German Nursery Rhymes and Children’s Songs

My mother didn’t recite Mother Goose to me when I was a child. I got the German Nursery Rhymes and songs  that she grew up with. “Alle Meine Enten”, “Hoopa Hoppa Reiter”, and “Backe backe Kuchen”. Funny thing, when I had children, I mainly sang and clapped my way through the rhymes of my childhood. Honestly though, it truly is amazing that most of us German kids grew up to be fairly normal adults, despite hearing Stories and German Nursery Rhymes kids should have been terrified of. Most of us had copies of Struwwelpeter and Struewelliese on our shelves… full to stories about kids losing their thumbs to madmen with scissors or distracted children falling into rivers and floating away. But these cautionary tales were obvious… I’m talking about these sweet and fun songs that were so deceptive, yet we kept coming back for more! (Think about what happens to the rider in Hoppa Hoppa Reiter!)

See how many of these songs and German nursery songs you can remember…

Alle Meine Enten

We sang this in the bathtub…

alle meine enten

Alle Meine Enten

Alle meine Enten
Schwimmen auf den See
Schwimmen auf den See
Köpfchen in das Wasser
Schwänzchen in die Hoh!

All of my Ducklings

All my ducklings
Swimming on the lake,
Swimming on the lake,
Heads in the water,
Little tails up in the air!

Backe Backe Kuchen

This is the German Version of Patty Cake… and you can clap while singing along.

German Nursery Rhymes

Backe Backe Kuchen

Backe, backe Kuchen,
der Bäcker hat gerufen.

Wer will feinen Kuchen backen,
der muss haben 7 Sachen:

Zucker und Salz,
Butter und Schmalz,
Eier und Mehl,
Safran macht den Kuchen gelb.
Schieb in den Ofen rein.

Bake the Cake

Bake, bake the cake
The baker has declared.

If one wants to bake a good cake
He has to have these 7 things:

Sugar and salt,
Butter and lard,
Eggs and flour
Saffron makes the cake yellow,
Slide it into the oven.

Summ Summ Summ

I do love the humming buzzing of bees… they sing as they work.

german nursery rhymes

Summ Summ Summ

Summ, summ, summBienchen summ herumEi, wir tun dir nichts zu LeideFlieg nur aus in Wald und HeideSumm, summ, summBienchen, summ herum
Summ, summ, summBienchen summ herum
Such in Blumen, such in BlümchenDir ein Tröpfchen, dir ein KrümchenSumm, summ, summBienchen, summ herum
Summ, summ, summBienchen summ herumFüll nur fleißig deine WabenDass wir süßen Honig habenSumm, summ, summBienchen, summ herum

Hum Hum Hum

Hum, hum, hum
Bees buzz around
We’ll do you no harm
Just fly out into the forest and heath
Hum, hum, hum
Bees, buzz around

Hum, hum, hum
Bees buzz around
Looking for flowers, looking inside flowers
A little drop for you, a little crumb for you
Hum, hum, hum
Bees, buzz around

Hum, hum, hum
Bees buzz around
Diligently filling our honeycomb 
That we may have sweet honey
Hum, hum, hum
Bees, buzz around


Der Kuckuck und der Esel

I LOVED when we sang der Kuckuck und der Esel in German School! The teacher would always split the room, and half of us would be the donkey, and the other half the Cuckoo bird.

I’m sure the teacher was less excited when we would do our best to make more noise than the other group.

german nursery rhymes


Der Kuckuck und der Esel

Der Kuckuck und der Esel,
Die hatten einen Streit,
Wer wohl am besten sänge,
Wer wohl am besten sänge,
Zur schönen Maienzeit,
Zur schönen Maienzeit

Der Kuckuck sprach: “Das kann ich!”
Und hub gleich an zu schrei’n.
Ich aber kann es besser!
Ich aber kann es besser!
Fiel gleich der Esel ein,
Fiel gleich der Esel ein.

Das klang so schön und lieblich,
So schön von fern und nah;
Sie sangen alle beide
Sie sangen alle beide
Kuckuck, Kuckuck, i-a, i-a!
Kuckuck, Kuckuck, i-a, i-a!

german nursery rhymes


The Cuckoo and The Donkey

The cuckoo and the donkey,
Had an argument:
Who will sing the best,
Who will sing the best
For beautiful May time,
For beautiful May time.

