Since 1987, many schools and libraries have celebrated Mother Goose Day on May 1. It’s a time to remember and enjoy the fairy tales and nursery rhymes of youth.

Nursery rhymes are traditional children’s rhyming songs that got their start hundreds of years ago as lullabies mothers would use to help their children sleep.

If you ever visit Boston, Massachusetts, you may hear that the original Mother Goose was a real person — either named Elizabeth Goose or Mary Goose — who lived in Boston in the 1660s. Legend has it that this woman, the second wife of Isaac Goose, cared for 16 children and loved to sing songs and create rhyming stories for them. However, no one has ever been able to prove this old story.

In fact, although many fairy tales and nursery rhymes are attributed to Mother Goose, no specific person has ever been identified as “Mother Goose” or the author of these popular stories. No one has ever been able to figure out exactly how or when or why the imaginary figure of Mother Goose became connected to these stories hundreds of years ago.

Typically portrayed as an old country woman with a tall hat and a shawl, Mother Goose is given credit for dozens of stories, including such classics as “Jack and Jill,” “Humpty Dumpty,” “Little Miss Muffet” and “Hey Diddle Diddle.” She also appears as the title character in one nursery rhyme:

Old Mother Goose, When she wanted to wander,
Would ride through the air
On a very fine gander.
Jack’s mother came in,
And caught the goose soon,
And mounting its back,
Flew up to the moon.

The first publication of Mother Goose stories appears to be a collection of fairy tales published in 1695 by Charles Perrault, which was called Contes de ma mère l’Oye or Tales of my Mother Goose. Perrault’s collection included several classics, such as “Sleeping Beauty,” “Little Red Riding Hood” and “Cinderella.”

Mother Goose became and remained closely associated with nursery rhymes with the publication around 1765 of John Newberry’s Mother Goose’s Melody, or, Sonnets for the Cradle. In 1781, Mother Goose’s Melody, a book of children’s poems, was published in England. The name “Mother Goose” has been synonymous with children’s poetry ever since.

 

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    • Hi there, Torey! Thanks so much for your comment today! We bet Mother Goose would be happy to know that you thought she was a sweet lady (the candy part was awesome, too)! :-)

  1. I remember playing this game when I was younger. :) And reading lots of ‘Mother Goose” nursery rhymes! :)

    • That’s ok, jusin! Even though you haven’t celebrated Mother Goose Day, you can still enjoy fairy tales and nursery rhymes! Thanks for stopping by Wonderopolis today and for leaving this awesome comment! :-)

  2. I’ve gone on a whole bunch of websites to find out WHO Mother Goose is, and ALL the websites give different info.

    • Thanks so much for visiting Wonderopolis, Esthelle! Part of the fun of WONDERing is finding out LOTS of new and different information! We hope you enjoyed learning about Mother Goose by exploring this Wonder of the Day®! :-)

  3. Loved learning about Mother Goose in my Children’s Literature courses. Mother Goose is the *best* literature your baby can have, and really the only book your child needs at the beginning. The constant rhyme, rhythm, and repetition helps them with their language development.

    • Hello, Michelle! Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts about Mother Goose…we appreciate them! We’re so glad you stopped by this Wonder of the Day® today! :-)

  4. I love reading mother duck! ;-) Once a goose was at the YMCA. My brother Nicolas was doing soccer camp and the duck was watching him.

    • We love to read fiction, too, Julie! It sounds like your brother met a very curious duck while at camp. Hope your day is filled with Wonders! :)

    • Well thank you for sharing your comment, Wonder Friend Gabriel! We’re so glad you enjoyed our Mother Goose Wonder– it’s been great to learn all about those famous rhymes! We Wonder if you have a favorite fairy tale to share? :)

    • Isn’t it amazing to think of all those Mother Goose nursery stories, Alyssa, and not know the actual person behind them? :) We can still enjoy Mother Goose rhymes and songs today– there are so many to choose from! Do you have a favorite from your childhood? :)

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Have you ever wondered…

  • Who was Mother Goose?
  • What is a nursery rhyme?
  • What do playground games have to do with Mother Goose?

Wonder Gallery

Try It Out

Ready to play Mother Goose? No, we don’t want you to fly around and quack. We want you to get active, memorize a few nursery rhymes and learn some fun games!

These games that are played while singing nursery rhymes are tried-and-true playground favorites. Try one or try them all! Have fun while you celebrate Mother Goose Day!

 

Still Wondering

Listening to a story is fun, especially a Mother Goose story like “The Farmer in the Dell” and “Little Miss Muffet.” Try ReadWriteThink’s Acting Out with Mother Goose activity to have fun acting out a story with costumes and props!

 

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