uncovered, after a gap of thirty or so (ahem!) years, lyrics, worlds, tunes and rhythms I’d forgotten I’d not remembered.

Well, it turns out that I don’t just suffer from lack of imagination after a hefty dose of sleep deprivation.

Instead, nursery rhymes are an essential, if poorly understood, aspect of everyone’s childhood all around the world.

And given that everyone, every one, was once a child themselves, that’s about as universal experience as they come.

Rhyme Around the World Exhibition

The Rhyme Around the World exhibition in Shrewsbury delights in its dedication to nursery rhymes and children. Sure, it is actually aimed at children but for anyone with an international curiosity, it makes for a fascinating visit as well.

One of the first things to notice, if you haven’t already, is how nonsensical so many of them are.

Hickory dickory dock. Chasing around Mulberry bushes. Singing the hokey cokey.

Educationally, young children could be seen to be a blank slate waiting to absorb every facet of a language. So why on earth do we fill their heads so early on with such absurdity?! Wouldn’t it be better to start with something more useful?

Apparently not. Or at least, not in recorded time and place. While many rhymes do incorporate the basics of functioning in the world (the wheels on the bus do in fact go round and round,) so many of them talk about functioning in a world that’s largely gone, if it ever existed at all.

Clocks don’t strike, cows don’t jump over moons and how long has it been since anyone saw a pigsty let alone Old McDonald and his farm?

This is all the more poignant when rhymes from other places and cultures in the world are considered.

Nursery Rhyme Fisherment

Same Same but Different

European lullabies date back to Roman times whereas several Native American tribes refer to them as “sleep magic.”

Maori rhymes sing of bays and dappled greys, while counting songs from Trinidad focus on the mosquito and ‘de ol’man gate.’

Nursery rhymes, like all language I suppose, teach us more about our history and how we are all interlinked than we are likely to ever know.

And what it seems we all need in lyrical, repetitive verses…

…is a great deal of love and nonsense in our lives.

Humpty Dumpty travels around the world

Rhyme Around the World Exhibition

The Rhyme Around the World exhibition runs in Shrewsbury until May 7th. Find more information here. 

For more information on Shrewsbury visit www.originalshrewsbury.co.uk

Disclosure – I travelled to Shrewsbury with Mr TravelLab and BabyLab as guests of Original Shrewsbury . As ever, as always, I kept the right to write what I like. Otherwise, what’s the point?


About the Author

Hi, I'm Abi, a doctor turned writer who's worked with Lonely Planet, the BBC, UNESCO and more. Let's travel more and think more.

  • I love nursery rhymes and repeat them to my dog now. It is funny how the words come back so easily. Great post!

    • Abi King says:

      Wind the bobbin up, wind the bobbin up… Ah, once I get started I find it hard to stop!! Glad to know I’m not the only one :-)

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