Not It!

Not It!

In this first installment of In The Good Old Summertime series I will be sharing a handful of rhymes. You will notice as we go along that I will be sharing many different rhymes. Unfortunately, today many children know few or no rhymes. It truly is a shame because learning rhymes helps children in many ways. 

*It aids in language development
*It helps children develop reading skills by learning patterns
*It helps young children develop math concepts
*It aids in memory development
*It encourages creative expression and dramatization
*It instills a sense of cultural belonging
*It becomes part of the socialization process
*It helps children become confident public speakers

Many of the rhymes that we learned as children were taught to us by our parents. Most children could recite any number of nursery rhymes. But most of the rhymes we learned in association to games, came from older children and peers on the playground or in the neighborhood making learning rhymes a highly social affair! I say, “Three cheers for rhymes!” and hope that you share many of these, and rhymes you learned as a child, with your children. It really is good for them 🙂
Before you can even think about playing many outdoor games, you have to figure out who goes first, or who is “It”. Although occasionally “It” was a desirable position, like when we played Statues, more often than not, you did not want to be “It”. For that reason, there were many ways designed to determine who was “It”.
Most methods of choosing “It” involved a counting rhyme. For that reason, these are often referred to as Counting Out Rhymes. There were some very simple rhymes, and others that were more difficult than the game itself! I just taught the wee ones One Potato, pictured above. They had so much fun this actually became the game, with them repeating the choosing process over and over again.

Here is a list of the Counting Out Rhymes we used.  There are almost as many variations of these rhymes as there are groups of children that use them. I am sharing our version 🙂
NOTE: Depending on the Counting Out Rhyme and the group of children, sometimes the first person picked is “It” and sometimes you go until the last person standing is “It”. It really doesn’t matter… just make sure everyone knows the rules before you start! Traditionally, we stood in a circle around whoever was saying the rhyme. In our group, whoever thought of the game got to be the “chooser”, pick their favorite rhyme and perform the Counting Out.
Definitely the easiest Counting Out Game. When someone suggests a game like “Tag”, everyone yells “Not It”. The last one to say “Not It” becomes “It”. Fast, but sometimes confusing as to who is the last one to shout “Not It”.

When someone thought of a game, they’d yell, “The last one to the porch (or tree, or where ever) is a dirty rotten egg!” Everyone would run to the destination, and besides becoming a “dirty rotten egg”, you were also “It”.
1 potato, 2 potatoes, 3 potatoes, 4,
5 potatoes, 6 potatoes, 7 potatoes, more.
(This was my personal favorite. People stood in a circle with their 2 “potato” fists in front of them. The chooser said the rhyme going around the circle hitting each fist in turn. When she came to “more”, the fist that was hit was put behind the player’s back, and the rhyme continued until 1 fist was left in the middle. That person became “It”.)
Eeny, meeny, miny, moe,
Catch a tiger by the toe.
If it hollers let him go,
Eeny, meeny, miny, moe.
My mother told me to pick the very best one and you’re [not] it!
(We always said “and you’re it”. A “It” was selected and the game began.)
Inka-dink, a bottle of ink,
The cork fell out, and you stink.
(That’s where we quit. One person was out and we moved on. This is the full traditional version.)
 Not because you’re dirty,
 Not because you’re clean –
Just because you kissed a girl behind the magazine,
And you are it!
Engine, engine number nine,
Going down Chicago line.
If the train falls off the track,
Do you want your money back?
(The person you land on would say “yes” or “no”. You continue spelling out yes or no)
N.O. spells no,
You don’t get your money back.
Y.E.S. spells yes,
You shall get your money back.
Bubblegum, bubblegum,
In a dish,
How many pieces,
Do you wish?
(Whomever the rhyme ends with chooses a number.  That many numbers are counted. The person you stop on is out and the play continues.)

We used this method when there were just 2 people playing a game. This was used more to see who went first, rather than who was “It”. The play was simple. There were 3 hand gestures that could be made:

a closed fist was a “rock”
an open hand was “paper”
and your pointer and middle finger extended sideways in a “V” were “scissors”

You would make a fist and count off 1, 2, 3 shaking your fist in front of you with each number. On 3, you either made the sign for a rock, paper or scissors.

The winner was determined in this manner:
paper could cover rock so: paper beats rock
rock can break scissors so: rock beats scissors
scissors can cut paper so: scissors beats paper

If both people used the same gesture, it was a tie and repeated until a winner was determined and they could go “first” or they were “It”.

NOTE: We played Rock, Paper, Scissors when we were children, however, I have since learned an addition to this game that the geek in me must share. It is played like above with 2 more gestures. It is…

To learn about the game and its rules, check out this site

Can you think of any other rhymes or methods you used as a child? Do share!



  1. WOW. I guess I never gave any thought to the importance of rhymes. I didn’t learn that many nursery rhymes myself so I didn’t teach them to my children. So this is the summer to share some rhymes with my munchkins! The only rhymes above that I know were the NOT IT and enny menny miny mo. If it was just my brother and me playing one of us would palm a stone and with closed fists say PICK A HAND. If you guessed right you went first, if not the other person did. Todays post was fun. Looking forward to posts to come.

