a peek inside the fishbowl

02 May, 2012

If there’s a gap, fill it (a bit about schoolyard skipping and playground culture)

Posted by andrea tomkins in: - Archive of playground games|Easy ways to make kids happy

I remember, quite vividly, what recess was like when I was in elementary school. We were rabid outdoor kids, oscillating from game to game. One week we’d be soccer crazy, another week we’d be trading stickers or friendship pins, another week it would be hopscotch, Bolo bats, or those lemon twist skipping things.

When we played something, we played it passionately, ferociously, as only kids can… until we were totally worn out and on to the next thing.

One of our favourite recess pastimes was skipping. My goodness, once the weather turned sunny we’d all bring ropes from home: long ones and short ones – but mostly long ones so we could all play at once. It wasn’t just the girls either, the boys also took an active interest. They’d throw themselves into it, overlooking any untoward comments about it being a girly thing. Perhaps it was to show off their skipping prowess to their favourite girls?

We chanted skipping rhymes and played until our feet were sore and it was time to go back inside.

The act of skipping – as well as the songs that go along with it – are a major part of our childhood culture. And somewhere, along the way it’s been lost…  hiding in the same place as walking to school, climbing trees, and neighbourhood games of hide and seek played at dusk. And I don’t think that’s a good thing.

I asked my youngest daughter whether a lot of kids brought skipping ropes to school. And guess what, they don’t, not at least in the same numbers they did when I was a kid. And so, when I got home that day, I whipped off an email to a school parent council member:

This good weather got me thinking and I would like to propose a new/different/weird volunteer idea I had. I’d really like to see more kids jumping rope at [name of school]. I would like to volunteer to come to the school at some point and teach some skipping songs and hopefully get kids excited about it again. I think I remember two or three good ones and can come up with a few more. ;)

I can do it by class, or in a skipping club format, or whatever. Can you help me figure out a way to make this work? Maybe I could ask [council] to buy a bin of ropes the kids can use during recess, or ask kids to bring their own from home… ?

As if I’m not busy enough eh? Ha.

It didn’t take long before I heard back. Apparently there’s already a small group of moms who are co-ordinating something like this, which is great. They’ve since sent an email around to all the parents asking for donations of outdoor toys. We’ll see how that goes. In the meantime I need to remember all the skipping rhymes of days gone by. Help!

Here’s what I got so far:

Not last night but the night before,
24 robbers came to my door,
and this is what they said to me:
Lady turn around, turn around, turn around,
Lady touch the ground, touch the ground, touch the ground,
Lady show your shoe, show your shoe, show your shoe,
Lady that’ll do, that’ll do, that’ll do.

Had a little sports car 1968,
Went around the co-o-o-orner [Person jumping has to get out from the rope, go around one end person, and jump back in]
And slammed on the brakes,
Police man caught me, put me in jail,
All I had was ginger ale,
How many bottles did I drink? 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10- etc

Got any to add? Please share!

30 Responses to "If there’s a gap, fill it (a bit about schoolyard skipping and playground culture)"

1 | Lee

May 2nd, 2012 at 10:02 am


Too funny! We’re doing something similar at our school.

One of my favourite skipping songs is “Bluebells, cockle-shells”


where the rope goes faster and faster with every iteration of “Salt, vinegar, mustard, pepper…”

The other outdoor game that the kids have recently been introduced to, that I loved as a kid is “jumpsies” with the ‘ropes’ made from a large handful of elastic bands that the kids have to cross over without using their hands on the rope.

2 | Kaitlin

May 2nd, 2012 at 10:03 am


Apartment for rent, inquire within,
When (Andrea) moves out, let (Kaitlin) in.

Apples, peaches, pears, and plums
Tell me when your birthday comes.
(You do the months of the year and you go in on your birth month).

3 | Paula Schuck

May 2nd, 2012 at 10:14 am


Yes I stunk at skipping. No double Dutch for me. Pitifully uncoordinated. Yup.

No help there. Sorry. All the kids at our school just got skipping ropes because the heart and strike foundation and jump rope for heart came to school and handed them out for that. So more skipping happening now.


