Polly put the kettle on. Learning about then and now, past and present

This is one of a series of 3 separate sessions on different nursery rhymes, building up children’s understanding of the concept of past and present and giving them a vocabulary to describe the past.  The focus is on developing the idea that there was a time we call the past which was very different from the present and yet some things are still recognisable.  By using artefacts to engage the children’s interest and to fire their imagination, the lesson really helps to reinforce the concept of then and now, using the simplest of rhymes.

Learning objectives

  • Children can make valid distinctions between the past and the present
  • They can identify aspects of the past in a picture of a familiar rhyme
  • They can speculate as to how the old kettle was heated
  • They learn about staying safe when dealing with heated objects


Children are shown a clear picture of a nursery rhyme (slide 2 from the downloadable PowerPoint presentation); Polly Put the Kettle On, but without the words. They are asked to say if they think this is a picture from nowadays or a long time ago. Clearly their grasp of any more precise terms for the past

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