a peek inside the fishbowl

12 Jun, 2010

You’re IT

Posted by andrea tomkins in: - Archive of playground games

My recent post about freeze-tag reminded me of something… when you were a kid and you were playing these kind of tag games, what method did you use to figure out who was going to be “it” ?

In my day someone would quickly call out “KING COUNTER NO HIGHER NO LOWER” and thus nominate themselves as the person who’d perform the counting-off song(s) to determine who is IT for the game we’ve just decided to play.

I thought I’d jot down the ones I remember.

One Potato Two Potato
Each person makes two fists and stands in a circle, holding their “spuds” in front of them. King Counter chants the following rhyme. (At the end to the rhyme, the last “potato” touched is out, and the rhyme starts over again at the next one. The last potato out is it.)

One potato
two potato
three potato
five potato
six potato
seven potato


Mickey Mouse built a house,
How many bricks did he use? 
[At this point the person picks a number and King Counter continues going around the circle, counting as s/he goes. The last person touched is out.]


Engine Engine
[This is the weirdest one. What’s with all the dirty? And the trash-talking of mothers?]

Engine Engine Number nine, going down Chicago line,
If the train goes of the track,
Do you want your money back? Yes or No?
  [The person has to choose – yes or no.]
Y-E-S spells YES  [or N-O spells no]
And out you must go with your mother’s big fat dirty toe.
Not because you’re dirty,
Not because you’re clean,
Just because you kissed a boy behind a magazine.

Here’s another one I remember:

My mother and your mother were hanging the clothes,
My mother punched your mother, right in the nose.
What colour was the blood? 
[The person picks a colour and it is spelled.]
B-L-U-E spells blue.

Another way of picking someone to do to something (this one came about in later years) was the nose game. More often than not it was just an excuse to clobber someone. A bunch of us would be standing around when someone would suddenly touch their nose. The last person to touch their nose would get punched. (Ha ha!)

I’ve been teaching the girls the few of the counting-off rhymes I remember. (After all, there’s something to be said for passing our playground culture down to our kids, right?) This is the one we use around here the most often. The lyrics sometimes get changed to suit the situation:

Eeny, meeny, miney, moe,
Catch a tiger by the toe,
If he hollers let him go,
Eeny, meeny, miney moe.

Other versions we’ve used include:

Eeny, meeny, miney, moe,
Catch a girly by the toe,
If she hollers make her pay,
Fifty dollars every day.


Eeny, meeny, miney, moe,
Catch a girly by her toes,
If she hollers make her go,
Brush her teeth and blow her nose.

(That one was last used to decide who is supposed to go brush her teeth and get ready to bed first.)

Eeny, meeny, miney, mable,
Who will help mom set the table,
Daughter one or daughter two?
This little chick will have to do.

You get the idea. :)

Do you have a playground rhyme to share? I’m looking to expand our repertoire!

ETA: I often wonder if these rhymes are regional. If you have a new one to add or a different version of one of the above let me know how yours differs, and mention where you grew up. :)

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4 Responses to "You’re IT"

1 | Laura Quirk

June 13th, 2010 at 8:26 am


My 4 year old’s favorite is,” Who’s gonna be it, not you, Skunk in a baryard P-hew”

and here is the latest one….. Inky Pinky Ponky, Daddy bought a donkey, donkey died, daddy cried, inky pinky ponky.

2 | Jay

June 13th, 2010 at 2:57 pm


I grew up mostly in Manitoba and we sang all the same ones. I do recall Engine Engine, but we also had other words for the same tune that I can’t think of right now!

3 | Lynn

June 14th, 2010 at 12:30 pm


Whoa, these brought back some memories! The Captain is totally into this right now, but he and his friends always use “eenie meenie.” It’s so cute, because even when it’s just two of them, they get so excited because WHO CAN POSSIBLY GUESS who it will be? Even though anyone over the age of 7 knows that whoever you did not start with will be it?? Adorable :).

4 | Mandy

June 14th, 2010 at 5:45 pm


Newfoundland had many of the same but we did Engine Engine a little differently:
Engine Engine Number nine, going down Chicago line,
If the train goes of the track,
Do you want your money back? Yes or No? [The person has to choose – yes or no.]
Y-E-S spells YES [or N-O spells no]
And out of this game you must go as fast as your little legs can carry you.
Y-O-U spells YOU!

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My name is Andrea and I live in the Westboro area of Ottawa with my husband Mark and our dog Piper who is kind of a big deal on Instagram. We also have two human offspring: Emma (23) and Sarah (21). During the day I work as a writer at The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre. I am a longtime Ottawa blogger and I've occupied this little corner of the WWW since 1999. The Fishbowl is my whiteboard, water cooler, and journal, all rolled into one. I'm passionate about healthy living, arts and culture, travel, great gear, good food, and sharing the best of Ottawa. I also love vegetables, photography, gadgets, and great design.

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