Hickory, Dickory, Dock

I like to use Hickory, Dickory, Dock as a steady beat assessment with my kindergarten students. Now that I know more about the history, I am excited to share it with them! I know my students will love the story about the Exeter Cathedral clock and the mice that ran rampant up and down the ropes.

Fun clock created during the early 1900s

Suggested Grade Levels: Prekindergarten, Kindergarten


The first recorded mention of the nursery rhyme Hickory, Dickory, Dock was in 1744 by Tommy Thumb in his “Pretty Song Book Collection.” There are several thoughts on how the rhyme came to be. Some believe that it is similar to the chant Eeny Meeny Miny Moe in that it came from a counting system used by shepherds to count their flock. For Hickory, Dickory, Dock, the shepherd’s numbers were “hevera” (8), ” devera” (9), and “dick” (10). They sound very similar to the nonsensical words in the rhyme and do relate well to numbers on the clock.

Another thought is that Hickory, Dickory, Dock refers to the 15th century astronomical clock at Exeter Cathedral in the United Kingdom. Apparently mice would run up and down the clock ropes, gnawing on them and weakening them. The clergy decided to put a cat door in near the bottom of the clock to frighten the rodents away.

There is no official, widely used game for Hickory, Dickory, Dock, so I have listed a few suggestions on what you can do below.
–This can be performed as a finger play, which is very entertaining for our youngest learners! See the Rhyme Time video for how to do it.
–I use this as a steady beat activity with my students. They love playing the drums to this.

Classroom Applications:
–Experience with 6/8
–Good song for practicing steady beat
–Opportunity to work on counting skills for youngest students
–Possibility to introduce reading time on the hour on an analogue clock (you would need a clock manipulative for this one)
–Opportunity for practicing rhyming words (Ex. one/run, two/blue)

Finger play version
Version using different animals running up the clock


Dungan & Klump history. (n.d.). Antique Clocks Guy. https://www.clockguy.com/SiteRelated/SiteReferencePages/DunganKlumpHistory.html

–Durlacher, E. (1993). The play party book. The Devin-Adair Company.

–Gale, A. (2016, May 16). The origin of “hickory, dickory, dock”. Digital Devon. https://digitaldevon.kenyon.edu/node/367

–Hickory dickory dock. (n.d.). All Nursery Rhymes. https://allnurseryrhymes.com/hickory-dickory-dock/

–Music Man San Cernin. (2020, May 27). Hickory dickory dock [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZRwDrLqijpU

–Opie, I., & Opie, P. (Ed.). (1951). The Oxford dictionary of nursery rhymes. Oxford University Press.

–Pluto. (2020, July 8). Rhyme time – hickory dickory dock || nursery rhyme by teacher [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tShBrWp2p8E

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