A tisket, a tasket… nursery rhymes reconsidered… 

A tisket, a tasket,

A green and yellow basket.

I wrote a letter to my love,

And on the way I dropped it.

I dropped it, I dropped it,

And, on the way I dropped it.

A little boy picked it up,

And put it in his pocket.

(traditional nursery rhyme)

Who would have thought that I would be once again visiting nursery rhymes?

As a child my mother read all the traditional nursery rhymes to me. As a university student, I studied nursery rhymes for the impact the language contained in them had on children. I used nursery rhymes as a teacher as bridging into texts when appropriate.

When I had my own children, I read nursery rhymes to them although they had, by then, fallen out of favour for their sexist content.  And now, as an artist, I am compelled every now and again, to read them for inspiration in my art.



a tisket a tasket, watercolour and ink journal entry

(“A tisket, a tasket”.  Watercolour and ink sketch.)

A quick whimsical painting was in order on a very rainy day recently.

Someone asked me not long ago, what comes first?  The painting or the quotation that you see above each painting on my blog posts?

Usually, the painting is first as was the case with this watercolour and ink sketch.

I was testing my new art supplies –  liquid watercolours –  and had absolutely no idea what I was going to paint with them.

The mailboxes came first, then the potted plant, next the basket and the girl, and finally, the watering can and the tree in the background.

Nursery rhymes are wonderful as inspiration for whimsical art.  In another post, I made paper clay brooches based on characters in another nursery rhyme.


Once I was finished, then I started to look for the story to accompany the painting.  Sometimes the story builds as I paint.  Not this time.

After some thought, I remembered the nursery rhyme my mother sang to me when I was young.  As it happened, there WAS a green and yellow basket.  I had filled the basket with kittens and so what?  The rhyme did not specify what was in the basket.

And as my luck would have it, the girl was holding mail in her hand which made sense since she was so close to the mailboxes.  So again, the nursery rhyme suited the sketch.

Are nursery rhymes still recited or sung to children today?

I admit that some poems deserve to be edited or updated because they are offensive.  As an example, my original intention was to title this watercolour, Eenie, Meenie, Miney, (the kittens) and Mo (the duck). And then I remembered the rest of the nursery rhyme…

But nursery rhymes involve silly words which children love (a tisket, a tasket), repetition of words, (London Bridge is falling down, falling down, falling down..) and children learn how language works through these poems.  They imitate the adults’ gestures as they sing these songs and so learn to coordinate movements to words.  There are so many positive reasons to keep this oral tradition and pass it along to future generations.

I know that the teacher in me is voicing these opinions.

However, you can’t deny that the cute factor is bumped up many times when toddlers innocently sing these songs alone or in a group.

Long before someone studied the educational value of nursery rhymes, mothers and fathers must have felt the same thrill we feel today in hearing youngsters repeating these poems and songs so expertly and so sweetly.

What nursery rhymes do you remember from your childhood?  Which ones did you sing to your children?

2 Responses

  • Probably every single one, but to name a few .. Humpty Dumpty, Oranges and Lemons, Hickory Dickory Dock, Jack Sprat, 3 Blind Mice, Baa Baa Black Sheep, Ring a ring a Rosie. Rock a bye baby was sung to my children. Love your painting Louise, suits your blog to a T

    • Thanks Sally. A while back I researched some of the nursery rhymes and found out that they were meant to send news about current events, at least in some cases. Ring around the Rosie apparently was telling people about the symptoms of a disease…I can’t remember which one. Our repertoire of nursery rhymes is very similar. xx

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