4 | Cari

May 2nd, 2012 at 10:19 am


Where can you buy a long skipping rope these days? I’ve seen lots of short ones, but I’d love to buy a long one.

5 | Pam

May 2nd, 2012 at 10:42 am


We skipped and skipped (and skipped). Just like you — for hours. But all the songs had a dose of attitude for some reason. (Not sure where they originated…)
Here’s one I’ve modified to make more appropriate:

My mother and your mother were hanging out the clothes.
My mother dropped the basket right on her toes.
What colour was the blood?
R-E-D spells red so now we know to keep our toes S-A-F-E.

6 | Carrie

May 2nd, 2012 at 10:48 am


I too would LOVE to know where to buy a long skipping rope. My daughter is 5 and my son is 7 – I would love to teach them to skip, and try it out myself again, too. Double dutch was my favourite!

7 | Liz

May 2nd, 2012 at 10:51 am


I remember skipping, but also tying a rope together and having 2 people standing opposite each other, as far apart as to make the rope tight around the ankles, and a third goes in to jump patterns to “M-I-S-S-I-S-S-I-P-P-I-S-S-I-S-S-I-M”. Then the rope went up to the shins, then higher, etc. Good Times!!

8 | Elizabeth

May 2nd, 2012 at 11:28 am


My local Canadian Tire has 14-foot ropes, for double dutch. Mastermindtoys.com has them for sale online too.

9 | coffeewithjulie

May 2nd, 2012 at 11:34 am


Skipping was soooo fun! I remember the months one that is noted above, but not much else except for a song we did to the MacDonald’s restaurant theme song … Big Mac, Quarter Pounder, French Fries!

10 | andrea

May 2nd, 2012 at 11:34 am


Good songs guys! Thanks!

re: skipping ropes. A good friend of mine teaches fitness classes and had this to say about ropes:

“… my ropes came from jumprope.com, which is Dundas, Ontario/ The basic ropes I have are called speed ropes: http://www.jumprope.com/products.php?Category=1

They are very durable, I’ve had my set for ages. You’ll see that they are colour coded for height. When I teach kids, we’ll use 7 ft and 8ft ropes mostly, and a few 9fts for those taller than 5’5″ and taller. For adults, I usually have 8ft, 9 ft & 10ft ropes.

They also sell long ropes for doing school-yard style skipping and double dutch, or competition stuff where multiple people are doing routines in the ropes.

they have kits already put together with ropes, posters, DVD resources etc if you want to go that route, and have enough kids to justify the numbers. http://www.jumprope.com/details.php?Category=4&SubCategory=4&ProdID=31

Cloth ropes are often used for double dutch because they don’t hurt and are easier to train with: http://www.jumprope.com/products.php?Category=6

The website is very informative, you can read on each page about the different ropes. e.g. beaded ropes – these are good if you are primarily out of doors or in cold weather, but I personally don’t like them as much (but most of my jumping is indoors). It looks like the website has life support as well.”

11 | Frances

May 2nd, 2012 at 12:12 pm


I remember a few from my playground days in the early 80’s:

Cee Cee my playmate,
Come out and play with me.
And bring your dollies three.
Climb up my apple tree.
Slide down my rain barrel
Into my cellar door.
And we’ll be jolly friends
One, two, three, four!

Oh, Helen had a steamboat
The steamboat had a bell
When Helen went to heaven
The steamboat went to ______

Hello, operator,
Just give me number 9
If the line is busy
I’ll kick your big ______

Behind the old piano
There was a piece of glass
Helen slipped upon it
And hurt her little ______

Ask me for a muffin
I’ll give you some old bread
And if you do not like it
Just go and soak your head.

There’s a place called Mars,
where the ladies smoke cigars.
Every puff they take
is enough to kill a snake.
When the snake is dead,
they put roses on its head.
When the roses die,
they put diamonds in their eyes.
When the diamonds break,
it will be 88.

12 | Marg

May 2nd, 2012 at 3:56 pm


Here is one from the fifties and sixties that we did while skipping (a lot).

