12 Adorable French Nursery Rhymes (lyrics & audio)

12 Adorable French Nursery Rhymes (lyrics & audio)

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.

Chanter en yaourt – to Warble

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

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 language to your little one. Soft and sweet, the lyrics are repetitive to make it easy for babies, 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

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. Dodo, l’Enfant do

A French nursery rhyme that is more like a prayer for every parent around the world. Dodo again in slang for sleeping, and this gentle calming song hopes your baby is having a lovely rest.

French LyricsEnglish Translation
(Refrain) Dodo, l’enfant do,
L’enfant dormira bien vite
Dodo, l’enfant do,
L’enfant dormira bientôt
(Refrain) Dodo, the child sleeps,
The child will sleep quickly
Dodo, the child sleeps,
The child will sleep soon
Une poule blanche
Est là dans la grange
Qui va faire un petit coco
Pour l’enfant
Qui va faire dodo
A white hen
Is there in the barn
Who will make a little hot chocolate
For the child
Who’s going to sleep
RefrainRefrain
Tout le monde est sage
Dans le voisinage
Il est l’heure d’aller dormir
Le sommeil va bientôt venir.
Everyone is wise
In the neighborhood
It’s time to go to sleep
Sleep will soon come.
RefrainRefrain

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 kill me
Rabbit rabbit enter and come
Shake my hand.

12. Brille Brille Petite Etoile

The great classic, Twinkle Twinkle little star is translated into French, with slightly different lyrics.

French LyricsEnglish Translation
Brille, brille petite étoile
Dans la nuit qui se dévoile
Tout là-haut au firmament
Tu scintilles comme un diamant
Brille, brille petite étoile
Veille sur ceux qui dorment en bas.
Twinkle, twinkle, little star.
In the revealing night 
Up above the world so high,
Like a diamond in the sky.
Twinkle, twinkle, little star.
Watch over those who sleep downstairs.

☞ READ MORE: How to say eeny meeny miny moe in French?

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.

Untitled

☞ 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? Comment below and let me know.

A bientôt!

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