25 Popular French Nursery Rhymes (bilingual lyrics & audio)

French nursery rhymes are wonderful way to introduce French to a baby or toddler. Listen to the locals' list of the most popular nursery rhymes, with French lyrics and English translation.
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Raising two toddlers in France, we have these songs on repeat chez nous (at home). Known in French as comptime, these songs for babies and toddlers are simple and sweet.

It is interesting as an anglophone to read the lyrics of French nursery rhymes because some of them are a bit strange. Although I guess no more strange than English nursery rhymes, where “Ringa Ringa Rosie” was actually about the Black Plague!

Anywhoo, the French nursery rhymes I have picked are ones that are very popular among the créche (nursery) set here in Paris. Along with the French lyrics, I’ve included the English translation. (You can find French songs for preschool and school-age children here.)

Chanter en yaourt – to Warble

French – English translation: to sing “in yogurt”, making the sounds and syllables.

Get the Look: The New French Nursery: 14 Chic Furniture and Decor Ideas

Your baby may not be able to talk yet, but all kids should enjoy making the sounds and warbling along to these little ditties. It is a wonderful way to introduce a bit of musicality and teach french to your little one. Soft and sweet, the lyrics are repetitive to make it easy for babies and toddlers (and adults!) to follow along.

Note: if you have a Spotify account, log on to your account in a different tab on your internet browser, to hear the full song below.

1. Petit Escargot

A sweet French nursery rhyme that is probably the first one all kids learn in créche is the one about a snail. Over 16000 tons of escargot are eaten in France, but this song is about cute little living snails. (A bit like the cute easter bunny, until you realize that rabbit also is a French delicacy!)

As an adult, you can add gestures and movement to this by making fake ears by putting your hands on your head like snail ears.

French LyricsEnglish Translation
Petit escargot
Porte sur son dos
Sa maisonnette
Aussitôt qu’il pleut
Il est tout heureux
Il sort sa tête !
Little snail
Wears on his back
His house
As soon as it rains
He is all happy
He takes out his head!
RepeatRepeat

☞ READ MORE: Giving birth in France: Oh Baby!

2. Mère Michel

Rather intriguing neighbor relations in this one, but it if you are going to listen to nursery songs on repeat, I suppose it needs to add a bit of interest for the parents.

Lustucru, of course, is the French brand of pasta but that doesn’t have anything to do with this song.

French LyricsEnglish Translation
C’est la mère Michel qui a perdu son chat,
Qui crie par la fenêtre à qui le lui rendra.
C’est le Père Lustucru qui lui a répondu:
– Allez, la Mère Michel, votre chat n’est pas perdu!
It’s Mother Michel who has lost her cat,
Who shouts out of the window to who will give it back.
Father Lustucru who replied to her:
– Come on, Mother Michel, your cat is not lost!
(Refrain)
Sur l’air du tralalala (bis),
Sur l’air du tradéridéra,
Et tralala.
(Refrain)
On the air of tralalala (bis),
On the air of tradéridéra, And tralala.
C’est la Mère Michel qui lui a demandé:
– Mon chat n’est pas perdu? Vous l’avez donc trouvé?
Et le Père Lustucru qui lui a répondu:
– Donnez une récompense, il vous sera rendu.
It is Mother Michel who asks him:
– My cat is not lost? Have you found it?
And Father Lustucru who answers her:
– Give a reward, it will be returned to you.
RefrainRefrain
Et la Mère Michel lui dit:
– C’est décidé,
Si vous rendez mon chat, vous aurez un baiser.
Le Père Lustucru, qui n’en n’a pas voulu,
Lui dit: – Pour un lapin, votre chat est vendu!   
And Mother Michel said to him:
– It’s decided,
If you return my cat, you will have a kiss.
Father Lustucru, who did not want a kiss,
Said: – For a rabbit, your cat is sold!
RefrainRefrain

3. L’araignée Gipsy

The French version of the classic Incy Wincy Spider is always a favorite. The hand movements of the fingers climbing up the water spout are the same in both languages.