The wind, the wind, the wind blows high
Blowing Margy through the sky
She is handsome, she is pretty
She is the girl from the Highland city
She goes courting, one, two, three
Billy, Billy, would you marry me?

Yes, No, Yes, No, etc.

(fast, until feet stop the rope, and that’s the answer).
Substitute names of course.

13 | Geneviève

May 2nd, 2012 at 7:44 pm


I’m a 90s child and we used to do this one in elementary school (single jump rope, i.e. not double dutch):

(Someone is jumping in rope)

Someone’s under the bed the bed
Whoever could it be?
So I called Ashley (insert name here) to keep me company.
Ashley – Ashley (chant name while person jumps in)
Ashley holds the lantern, while I go under the bed.
Get out you fool. Get out you fool.
Someone’s under the bed the bed!

REPEAT until everybody has a chance to jump! This brings back some nice memories – thanks! :)

14 | michele

May 2nd, 2012 at 7:51 pm


I don’t remember any songs but do remember spending hours jumping rope. Those were the days.

15 | Carly

May 2nd, 2012 at 8:26 pm


The best was in 6th grade when we (the girls) invented a skipping game we simply called “Numbers”. One person would jump through (in and out) and call out “One!”. The next person would call “Two!” but had to jump through on the very next beat. And so on and so on. We would play until someone missed the beat or tripped up the rope, then start over at “one” again. Eventually the boys started to feel so left out, they would play too. Lunch recess was the best because we could play it for 45 minutes straight.

We also played a game whose name (if it had one) I can’t remember. But the first person would run under the rope (no jumping) and call “Kindergarten”, then the next person, again without missing a beat would jump once and call out “Grade One”, then jump out. The next person would do “Grade Two” and so on. Again, the game started over if someone tripped up the rope or missed the beat.

“Vote, vote, vote for Carly. Who’s that knocking on the door? If it’s Andrea let her in and we’ll sock her on the chin and we won’t vote for Carly anymore. Two by four, shut the door, you’re out.”

(Carly started out on her own, called Andrea in, then had to skip out before the “you’re out”.)


“I love coffee, I love tea! I love [Andrea] in with me!”

We also played a game called “Lipstick” where all we did was chant the word “lipstick” over and over again. You could jump in on “lip” and out on “stick”. If you messed up, you were “out” and had to take an end.

Lastly . . . In this rhyme you had to do the action indicated while skipping and jump out on “say goodnight”.

“Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear,
Turn around.
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear,
Touch the ground.
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear
Touch your shoe.
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear
That will do.
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear,
Go upstairs.
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear,
Say your prayers.
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear,
Turn out the light.
Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear
Say good night!”

16 | Carly

May 2nd, 2012 at 8:27 pm


Oh and if someone called out “pepper” while we were skipping the rope was turned super, super fast. I can remember calling out “no pepper” sometimes before we did a rhyme.

17 | Cynthia

May 3rd, 2012 at 6:52 am


In the 1970’s we chanted:

Cinderella, dressed in yellow,
Went upstairs to kiss a fellow,
Kissed a snake,
By mistake,
How many doctors did it take?
One, two, three, four, five, six, etc. (skipping pepper)

18 | Cynthia

May 3rd, 2012 at 6:57 am


Oh! I just remembered another one!

Two enders, and a line of girls waiting to jump(It was always girls in my day):

The old grey mare was sitting in her rocking chair
Sewing up her underwear,
Along came a grizzly bear(girl jumps in)
And out went she(original girl jumps out)


19 | Martina

May 3rd, 2012 at 7:06 am


I don’t remember any songs, but what a great idea!

My girls just did the heart and stroke jump rope thing at school so they all received a skipping rope. I don’t think I’ve ever seen any children with the long ropes though.

20 | DaniGirl

May 3rd, 2012 at 12:02 pm


Thinking about skipping at recess still traumatizes me. I was an, erm, early developer, and not very popular to begin with. I was teased mercilessly and relentlessly when the kids noticed that I, erm, needed a bra. Too bad, too, because I was really terrific at double-dutch (like Carly said, especially “pepper”) but I never had the heart to go back to it, even with a training bra. (Filed under: things I’m glad my boys will never face on the school yard!)