The cuckoo said, “I can do it!”
And at once began to cry.
But I can do better!
But I can do better!
Thought the donkey straight away,
Thought the donkey straight away.

It sounded so beautiful and lovely,
So beautiful from far and near;
They sang all together,
They sang all together:
Cuckoo, cuckoo, hee-haw!
Cuckoo, cuckoo, hee-haw, hee-haw!

Das Ist der Daumen

This is the Thumb is a finger rhyme … sort of like This little Piggy… but with the fingers instead of toes. I remember giggling like crazy when my Oma recited this one while playing with my fingers.

german finger games

Das ist der Daumen

Das ist der Daumen,
der schüttelt die Pflaumen,
der hebt sie auf,
der trägt sie nach Haus
und der Kleine isst sie alle auf.

This is the Thumb

This is the Thumb
who shakes the plum.
This one picks them up.
This brings them home.
And the littlest one eats them all up.

Hänschen Klein

I remember this song/rhyme so well, Little Hans goes off to the while world, and his mother is sad.

Funny, I have no memory of the other verses. But of course, there they are, and the story resolves itself with Hans coming home, and he’s not so little anymore.

german nursery rhymes

Hänschen Klein

Hänschen klein
ging allein
in die weite Welt hinein.
Stock und Hut
stehn ihm gut,
ist gar wohlgemut.
Aber Mutter weinet sehr,
hat ja nun kein Hänschen mehr.
Da besinnt
sich das Kind,
kehrt nach Haus geschwind.

Little Hans

Little Hans
went alone
out into the wide world.
Staff and hat
suit him well.
He is in good spirits.
But his mother cries so much,
for she no longer has little Hans.
Look! the child
changes his mind
and returns home quickly.

Maikäfer Flieg

How about this sweet little song about a Maybug? It’s believed to be a song about the Thirty Years War.

(And I like to think of it as a Ladybug)

german nursery rhymes

Maikäfer Flieg

Maikäfer flieg
dein Vater ist im Krieg
deine Mutter ist im Pommerland
Im Pommerland ist abgebrandt
Maikäfer flieg....

May Bug Fly Away

May Bug fly away
Your father is in the war
Your mother is in Pomerania
Pomerania is all burned away
May Bay Fly

Hoppa Hoppa Reiter

I can bet that at some point in your life, an Oma or Opa pulled you on their lap, bounced you up and down,  and sang this scary little ditty…. My family only did the last verse… and you would “fall” off the lap for the last line.

german nursery rhymes

Hoppa Hoppa Reiter

Hoppe, hoppe, Reiter
Wenn er fällt, dann schreit er
Fällt er in den Graben
Fressen ihn die Raben
Fällt er in den Sumpf
Macht der Reiter plumps!

Hop Hop Rider

Hop, hop, rider
If he falls he will cry.
If he falls into the ditch,
He will be eaten by the ravens.
If he falls into the mud,
The rider falls with a splash!

Suse Liebe Suse

When I was little, I loved singing about the goslings in the straw. I never got the other parts… about the cobbler not having a proper mold for their feet… or having no bed. Goodness!

german nursery rhymes

Suse, Liebe Suse

Suse, liebe Suse, was raschelt im Stroh?
Das sind die lieben Gänslein, die haben kein’ Schuh’.
Der Schuster hat Leder, kein Leisten dazu,
Drum kann er den Gänslein auch machen kein’ Schuh.

Suse, liebe Suse, ist das eine Not.
Wer schenkt mir einen Dreier zu Zucker und Brot?
Verkauf’ ich mein Bettchen und leg mich auf’s Stroh,
Da sticht mich keine Feder und beißt mich kein Floh.

Susie, Sweet Susie

Susie, dear Susie, what rustles in the hay?
They’re the little goslings who have no shoes.
The cobbler has leather, but no mold to make them
That’s why he can’t make the goslings their shoes.

Susie, dear Susie, this is a calamity.
Who’ll give me 3 farthings for sugar and bread?
If I sell my bed and lie down on hay,
Then I won’t be pricked by feathers or bitten by fleas.