French LyricsEnglish Translation
L’araignée Gipsy
Monte à la gouttière
Tiens voilà la pluie!
Gipsy tombe par terre
Mais le soleil a chassé la pluie
L’araignée Gipsy
Monte à la gouttière…
Incy Wincy spider
Went up the water spout
Down came the rain and washed the spider out
Out came the sun and dried up all the rain
So, Incy Wincy spider
Went up the water spout again
RepeatRepeat

4. Ah! Les Crocodiles

Another French nursery rhyme with rather provocative lyrics is Ah! Les crocodiles. It was originally an anti-war ballad (link in french) that was sung in an opera in 1856, hinting at France’s colonialist past in Egypt under Napoleon.

For little ones though, it is the refrain of cro cro cro that they will enjoy singing along to.

French LyricsEnglish Translation
Un crocodile, s’en allant à la guerre
Disait au revoir à ses petits-enfants.
Trainant sa queue, sa queue dans la poussière
Il s’en allait combattre les éléphants.
A crocodile, going to war
Said goodbye to his grandchildren.
Dragging its tail, its tail in the dust
He was going to fight the elephants.
(Refrain) x 2
Ah ! Les cro, cro, cro
Les cro, cro, cro
Les crocodiles
Sur les bords du Nil, ils sont partis,
N’en parlons plus.
(Refrain) x 2
Ah! The cro, cro, cro
The cro, cro, cro
The Crocodiles
On the banks of the Nile, they left,
Let’s stop talking about it.
Il fredonnait une marche militaire
Dont il mâchait les mots à grosses dents.
Quand il ouvrait la gueule tout entière
On croyait voir ses ennemis dedans.
He was humming a military march
Whose words he chewed on.
When he opened his whole mouth
You thought you saw your enemies inside.
Refrain x 4Refrain x 4
Un éléphant parut et sur la terre
Se prépara un combat de géants.
Mais près de là, courait une rivière
Le crocodil’ s’y jeta subitement.
An elephant appeared and on the ground
A battle of giants was prepared.
But near there was a river
The crocodile suddenly jumped into it.
Refrain x 2Refrain x 2

5. Ainsi font font font

Small hand puppet shows called “guignols” are very popular here, regularly touring preschools and elementary schools in France. This song is about the jerky movements those hand puppets make.

Both little ones and adults can join along with the same movements as in the video below.

French LyricsEnglish Translation
(Refrain)
Ainsi font, font, font
Les petites marionnettes
Ainsi font, font, font
Trois p’tits tours
Et puis s’en vont
(Refrain)
So do, do, do
The little puppets
So do, do, do
Three little turns
And then go away
Les mains aux côtés,
Sautez, sautez marionnettes
Les mains aux côtés,
Marionnettes recommencez
Hands by the side,
Jump, jump puppets
Hands by the side,
Puppets start over
RefrainRefrain
Les mains sur la tête,
Sautez, sautez marionnettes
Les mains sur la tête,
Marionnettes recommencez
Hands on the head,
Jump, jump puppets
Hands on the head,
Puppets start over
RefrainRefrain
Puis la tête penchée,
Sautez, sautez marionnettes
Puis la tête penchée,
Marionnettes recommencez
Then tilt the head,
Jump, jump puppets
Then tilt the head,
Puppets start over
RefrainRefrain

6. Frère Jacques

Unlike Incy Wincy spider which was originally English and then copied into French, here is a song with a French origin that was copied into English. Here is the original version of the classic, Are you sleeping Brother John?

French LyricsEnglish Translation
Frère Jacques
Frère Jacques
Dormez-vous?
Dormez-vous?
Brother Jacques
Brother Jacques
Are you sleeping?
Are you sleeping?
Sonnez les matines
Sonnez les matines
Ding, ding, dong
Ding, ding, dong
Morning bells are ringing,
Morning bells are ringing
Ding ding dong,
ding ding dong.
RepeatRepeat

7. Meunier tu dors

A song about employees sleeping on the job, this is nonetheless one of the favorite French nursery rhymes of all time. The slow initial pace which then quickly accelerates at the refrain is sure to make your little one giggle.

