5 Creepy Nursery Rhymes to Avoid at Bedtime...Or Anytime

by Jill Ginsberg
Originally Published: 
A toddler sleeping on light blue bed sheets

I’m no expert. But I’m pretty sure scaring the shit out of children, just before tucking them in at night, isn’t the best way to encourage sound sleep.

You wouldn’t rock your child back and forth while softly recounting tales of recent kidnappings, murders, disfiguring accidents or wild animal attacks, would you?

Yet many of us don’t think twice before reciting terrifying nursery rhymes over and over again.

Here are five creepy classics to avoid sharing with your kids at bedtime, or anytime, so everyone sleeps better:

1. Good night. Sleep tight. Don’t let the bedbugs bite.

Conjuring an image of bugs creeping and crawling all over your child’s body, and then leaving her alone with nothing more than a dim nightlight and a binkie to help fend off the blood suckers, isn’t exactly the stuff parenting awards are made of. So just don’t.

2. Rock-a-bye baby, in the tree top / When the wind blows, the cradle will rock / When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall / And down will come baby, cradle and all.

Loud gusty winds. Branches snapping. Fractured baby skulls.

Until you’re in the eye of a hellacious hurricane, save the drama for someone else’s mama and let your wee little one drift off to sleep without the threat of natural disaster swirling through his tiny mind like a 112 mph tornado.

3. There was an old lady who swallowed a fly. I don’t know why she swallowed a fly. Perhaps she’ll die. Oh, oh, oh, I know why! I know why she swallowed a fly!

Because it was a fucking accident.

Only in your child’s mind, YOU are the old lady who, at any time, could open your mouth to breathe/eat/sing/cry/say something when, out of nowhere, a pesky fly darts in, causing you to Suddenly. Drop. Dead.

So congratulations, you just singlehandedly gave your kid a lifetime supply of abandonment issues.

Best start saving for therapy now.

4. There was an old woman who lived in a shoe / She had so many children, she didn’t know what to do / She gave them some broth without any bread / Whipped them all soundly, and sent them to bed.

Dinner. Bath. Bed. That’s a nighttime routine we can all get behind. But dinner, beating, bed? Not so much.

Don’t be surprised if your daughter hides the belts and then ducks when you go to tuck her in, Mommy Dearest.

She might also might start hoarding bread and other starchy carbs. FYI.

5. Peter Peter pumpkin eater / Had a wife and couldn’t keep her! / He put her in a pumpkin shell / And there he kept her very well!

Imagonna venture to guess that stuffing the old wife into a pumpkin doesn’t make anyone’s “top 10 best ways to demonstrate marital affection” list.

If you think the night terrors are hitting a peak now, just wait until Halloween rolls around.

Meanwhile, you might want to let your little guy know that, while you appreciate his protective spirit, it’s OK to stop shooting Daddy dirty looks.

So unless you enjoy watching your kid’s sweaty little body thrash around while he has recurring nightmares of being eaten alive by the Big Bad Wolf, it’s time to reconsider the old story time routine.

Maybe just read Pete the Cat instead.

Related post: Nursery Rhymes for Moms

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