Auf Einen Baum Ein Kuckuck

Germans really do like singing about Cuckoos. Wonder why? Are there that many Cuckoos in Germany?
Anyway… this is another song I’m sure my German Teachers had a love-hate relationship with. We would sing it LOUD… especially the simsaladbim parts. (And I remember speeding up to see how fast we could do it)

german nursery rhymes and songs

Auf einen Baum ein Kuckuck Saß

Auf einem Baum ein Kuckuck
Simsaladim, bamba
Saladu saladim
Auf einem baum ein Kuckuck saß

Da kam ein junger Jägers-
Simsaladim, bamba
Saladu saladim
Da kam ein junger Jägersmann

Der schoss den armen Kuckuck
Simsaladim, bamba
Saladu saladim
Der schoss den armen Kuckuck tot

Und als ein Jahr vergangen
Simsaladim, bamba
Saladu saladim
Und als ein Jahr vergangen war

Da war der Kuckuck wieder
Simsaladim, bamba
Saladu saladim
Da war der Kuckuck wieder da.

Da freuten sich die Leute,
Simsaladim, bamba,
Saladu, saladim
Da freuten sich die Leute sehr.

A Cuckoo Sat on a Tree

On a tree, a cuckoo,
Simsaladim, bamba
Saladu saladim,
On a tree, a cuckoo sat.

There came a young hunt-,
Simsaladim, bamba
Saladu saladim,
There came a young huntsman.
He shot the poor cuckoo,
Simsaladim, bamba
Saladu saladim,
He shot the poor cuckoo dead.

And when a year had passed,
Simsaladim, bamba
Saladu saladim,
And when a year had passed by.

The cuckoo was once again,
Simsaladim, bamba
Saladu saladim,
The cuckoo was once again there.

Then the people were happy,
Simsaladim, bamba
Saladu saladim,
Then the people were very happy.

Hopp hopp hopp

Another horse and rider song… this one was also for bouncing on the knee.

german nursery rhymes

Hopp Hopp Hopp

Hopp, hopp, hopp!
Pferdchen, lauf Galopp!
Über Stock und über Steine,
Aber brich dir nicht die Beine!
Hopp, hopp, hopp hopp, hopp!
Pferdchen, lauf Galopp!

Hop Hop Hop

Hop, hop, hop!
Horsey goes gallop!
Over sticks and over stones,
But don’t break your bones!
Hop, hop, hop, hop, hop!
Horsey, gallop!

Es Klappert die Mühle

This is a fun hand clapping song… and I hear it in my head whenever I see a water wheel.

The song itself is about how the miller grinds flour to make our bread. An INCREDIBLY important thing in Germany.

german nursery rhymes

Es Klappert die Mühle

Es klappert die Mühle am rauschenden Bach
Klipp, klapp.
Bei Tag und bei Nacht ist der Müller stets wach
Klipp, klapp.
Er mahlet uns Korn zu dem kräftigen Brot,
Und haben wir dieses, dann hat’s keine Not.
Klipp, klapp, klipp, klapp, klipp, klapp.

Flink laufen die Räder und drehen den Stein,
Klipp, klapp,
Und mahlen den Weizen zu Mehl uns so fein!
Klipp, klapp.
Der Müller, der füllt uns den schweren Sack,
Der Bäcker das Brot und den Kuchen uns backt.
Klipp, klapp, klipp, klapp, klipp, klapp.

Wenn goldene Körner das Ackerfeld trägt,
Klipp, klapp
Die Mühle dann flink ihre Räder bewegt,
Klipp, klapp
Und schenkt uns der Himmel nur immer das Brot;
So sind wir geborgen und leiden nicht Not.
Klipp, klapp, klipp, klapp, klipp, klapp.

The mill goes clickety-clack on the rushing brook,
By day and by night, the miller is always awake
He grinds us wheat for hearty bread
And we have it, so there’s no hardship
Click-clack, click-clack, click-clack.

The wheels nimbly run and turn the stone
And for us they grind the wheat into so fine a flour!
The miller fills the heavy bag for us,
The baker bakes bread and cakes for us.
Click-clack, click-clack, click-clack.

