humpty-splat.gifAlternative Nursery Rhymes

These humorous poems can be the easiest, yet most fun poems to write.  They are a great way to practice different rhyme and rhythm patterns and when you do it well the original nursery rhyme can still be identified.  They can be drastically altered, or just tweaked in a minor way,; whichever you do the technique is known as ‘shadowing’, which is when you use an existing poem as your basic outline, and write your own in the same style, making sure that the original can still be recognised. 

Why not have a go yourself……

Start simple

Just change the occasional word.  For example….

Humpty Dumpty

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men
Laughed out loud and said “Do it again!”

(This poem is included with two other Humpty alternatives in my book “The Good, The Mad and The Ugly: A Collection of Angela’s Poems” (RRP £5.99) on a page entitled “A Day in the Life of Humpty Dumpty”


Little Miss Muffet

Little Miss Muffet
Sat on a Tuffet
Eating her curds and whey
There came a big spider
Who sat down beside her
And said “What a beautiful day”


The fact that everyone THINKS they know the punchline makes it more effective, so use the element of surprise wherever you can.

Move on to bigger changes….

At first you can’t necessarily see the opportunity to make a difference with a small change, but you gradually spot it easier and can progress to bigger changes, still keeping the same rhyme and rhythm pattern …..

Humpty Dumpty

Humpty Dumpty sat on my knee
Humpty Dumpty had a great wee
All down my leg and all over the floor
Till Humpty was empty and couldn’t do more

 (This is one of the children’s favourites when I do assemblies, and invariable ends up with playground alternatives being composed and related to me all day!  This poem is also included in “A Day in the Life of Humpty Dumpty” in my collection of poems book entitled “The Good, The Mad and the Ugly”

Be warned, when you get to this stage it can be a lot harder than it seems, and is very much dependant on the rhyming scheme, and whether you can find alternative words to fit the rhythm. Trial and error is the only way, but have a rhyming dictionary to hand to make it quicker and easier to decide which ideas will work ( is particularly helpful to me)

Finally, try adding extra verses and making your own stories up.


Mary Had a Little Lamb

Mary had a little lamb
Its fleece was dirty black
For everywhere that Mary went
She dragged it on its back.

The trouble was that Mary’s lamb
Was not a real sheep
But rather, just a cuddly toy
She nicked from Miss Bo-Peep. 

(The word “nicked is a colloquialism for ‘stole’)

This poem is also a firm favourite amongst the children in the ‘Fun With Poetry’ assemblies that I have run in primary schools, and resulted in inspiring another poem entitled “Mary had Another Lamb”.  Both poems are in my book “The Good, The Mad and the Ugly”

If you’d like to see more of my examples of alternative nursery rhymes, see the poem categories above.  They are under the heading POEM FORMS, sub heading ALTERNATIVE NURSERY RHYMES.  If you’d like to have a go yourself, I’ve also included a whole page of TRADITIONAL NURSERY RHYMES to get you started.