Do a windmill with your hands during the refrain, and get the kids to join in.

French LyricsEnglish Translation
Meunier, tu dors
Ton moulin, ton moulin va trop vite
Meunier, tu dors
Ton moulin, ton moulin va trop fort
Miller, you are sleeping
Your mill, your mill is going too fast
Miller, you sleep
Your mill, your mill is going too hard
(Refrain)
Ton moulin, ton moulin va trop vite
Ton moulin, ton moulin va trop fort
Ton moulin, ton moulin va trop vite
Ton moulin, ton moulin va trop fort
(Refrain)
Your mill, your mill is going too fast
Your mill, your mill is going too hard
Your mill, your mill is going too fast
Your mill, your mill is going too hard
Meuniers tu dors, 
Et le vent souffle souffle 
Meuniers tu dors, 
Et le vent souffle fort.
Miller, you are sleeping
The wind is blowing and blowing
Miller, you sleep
The wind is blowing hard
RefrainRefrain

8. Fais dodo, Colas mon petit frère

Continuing the trend of strange french nursery rhymes is Fais dodo. Dodo is Baby French slang for Dormir – to sleep. I say “baby french slang” because there are a series of words that end in “o” and “ou” that are reserved for small children. Words like doudou meaning favorite toy or coucou meaning bonjour are most often used in the context of children.

In this song, there is also “Colas” which is short for the French name Nicolas (the s is not pronouced), and “lolo” which is another baby slang for lait (milk).

The strange part of this song however is not the slang but the number of kitchens this house seems to have!

French LyricsEnglish Translation
(Refrain)
Fais dodo, Colas mon p’tit frère
Fais dodo, t’auras du lolo
(Refrain)
Go to sleep, Colas my little brother
Go to sleep, you will have your milk
Maman est en haut
Qui fait des gateaux
Papa est en bas
Qui fait du chocolat
Mom is upstairs
And she is making cakes
Dad is downstairs
And he is making chocolate
RefrainRefrain
Ta sœur est en haut 
Qui fait des chapeaux 
Ton frère est en bas 
Qui fait des nougats 
Your sister is upstairs
and she is making hats
Your brother is downstairs
and he is making nougats
RefrainRefrain
Ton cousin Gaston 
Fait des gros bonbons 
Ta cousine Charlotte 
Fait de la compote 
Your cousin Gaston
is making big candies
Your cousin Charlotte
is making compote
RefrainRefrain

You can find more French lullabies here.

9. Alouette, Gentille Alouette

This song might sound like animal cruelty at first reading, but it is actually an excuse to teach a baby the different parts of the body, along with a few amusing tickles.

French LyricsEnglish Translation
Alouette, gentille alouette
Alouette, je te plumerai
Lark, sweet lark
Lark, I will pluck your feathers
Je te plumerai la tête
Je te plumerai la tête
Et la tête! Et la tête!
Alouette, Alouette!
Ahhhhhhhhh
Alouette, gentille alouette
Alouette, je te plumerai
I will pluck your head
I will pluck your head
And the head! And the head!
Lark, Lark!
Ahhhhhhhhh
Lark, sweet lark
Lark, I will pluck your feathers
Je te plumerai le bec
Je te plumerai le bec
Et le bec! Et le bec!
Et la tête! Et la tête!
Alouette! Alouette!
Ahhhhhhhhh
I will pluck your beak
I will pluck your beak
And the beak! And the beak!
And the head! And the head!
Lark, Lark!
Ahhhhhhhhh
Alouette, gentille alouette
Alouette, je te plumerai
Lark, sweet lark
Lark, I will pluck your feathers
Je te plumerai le cou
Je te plumerai le cou
Et le cou! Et le cou!
Et le bec! Et le bec!
Et la tête! Et la tête!
Alouette! Alouette!
Ahhhhhhhhh
I will pluck your neck
I will pluck your neck
And the neck! And the neck!
And the beak! And the beak!
And the head! And the head!
Lark, Lark!
Ahhhhhhhhh
Alouette, gentille alouette
Alouette, je te plumerai
Lark, sweet lark
Lark, I will pluck your feathers
Je te plumerai les pattes
Je te plumerai les pattes
Et les ailes! Et les pattes!
Et le cou! Et le cou!
Et le bec! Et le bec!
Et la tête! Et la tête!
I will pluck your legs
I will pluck your legs
And the legs! And the legs!
And the neck! And the neck!
And the beak! And the beak!
And the head! And the head!
Alouette! Alouette!
Ahhhhhhhhh.
Lark, Lark!
Ahhhhhhhhh.