When the field yields golden wheat,
The mill nimbly moves its wheels
And the heavens always give us bread as a gift,
So we’re safe and don’t suffer hardship.
Click-clack, click-clack, click-clack.


Häschen in der Grube

One of those sweet lullabies about bunnies… that ultimately hits you with sharp teeth! I don’t remember my mother EVER singing me the second verse.

Häschen in der Grube

Häschen in der Grube saß und schlief,
saß und schlief.
“Armes Häschen, bist du krank,
daß du nicht mehr hüpfen kannst?
Häschen hüpf! Häschen hüpf! Häschen hüpf!”

Häschen, vor dem Hunde, hüte dich
hüte dich.
Hat gar einen scharfen Zahn,
packt damit das Häschen an.
Häschen, lauf, Häschen, lauf, Häschen, lauf!

Little Rabbit in his Burrow

Little rabbit sat in his burrow and slept,
Sat and slept,
“Poor little rabbit, are you sick,
So you can’t hop about any more?
Rabbit hop! Rabbit hop! Rabbit hop!

Little rabbit, beware of the dog, beware!
It has a very sharp tooth
To catch Little rabbit with.
Little rabbit, run! Little rabbit, run! Little rabbit, run!”

Brüderchen Komm Tanz mit Mir

I never had a brother… but I did love spinning to this sweet song.

german nursery rhymes

Brüderchen, komm Tanz mit Mir

Brüderchen, komm tanz mit mir,
Beide Hände reich ich dir,
Einmal hin, einmal her,
rundherum, das ist nicht schwer.

Mit den Händen klapp, klapp, klapp,
Mit den Füssen trapp, trapp, trapp,
Einmal hin, einmal her,
Rundherum, das ist nicht schwer.

Mit dem Köpfchen nick, nick, nick
Mit den Fingerchen tick, tick, tick.
Einmal hin, einmal her,
Rundherum, das ist nicht schwer.

Ei, das hast du fein gemacht
Ei, das hätt ich nicht gedacht!
Einmal hin, einmal her,
Rundherum, das ist nicht schwer.

Little Brother come Dance with Me

Little brother, dance with me.
Take both my hands
Once this way, once that way
Round and round it’s not hard.

With your hands, you clap, clap, clap,
With your feet, you tap, tap, tap
Once this way, once that way
Round and round it’s not hard.

With your head, you nod, nod, nod
With your fingers, you click, click, click.
Once this way, once that way
Round and round it’s not hard.

Oh, you did that really well
Oh, I wouldn’t have guessed!
Once this way, once that way
Round and round it’s not hard.

Kommt ein Vogel Geflogen

Another song about a child far away. So many of these must have come from wartime or emigration.

kommt ein vogel geflogen

Kommt ein Vogel Geflogen

Kommt ein Vogel geflogen,
Setzt sich nieder auf mein’ Fuß
Hat ein Zettel im Schnabel,
Von der Mutter (Liebsten) ein’ Gruß

Lieber Vogel, flieg weiter,
Bring ein’ Gruß mit, einen Kuß
Denn ich kann dich nicht begleiten,
Weil ich hier bleiben muß.

A Bird Came Flying

A bird comes flying
It settles on my foot,
It has a note in its beak,
From my mother,  a greeting.

Dear bird, fly on,
Bring a greeting, and a kiss
For I cannot go with you,
Since I must stay here.

Schlaf, Kindlein Schlaf

And then it was bedtime…. this is another song where I don’t remember my mother singing the second verse with the biting sheep.

german nursery rhymes

Schlaf, Kindlein Schlaf

Schlaf, Kindlein, schlaf!
Der Vater hüt’ die Schaf,
Die Mutter schüttelt ‘s Bäumelein,
Da fällt herab ein Träumelein.
Schlaf, Kindlein, schlaf!

Schlaf, Kindlein, schlaf!
Da draußen gehn zwei Schaf,
Ein schwarzes und ein weißes,
Und wenn das Kind nicht schlafen will,
Dann kommt das schwarz’ und beißs es!
Schlaf, Kindlein, schlaf!