21 | DaniGirl

May 3rd, 2012 at 12:03 pm


BTW, I’m glad your school was receptive to the idea. I was sure this post was going to end with the school banning ropes for safety reasons!

22 | Valerie

May 3rd, 2012 at 12:46 pm


We found some very nice long skipping ropes (very good quality, heavy enough to turn well) at Tag Along Toys. Andrea, maybe they’d give you one to give-away? :)

23 | Jennifer

May 3rd, 2012 at 2:06 pm


Scholar’s Choice has some nice skipping ropes … short ones and long ones, too … they’re even made in Canada!

24 | Amy

May 5th, 2012 at 9:06 am


I remember one where, like Liz’s, two people stood with the rope in a loop around their ankles. Person in the middle had to jump side to side (left foot in between the ropes and right foot outside, then jump so opposite foot inside) about 4 times, then both inside , then both outside, then onto the ropes, all while chanting, “1-2-3-4-in-out-on!”. Then the ropes moved up until the person missed. A friend of mine had a record where the ropes were up at our chests.

25 | Jane C.

May 6th, 2012 at 8:56 pm


Engine, Engine Number 9
Going down Chicago Line
if the train goes off the track
Do you want your money back?

How much money do you get? (count )

26 | Katina Michelis

June 26th, 2012 at 5:42 pm


I loved skipping rope, double dutch, all of it! My husband just called me as he was listening to your interview on the CBC All in a Day. He said “Someone stole your idea!” I always ask why kids don’t skip rope at school anymore? Whatever happened to those skipping ropes, they were thick and would hurt if they snapped against your leg. Now, the elastics are too lightweight for good skipping. And what about long skipping ropes? Where have they gone?

I remember this one (although not politically correct)

Gypsy, gypsy, please tell me, what my husband’s going to be, (and then the rope would be turns quickly) rich man, poor man, beggar man, thief, doctor, lawyer, indian chief. When skipper missed, she knew who her husband was going to be.

Another one: (The rope would be swayed side to side but not over, with the girl jumping over it and she sang) Sea shells, cockle shells, easy ivy over, I love coffee, I love tea, I love the boys and the boys love me (Then the rope would be turned quickly and all the others would yell) Yes, no, maybe so, yes, no, maybe so. I think we combined two songs together.

The Cinderella one was a staple

Did you ever play ‘elastics’?
Elastics and skipping rope were our 2 favourite activities.

27 | Terry Binnersley

June 26th, 2012 at 11:07 pm


Your web site is delightful! My daughter just graduated from university, but I remember trying to teach the kids games when she was in elementary school — agree, lament, loss of kids teaching each other, kid-led activities, and how to get along.

Here is a skipping song we used in the 1950s:

On the mountain stands a lady
Who she is I do not know
All she wants is gold and silver
All she wants is a very good man!
So bring in my partner (another kid jumps in)
My partner, my partner
So bring in my partner
And we’re going out to play (both jump out)

28 | Terry Binnersley

June 26th, 2012 at 11:13 pm


You may be able to get a copy of the following book by Edith Fowke, renowned Canadian folklorist, at the public library:

Fowke, Edith (1969). Sally Go Round The Sun: 3000 Songs, Rhymes, and Games of Canadian Children.

29 | Elizabeth

July 17th, 2014 at 5:25 am


Here we go loopy loo,
Here we go loopy lie,
Here we go loopy loo,
All on a Saturday night.

I remember the tunes more than the words. Always carried a short skipping rope, sometimes a whip and top. Lots of circle games e.g.,” In and out the Scottish Bluebells, in and out the Scottish blue bells, in a out the Scottish bluebells, who is my leader. Tap tap tap tap on my shoulder”, repeat, then continue around the circle, going from hand to hand barn dance style whilst singing and skipping. Such fun.

30 | Judy Hollingworth

September 13th, 2015 at 11:25 am


I live in the US but was brought up in Yorkshire in the 40’s – 50’s . Two skipping songs we sang were –
“Wall flowers, wallflowers growing up so high” and “There’s someone under the bed whoever can it be”.

So interesting to read the comments.

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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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