10. Une Poule sur un mur

Another song which involves “pecking” and tickling the baby to learn about his/her body is “une Poule sur un mur”. A simple song, it is nonetheless a very popular French rhyme.

French LyricsEnglish Translation
Une poule sur un mur
Qui picore du pain dur
Picoti, Picota
Lève la queue
et puis s’en va.
A hen on a wall
Who pecks hard bread
Picoti, Picota (pecking sounds)
Raise your tail
and then off it goes.
RepeatRepeat

11. Un Grand Cerf

A sweet little song about a deer and a rabbit, if we ignore what the hunter is trying to do.

French LyricsEnglish Translation
Dans sa maison un grand cerf
Regardait par la fenêtre
Un lapin venir à lui
Et frapper chez lui
In his house a large deer
Looking out the window
A rabbit comes to him
And knocks on his door
Cerf cerf ouvre moi
Ou le chasseur me tuera
Lapin lapin entre et viens 
Me serrer la main.
Deer Deer open for me
Or the hunter will end me
Rabbit rabbit enter and come
Shake my hand.

12. Petit poissons dans l’eau

And then we have fish! The little fish of course swim quite as well as the big guys.

French LyricsEnglish Translation
Les petits poissons dans l’eau,
Nagent, nagent, nagent, nagent, nagent.
Les petits poissons dans l’eau
Nagent aussi bien que les gros.
The little fish in the water,
Swim, swim, swim, swim, swim.
Small fish in the water
Swim as well as the big guys.
Les petits, les gros nagent comme il faut
Les gros, les petits nagent bien aussi.
The little ones, the big ones swim well
The big and the little ones swim well too.
Repeat Repeat

13. Pomme de reinette pomme d’api

Now, you might read the lyrics and think they don’t make any sense, and you would be right. Pomme de reinette and pomme d’api are types of apples, like granny smith apples or golden apples. And the rest of the song is about carpets.

While the lyrics may not make sense, this song is so famous that there is a very popular children’s magazine named after it called Pomme d’Api.

French LyricsEnglish Translation
Pomme de reinette et pomme d’api
Tapis tapis rouge
Pomme de reinette et pomme d’api
Tapis tapis gris.
Pippin apple and red apple
Red carpet
Pippin apple and lady apple
Carpet gray carpet.
RepeatRepeat

14. Bateau sur l’eau

If you are with a group of kids, some versions of bateau sur l’eau say the name of each child going splash in the water. But the easiest version of the song is as follows:

French LyricsEnglish Translation
Bateau, sur l’eau,
La rivière, la rivière,
Bateau, sur l’eau
La rivière au bord de l’eau
Boat, on the water,
The river, the river,
Boat, on the water
The river by the water
Bateau, sur l’eau,
La rivière, la rivière,
Bateau, sur l’eau
La rivière et plouf dans l’eau
Boat, on the water,
The river, the river,
Boat, on the water
The river and splash in the water
RepeatRepeat

15. La fourni m’a piqué la main 

Next up in the ticklefest is “la fourni m’a piqué la main”! As you can imagine, much giggling is involved.