Sleep little Child, Sleep

Sleep, baby, sleep!
Your father’s herding sheep,
Your mother shakes the little tree,
A little dream falls down for thee,
Sleep, baby, sleep!

Sleep, baby, sleep
Two sheep are outside,
One black one and one white,
And if the child doesn’t want to sleep,
The black one will come and bite him!
Sleep, baby, sleep

Müde Bin Ich, Geh zu Ruh

As a prayer at bedtime….

german nursery rhymes

Müde Bin Ich, Geh zu Ruh

Müde bin ich, geh zur Ruh
Schließe beide Äuglein zu
Vater, lass die Augen dein
Über meinem Bette sein

I am tired, Going to bed

I’m tired, I’m going to rest,
I close my little eyes,
Father, let your eyes
watch over my bed.

25 thoughts on “German Nursery Rhymes and Children’s Songs

  1. Ich liebe die Kinderlieder. KANNTE SIE ALLE. Habe meinen in U.S. geborenen Kinder diese Lieder vorgesungen und sie haben auch einige gelernt.

  2. Das war sehr interessant. Vielen Dank fuer Ihre Hilfe 🙂

  3. I used to sing some of these as a little Dutch boy in occupied Germany for the German troops for rest in our village. I was taught them by German officers occupying our living room while we lived in the kitchen. I live in Australia now. The young soldiers were clearly delighted by the songs sung by a five-year-old child. I can remember fragments of other rhymes and songs. I wish I had access to more of them.

  4. As a lover of German culture, I was always a big fan of these songs. My favorite, however, is probably the folksong “Heut’ kommt der Hans zu mir” (Today Hans will come to me). It’s a very playful little song, and the tune is the same as “Music Alone Shall Live”!

  5. I have been searching for this nursery rhyme. My grandmother sang to me about thunder and lightening phonetically it sounded like this Zu Za Du Zu Za Du Brux. I do not know the rest of it. It may have had something to do with bowling in heaven too?

  6. the hop hop little rider. Grandma would us on her foot and bounce us she would at the end she would have us fall off and she would say something like “ booms de liter” Well thats what it sounded like. I have never found version that ended in this manner. has anyone else?

    1. This is new to me… but Omas all had special ways of doing things. I bet someone will recognize it

      1. “Bums, da liegt er” – in dialect, it would sound like “Bums, da lieht er”

  7. Good morning, My Austrian grandparents, who of course spoke German, sang a nursery rhyme to me called Kribble Krabble. It went something like this:

    Kribble Krabble – in the palm of my hand like a spider

    Salt Schmaltz – mark a cross in my hand

    Elepoggan – elbow in my hand

    Knoggen seen – grab my nose

    Heart seamen – cross my heart

    Crossapuch – tickle me I know nothing is spelled correctly. Are you familiar with this nursery rhyme? Beautiful memories. I am 70 years old. They were around my age when I was a little girl. Thank you!

  8. As close as I can recall is this child’s tickling rhyme. Appreciate any help.

    ‫Talla, Mark, Kuchen, Kelchen und ein gilly-gilly-gilly-gilly genchen‬

  9. Hi Karen! I’m wondering if you know where I could find the melodies or rhythms to these songs?

  10. Thank you for these! My mother used to sing the one about the sheep, including the verse where it might bite you. This really brought back some memories!

  11. My dad didn’t teach my sister or me German but he taught us Schlaf, Kindlein Schlaf and Hopp Hopp Hopp and we’d sing them together at bed time. He also taught us a marching chant when we were really little but I only remember the end shouting “halt!” and the first two words may have been “sowas vieren”. Does anyone know what this may have been?

    1. I’m going to put this question out to the facebook page… hang on and I’ll see what comes back

  12. My Austrian grandmother used tomakes circles with her index finger in our palm and sing (sorry I don’t know proper spelling, this is how it sounded) Kysellie Kooselli licht all Botch! And when she said Botch, she would clap her hand on top of ours. Does anyone remember this one/have proper lyrics?

    1. Oh… there are so many “Fingerspiele” (hand games) let post this to the facebook page. Someone may recognize it.

  13. Have you the German words to ‘where oh where has my little dog gone’?

    1. In Lauterbach hab’ ich mein’ Strumpf verlorn

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