Babies Walkers to 2 2s to 3s 3s to 4s

Overview and benefit

It is a key literacy skill for children to learn to be able to retell a story, remembering the main parts of a story and getting them in the right order. Songs and rhymes contain a very simplified story which are easier to for children to begin to recall. This activity introduces children to the simple stories behind some familiar songs and with the use of picture aids, help children develop their sequencing skills and their visual literacy (the ability to derive meaning from an image or diagram).

Equipment required

  • Laminated pictures from your chosen song or rhyme (large or small depending on whether you will be doing it seated or standing)

Link to resources


Two to six weeks

How it works

The children learn to understand what happens in a familiar song or nursery rhyme by using pictures to illustrate the meaning of the words in the song. They then learn about the main events which happened in the story and the importance of the sequence of those events to the story. As well as singing the song, you talk through the story (what happens, who is in it etc) before singing the song using the pictures to help. As you sing/say it, show the pictures and talk a little about them. Repeat if doing a rhyme. When recapping the story, show the sequence of picture cards and ask the children what happened.

Rhymes or songs to choose from:

  • Hurry Hurry Drive the Fire Truck – song
  • Max the Greyhound – song
  • Meena the Triathlete – song
  • Incy Wincy – song
  • Jack and Jill – rhyme

Training Video


What to do in the class

This activity aims to explore the ‘story’ that many songs and nursery rhymes contain and explain it to children, and then get them to remember and sequence it themselves. The age and ability of your children will determine what song/rhyme to choose (the simpler, shorter ones, or the longer, more complex songs).

Choose a song or rhyme to do each week. Explain that you are going to sing/say a simple story. This activity could be done seated, with either you showing the pictures at the front, or you could print and laminate them and make them into mini-books which the parent and child could look through together. Begin by going through the pictures as if you are telling a story, then sing the song/rhyme and recap the story with the pictures at the end.

Alternatively you could place the pictures on the wall around the room. Take the children around and talk about what is happening in each picture. Then return to the centre. ‘Test’ the children to check they can remember what was happening in each pictures, for example say: ‘Where is Max running as fast as the train?’ and get them to run to that picture. When you sing the song point to each laminate as you got to it in the song, but continue to do the usual actions as well.

As children grasp the concept, lay the cards out in the circle and ask which picture came first. To get them started choose the last picture in the sequence and ask them if this is what happened in the story.


“Today we are going to say a little rhyme about two children who went up a hill. It’s called Jack and Jill. Jack and Jill wanted to get some water in their bucket.

“Jack and Jill went up the hill” – show the picture of them going up the hill – “there they are, going up the hill together.”

“To fetch a pale of water” – show the picture of the bucket and water – “here is their bucket. They are going to put lots of water in it.”

“But Jack fell down and broke his crown” – show the picture of Jack falling – “Look, his fallen down the hill, and he has hurt his head.”

“And Jill went tumbling after.” – show the picture of Jill falling – “Oh, dear, now Jill has fallen down too! So they both went up the hill, but then fell down, one after each other.”

“Let’s all say it again together” – repeat the rhyme again.

Lay out the pictures in front of you so all in the circle can see them.

“Who can tell me what happened? Which picture came first?”

Show the Jack falling down pictures – “Is this what happened first?”

Adaptation for older/younger children

For Younger children, try to use less complicated words when explaining the story. So for Jack and Jill:-

“Jack and Jill went up the hill” – show the picture of them going up the hill – “Look, up the Hill”

“To fetch a pale of water” – show the picture of the bucket and water – “There’s the Bucket.”

“But Jack fell down and broke his crown” – show the picture of Jack falling – “Uh Oh, Jack has fallen down”

“And Jill went tumbling after.” – show the picture of Jill falling – “Uh Oh Jill has fallen down”

Also stick to very simple songs, Like Jack and Jill and Incy Wincy for the younger children.

What to do in a nursery setting

No adaptation required


Making deliberate mistakes is a great way to get the children engaged – so ask if this picture came first, knowing that it came last and get the children to say you are wrong!

There are other ways you might like to bring out the story of a popular song. You could use props to tell the story instead. Other franchisees have successfully used props to bring a song alive and add some story telling. One of them showed us at a previous training session how she brought the Peter Rabbit song alive using a stuffed toy rabbit. During the introduction she told the children all about him and showed them his little nose, explaining he had a ticklish fly on the end of it. It was delightful and you could see how the children would be captivated but it. She did a similar thing with the Jungle Song, really setting the scene during the intro, telling the children to listen hard and look through their binoculars to see if they could find any animals. Then she produced a stuffed animal on each verse and chased the children with it – a soft snake, a fluffy parrot, a toy tiger etc.

You could have a ‘story song’ box in which you keep lots of different props related to a song. Then make a big fuss about getting it out each week to get the children excited. Perhaps pull out a few props and ask them what they think the song it going to be. You can put anything inside – puppet, picture, soft toy, etc and then use them during the song at the relevant times. Then use them again at the end to help the children retell the story.