French LyricsEnglish Translation
La fourmi m’a piqué la main
La coquine, la coquine
La fourmi m’a piqué la main
La coquine, elle avait faim
The ant stung my hand
The naughty one, the naughty one
The ant stung my hand
The naughty one, she was hungry
L’araignée m’a piqué le nez
La coquine, la coquine
L’araignée m’a piqué le nez
La coquine, elle était fâchée
The spider stung my nose
The naughty one, the naughty one
The spider stung my nose
The naughty one, she was angry
Et l’abeille m’a piqué l’oreille
La coquine, la coquine
Et l’abeille m’a piqué l’oreille
La coquine n’avait pas sommeil
The bee stung my ear
The naughty one, the naughty one
The bee stung my ear
The naughty one, she couldn’t sleep
Le bourdon m’a piqué le menton
Le coquin, le coquin
Le bourdon m’a piqué le menton
Le coquin voulait un bonbon
The bumblebee stung my chin
The naughty one, the naughty one
The bumblebee stung my chin
The naughty one, he wanted candy
Et l’oiseau m’a piqué le dos
Le coquin, le coquin
Et l’oiseau m’a piqué le dos
Le coquin était un moineau
The bird stung my back
The naughty one, the naughty one
The bird stung my back
The naughty one, he was a sparrow

16. Dans le ferme de Mathurin 

The English classic “Old Macdonald had a farm” turns into le ferme de Mathurin here. You will notice that interestingly, animal sounds are not the same in French. The duck goes coin instead of quack, and there are other variations.

You can read more about the funny different noises French kids use for animals here.

French LyricsEnglish Translation
Dans la ferme de Mathurin
Hi-ya-hi-ya-ho
Y’a des centaines de canards
Hi-ya-hi-ya-ho
Y’a des coin par ci,
y’a des coin par là
Y’a des coin, y’a des coin,
y’a des coin, coin, coin, coin
Dans la ferme de Mathurin
Chacun son refrain
In Mathurin’s farm
Hi-ya-hi-ya-ho
There are hundreds of ducks
Hi-ya-hi-ya-ho
There are quacks here,
there are quacks there
There are quacks, there are quacks,
there are quacks, quacks, quacks, quacks
In Mathurin’s farm
To each his own refrain
Dans la ferme de Mathurin
Hi-ya-hi-ya-ho
Y’a des centaines de vaches
Hi-ya-hi-ya-ho
Y’a des meuh par ci,
y’a des meuh par là
Y’a des meuh, y’a des meuh,
y’a des meuh, meuh, meuh, meuh
Dans la ferme de Mathurin
Chacun son refrain
In Mathurin’s farm
Hi-ya-hi-ya-ho
There are hundreds of cows
Hi-ya-hi-ya-ho
There are moo here,
there are moo over there
There are moo, there are moo,
there are moo, moo, moo, moo
In Mathurin’s farm
To each his own refrain
Dans la ferme de Mathurin
Hi-ya-hi-ya-ho
Y’a des centaines de cochons
Hi-ya-hi-ya-ho
Y’a des groin par ci,
y’a des groin par là
Y’a des groin, y’a des groin,
y’a des groin, groin, groin, groin
Dans la ferme de Mathurin
Chacun son refrain
In Mathurin’s farm
Hi-ya-hi-ya-ho
There are hundreds of pigs
Hi-ya-hi-ya-ho
There are oinks here,
there are oinks there
There are oinks, there are oinks,
there are oinks, oinks, oinks, oinks
In Mathurin’s farm
To each his own refrain
Dans la ferme de Mathurin
Hi-ya-hi-ya-ho
Y’a des centaines de chevaux
Hi-ya-hi-ya-ho
Y’a des hi par ci,
y’a des hi par là
Y’a des hi, y’a des hi,
y’a des hi, hi, hi, hi
Dans la ferme de Mathurin
Chacun son refrain
n Mathurin’s farm
Hi-ya-hi-ya-ho
There are hundreds of horses
Hi-ya-hi-ya-ho
There are hees here,
there are hees over there
There are hees, there are hees,
there are hee, hee, hee, hee
In Mathurin’s farm
To each his own refrain
Dans la ferme de Mathurin
Hi-ya-hi-ya-ho
Y’a des centaines de moutons
Hi-ya-hi-ya-ho
Y’a des bêh par ci,
y’a des bêh par là
Y’a des bêh, y’a des bêh,
y’a des bêh, bêh, bêh, bêh
Dans la ferme de Mathurin
Chacun son refrain
In Mathurin’s farm
Hi-ya-hi-ya-ho
There are hundreds of sheep
Hi-ya-hi-ya-ho
There are baa here,
there are baa over there
There are baa, there are baa,
there are baa, baa, baa, baa
In Mathurin’s farm
To each his own refrain

