Prep: 2 Minutes / Activity Time: 5-8 Minutes

You have probably noticed that your 24- to 35-month-old loves repetition. Repetition is comforting to young children; your child will not get bored hearing the same song or rhyme over and over again.

In addition, your little one might soon surprise you by correcting you as you read. If you pronounce a word from a favorite story incorrectly, or inadvertently omit a word or phrase, your child will be sure to let you know. You can use this skill, coupled with your child’s love of repetition, to help introduce her to rhyming words.

  • the words to Five Little Monkeys Jumping on theBed (included in activity)
  • your fingers
  • washable marker (optional)
  • small animal stickers (optional for Add Some Challenge activity)

Step 1: Before your child can successfully complete this activity, you will both need to be familiar with this finger play. Say it together multiple times, until you are confident that your child knows it. Emphasize the last word in each line, as these are the words that rhyme in this particular chant.

Step 2: While you certainly can get creative and make your own little monkey figures to use to act out this finger play, your five fingers are just as effective. (You can draw little smiles on the pad of each fingertip if you so choose—instant monkeys!) As you say the first verse, hold up all five fingers on one hand. You might move your hand rhythmically (up and down or side to side) as you say the words. Next to each verse are the hand gestures to cue your child as to which word comes next.

Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed

Line 1: Five little monkeys jumping on the bed  (hold up five fingers)

Line 2: One fell off, and bumped his head     (touch your head)

Line 3: Momma called the doctor, and the doctor said,  (pretend to hold a phone to your ear)

Line 4: “NO MORE MONKEYS JUMPING ON THE BED! “ (Shake your hand or finger)


Line 1: Four little monkeys jumping on the bed…(repeat*)

*Each verse repeats until no more monkeys are left on the bed

Step 3: Once your child has become familiar with the words, rhythm and rhyme of the song, try this: when you get to the end of the second line, pause and give your child the opportunity to provide the missing word. Then continue with the remaining lines and verses, pausing for your child to fill in the rhyme.

Five little monkeys jumping on the bed

One fell off, and bumped his _____. (head)   

Step 1: To make it easier, provide lots of fun practice and exposure.  Help your child become familiar with the words, rhythm and rhyme of the song by singing it often. Act out the finger play and say the words together, emphasizing the rhyming words each time you do it. You can sing the song…

  • in the car
  • during bath time
  • while waiting at a restaurant
  • in the waiting room at the doctor’s office
  • as part of playtime
  • whenever time permits!


Step 2: Remember, the key to learning how to recognize rhyming words is lots of repeated exposure!

Step 1: To add some challenge, add new and novel words to the fingerplay. If your child can say the missing word without hesitation, change the rhyming words to your own silly version; it doesn’t even have to make sense.
Five little monkeys jumping on the couch

One fell off, and said “ _____. (Ouch)

Step 2: Use the same familiar chant, but change the words to match a different animal of your child’s choosing.

Step 3: If you have small animal stickers of the animal, you could put one on each finger to represent the chosen animal. Your child can copy your gestures and movements as you say this new version together.


Line 1: Five little turtles swimming in the sea

Line 2: One swam off, and bumped his knee

Line 3: Momma called the doctor, and the doctor said,

Line 4: "Send those TURTLES straight to bed!"


Line 1: Four little turtles swimming in the sea…(repeat)