    1. We also used Pick a Hand when there were just 2 of us playing. Tim's family (10 children) often drew straws. Hope you and the munchkins have a blast with us this summer 🙂

  2. great for jumping rope!

    Cinderella dressed in yella
    Went upstairs to kiss her fella
    Made a mistake
    Kissed a snake
    How many doctors did it take?
    one, two, three, four,…

    As a child, I loved Miss Lucy and have taught it to nieces and my daughter. It is found in Miss Mary Mack by Joanna Cole (also wrote Anna Banana).

    We have enjoyed the older Wee Sing books (Pamela Conn Beal & Susan Hagan Nipp) and have found many of the casettes and cd’s at tag sales. The Games, Games book and the Children’s Songs and Fingerplays have many of the older rhymes I knew as a kid.

    1. I loved the Cinderella rhyme. I have a ton to share when we chat about jumping rope. Also, thanks for sharing the book titles. We have Miss Mary Mack and Anna Banana. Many of those rhymes are ones we used all the time.

  3. LOL. This brought back so many memories that I hadn’t thought of in years. I showed it to me husband and he said those were girl poems. He insisted I share this one and I apologize in advance!

    Tarzan, Tarzan
    In a tree.
    How many gallons did he pee?

    Sounds like boys, right?

    1. No blushing here. I had 3 brothers and no sisters. Thought I heard all the off color rhymes but I never heard that one. Tell you hubby, thanks for sharing. Made me chuckle 🙂

  4. We use Rock Paper Scissors as an argument breaker/decision maker. Whenever we have to decide on who goes first, who gets to choose something etc then we get the kids to do R/P/S and then its not my fault when one of them loses! They take it very well as they know there’s no favouritism involved and as its chance they might get to win next time.

    1. Sounds sagely 🙂 I think the whole idea behind all of these rhymes/games was to make them objective. Although as we got older, we learned how to "play the system" to improve our chances of winning 😉

  5. My grandmother taught me a rhyme that I haven’t heard often (or at all for that matter)
    Eeny meeny miney moe
    Crack a feeny finey foe
    Op a tootcha pop a tootcha
    Rig pan doe.
    The person that gets the doe is out and you go around until one is left.

    1. Love to see all the variations. It was amazing to me, how rhymes changed, from one street to the next! Thanks for sharing!

  6. We had a gruesome one:

    my mother and your mother were hanging up clothes;
    my mother punched your mother right in the nose;
    what color was the blood…

    1. LOL… Being the precocious child I was, I'm sure I would have challenged the other children with, oh, let's say chartreuse 🙂 Thanks for sharing, Amy.

  7. We used:

    Enie Meanie
    Out goes Y – O – U.

    Also, whenever we smelled a bad smell we sang the song:

    Dead skunk in the middle of the road…..
    [Then went from person to person singing]
    I 1 it…
    I 2 it…
    I 3 it…
    I 4 it…
    I 5 it…
    I 6 it…
    I 7 it…

    And whoever got:
    I 8 it…
    and sang it was “it”! [Get it, I ate it!]
    however you could also sing:
    I jumped over it and ______ 8 it.
    and then that person had to be “it”!

    1. I never heard that version of "Enie Meanie" but we did do the "I 8 it" verse… a little different, but the same concept. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  8. I love these rhymes, most I didn’t know. We just started using Rock, Paper, Scissors to make quick decisions like settle who goes first. Playworks taught me that they encourage schools to adopt it for everything so they have a consistent way of problem solving, esp. at recess.

    My daughter sang a song that horrified me this year — with it’s racist lyrics. I wanted to share what I thought and how I handled it. It was a good learning experience.

    1. Growing up in the 60s, there were many racists rhymes and slangs that were used on the playground. Very early on, children have little idea of their meaning. They are just words. But as children start getting older, they begin to realize the power of words, and their ability to hurt. It would be wonderful to live in a world where all humanity was respected and bigotry and prejudices did not exist. And, although we've come a long way in the past 50 years, racism still surrounds us, and one of our parenting jobs is to help children realize how hurtful it can be.

      In most cases, simply talking to your child and helping her realize that what she is saying is, in fact, hurtful, is usually all the conversation that is needed. Also, sharing innocent, fun alternatives is also helpful. We will be sharing many rhymes over the next few weeks, all of which will be appropriate to share with children 🙂

      Thanks for making this comment and sharing your link, because we do need to be careful of what we teach our children, and listen carefully to the things they are learning outside the house 🙂

  9. these are wonderful! i have an eighteen month old and find myself stockpiling information and ideas for the, all too quickly, approaching appropriate age ranges. many thanks for this and all the great comments.

  10. I remember these games! Thank you for putting them all together.

    I would love for you to link this post to my link up Outdoor Play: Games.

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