17. Dans la fôret lointain

French LyricsEnglish Translation
Dans la forêt lointaine
On entend le coucou
Du haut de son grand chêne
Il répond au hibou
In the distant forest
We hear the cuckoo
From the top of his big oak tree
He answers the owl
Coucou hibou, coucou hibou
Coucou hibou coucou
Coucou hibou, coucou hibou
Coucou hibou coucou
Cuckoo owl, cuckoo owl
Cuckoo owl cuckoo
Cuckoo owl, cuckoo owl
Cuckoo owl cuckoo
RepeatRepeat

18. La famille Tortue

Another soft and jolly French nursery rhyme involves the tortoise family. They aren’t going anywhere fast, but they are doing it in step.

French LyricsEnglish Translation
Jamais on n’a vu
Jamais on ne verra
La famille tortue
Courir après les rats
Le papa tortue
Et la maman tortue
Et les enfants tortue
Iront toujours au pas
We have never seen
We will never see
The tortoise family
Running after the rats
The tortoise daddy
And the mother tortoise
And the tortoise children
Will always go in step
RepeatRepeat

19. Petit papa Noël

Another popular French nursery rhyme is actually a Christmas carol. With easy lyrics and a sweet tune, it implores Santa to not forget the singer’s “little shoe”. This is because French tradition holds that children don’t get gifts in stockings but in their shoes.

French LyricsEnglish Translation
C’est la belle nuit de Noël 
La neige étend son manteau blanc 
Et les yeux levés vers le ciel, à genoux
Les petits enfants
Avant de fermer les paupières
Font une dernière prière
It’s beautiful Christmas night
The snow spreads its white coat
And looking up to the sky, on my knees
Small children
Before you close your eyelids
Make a final prayer
(Refrain)
Petit Papa Noël
Quand tu descendras du ciel
Avec des jouets par milliers
N’oublie pas mon petit soulier
(Refrain)
Small Santa
When you come down from the sky
With toys by the thousands
Don’t forget my little shoe
Mais, avant de partir
Il faudra bien te couvrir
Dehors, tu vas avoir si froid
C’est un peu à cause de moi
But before leaving
You will have to cover yourself well
Outside, you’re gonna be so cold
And it is a bit because of me
Il me tarde tant que le jour se lève
Pour voir si tu m’as apporté
Tous les beaux joujoux que je vois en rêve
Et que je t’ai commandés
I look forward to it as day breaks
To see if you brought me
All the beautiful toys I see in my dreams
And that I asked of you
RefrainRefrain
Le marchand de sable est passé
Les enfants vont faire dodo
Et tu vas pouvoir commencer
Avec ta hotte sur le dos
Au son des cloches des églises
Ta distribution de surprises
The sandman has been by
The kids are going to sleep
And you will be able to start
With your hood on your back
To the sound of church bells
Your distribution of surprises
RefrainRefrain
Mais, avant de partir
Il faudra bien te couvrir
Dehors, tu vas avoir si froid
C’est un peu à cause de moi
But before leaving
You will have to cover yourself well
Outside, you’re gonna be so cold
And it is a bit because of me
Et quand tu seras sur ton beau nuage
Viens d’abord sur notre maison
Je n’ai pas été tous les jours très sage
Mais j’en demande pardon
And when you are on your beautiful cloud
Come first to our house
I was not very wise everyday
But I beg your pardon
RefrainRefrain

You can hear more French Christmas songs here.

20. Ah! vous dirai-je maman

From the point of view of a small child, we have Ah! vous dirai-je maman. Dad may want a well-behaved little angel, but our little one has his/her own ideas.

French LyricsEnglish Translation
Ah ! vous dirai-je, maman,
Ce qui cause mon tourment.
Papa veut que je raisonne,
Comme une grande personne.
Moi, je dis que les bonbons
Valent mieux que la raison.
Moi, je dis que les bonbons
Valent mieux que la raison.
Ah! Would I tell you Mum,
Which causes my torment.
Daddy wants me to reason
Like a grown-up.
Me, I say that sweets
Better than reason.
Me, I say that sweets
Better than reason.
Ah ! vous dirai-je, maman,
ce qui cause mon tourment.
Papa veut que je demande
de la soupe et de la viande…
Moi, je dis que les bonbons
valent mieux que les mignons.
Moi, je dis que les bonbons
valent mieux que les mignons.
Ah! Would I tell you Mum,
which causes my torment.
Daddy wants me to ask
soup and meat …
Me, I say that sweets
are better than the cute (well-behaved kids).
Me, I say that sweets
are better than the cute (well-behaved kids).
Ah ! vous dirai-je, maman,
ce qui cause mon tourment
Papa veut que je retienne
des verbes la longue antienne…
Moi, je dis que les bonbons
valent mieux que les leçons.
Moi, je dis que les bonbons
valent mieux que les leçons. x 2
Ah! Would I tell you Mum,
what causes my torment
Daddy wants me to hold back
verbs the long antiphon …
Me, I say that sweets
are better than lessons.
Me, I say that sweets
are better than lessons. x 2

21. Dansons la capucine

Learning that money can’t buy happiness (although that may be a bit beyond the aptitude of a small baby!) is Dansons la capucine. The capucine is a folk dance going in a circle, a bit like Sur le Pont d’Avignon. Nonetheless, the rhyme is quite melodic and easy to listen to.

French LyricsEnglish Translation
Dansons la capucine
Y a pas de pain chez nous
Y en a chez la voisine
Mais ce n’est pas pour nous
You!!!
Let’s dance the capucine
There is no bread at our house
There are some at the neighbor’s
But it’s not for us
You !!!
Dansons la capucine
Y’a pas de vin chez nous
Y’en a chez la voisine
Mais ce n’est pas pour nous
You!!!
Let’s dance the capucine
There is no wine at our house
There are some at the neighbor’s
But it’s not for us
You !!!
Dansons la capucine
Y’a pas de feu chez nous
Y’en a chez la voisine
Mais ce n’est pas pour nous
You!!!
Let’s dance the capucine
There is no fire at our house
There are some at the neighbor’s
But it’s not for us
You !!!
Dansons la capucine
Y’a du plaisir chez nous
On pleur’ chez la voisine
On rit toujours chez nous
You!!!
Let’s dance the capucine
We have fun at our house
They cry at the neighbor’s
We always laugh at home
You !!!

22. Vole vole papillon 

A rather sweet nursery rhyme where children are encouraged to make flying butterfly hand signs is Vole vole papillon. Flap your hands, turn them in a winding motion and wave them along to entertain your little one.

French Nursery RhymeEnglish Translation
Vole, vole, vole papillon
Au-dessus de mon école
Vole, vole, vole papillon
Au-dessus de ma maison
Fly, fly, fly butterfly
Above my school
Fly, fly, fly butterfly
Above my house
Tournez, tournez les jolis moulins
Frappez, frappez dans vos petites mains
Tournez, tournez les jolis moulins
Frappez, frappez dans vos petites mains
Turn, turn the pretty windmills
Clap, clap your little hands
Turn, turn the pretty windmills
Clap, clap your little hands
Ah ! Les jolies mains, Mesdames
Ah ! Les jolies mains, que j’ai
Ah ! Les jolies mains, Mesdames
Ah ! Les jolies mains, que j’ai
1, 2, 3, coucou !  
Ah! Pretty hands, ladies
Ah! The pretty hands I have
Ah! Pretty hands, ladies
Ah! The pretty hands I have
1, 2, 3, hello!

23. Ah ah ah qui va là?

Another cute nursery rhyme with easy lyrics is Ah ah ah qui va là?

French Nursery RhymeEnglish Translation
Ah, Ah, Ah,
Qui va là ?
Est-ce un chat ?
Ou un petit rat ?
Ah, Ah, Ah,
Who’s there ?
Is it a cat?
Or a little rat?
Ah, Ah, Ah
Qui va là ?
C’est la cane
Et ses canetons.
Ah, Ah, Ah
Who’s there ?
This is the mother duck
And her ducklings.

24. Plouf plouf

If you are wondering what the French version of Eeny Meeny Miny Moe is, there is Plouf Plouf.

French Nursery RhymeEnglish Translation
Plouf, plouf, plouf
C’est toi qui sera le chat
Mais si le roi n’le veut pas
Ce sera toi
Splash, splash, splash
You will be the cat
But if the king doesn’t want it
It will be you
Plouf, plouf, plouf
C’est toi qui sera l’andouille
Mais si le roi n’le veut pas
Ce sera toi
Splash, splash, splash
It’s you who will be the lazy sausage
But if the king doesn’t want it
It will be you
Plouf, plouf, plouf
C’est toi, le gros patapouf
Mais si le roi n’le veut pas
Ce sera toi
Splash, splash, splash
It’s you, the large child
But if the king doesn’t want it
It will be you
Plouf, plouf, plouf
C’est toi qui sera le roi,
Mais si le roi n’le veut pas
Ce sera moi
Splash, splash, splash
You will be the king,
But if the king doesn’t want it
It will be me

Rather long, but it does seem to work. You can also substitute Roi (King) for Reine (Queen).

25. Trois petits chats 

And finally, here is a song that makes no sense at all, but you would be amazed how many little French preschoolers know all the lyrics. It is a play on words, where the sound of the word before serves as a reminder of what the upcoming lyric should be.

French LyricsEnglish Translation
Trois p’tits chats
Trois p’tits chats
Trois p’tits chats chats chat
3 little cats
3 little cats
3 little cats cats cats
Chapeau de paille
Chapeau de paille
Chapeau de paille paille paille paille
Straw hat
Straw hat
Straw hat straw straw straw
Paillasson
Paillasson
Paillasson son son son
Doormat
Doormat
Doormat (son son son sound)
Somnambule
Somnambule
Somnambule bull bull bull
Sleepwalker
Sleepwalker
Sleepwalker (bull bull bull sound)
Bulletin
Bulletin
Bulletin tin tin tin
Bulletin
Bulletin
Bulletin (tin tin tin sound)
Tintamarre
Marabout
Bout d’ficelle
Selle de ch’val
Ch’val de course
Course à pied
Pied-à-terre
Terre de Feu
Feu follet
Lait de vache
Vache d’ferme
Ferme la boîte
Boîte aux lettres
Lettre d’amour
Mourre-à-trois
Trois p’tits chats
Brouhaha
Major adjoint
Piece of string
Horse saddle
Racing horse
Running
Pied-à-terre
Land of Fire
Will-o’-the-wisp
Cow milk
Farm cow
Close the box
Letter box
Love letter
Die-a-3
Three little cats

Bonus: Au Clair de la Lune

So I don’t know if this falls into the category of sweet nursery rhymes, but I had to throw this in here for the parents to have a laugh. Au clair de la lune is a beautiful nursery rhyme which is very popular, probably because it is long and soothing. But the devil is in the details.

If you read the lyrics closely, there is a mysterious neighbor, some mild swearing and people looking for a pen and a light in the middle of the night. The song is quite long so I won’t put all the lyrics here, but you can read all about those risqué neighbors here.

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☞ READ MORE: Top French songs for kids

So which one is your favorite? Do some of the lyrics bother you, or does it not matter since the nursery rhymes are sung so sweetly anyway?

If you enjoyed that article, you may want to read more about the top French cartoons and books for your little one, as well as our other resources to learn French.

A bientôt!

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25 Popular French Nursery Rhymes (bilingual lyrics & audio)

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