Counting Out Rhymes

Counting Rhymes

There are as many ways to decide who goes first in a game as there are games! We’ve already been over counting taters. Today I wanted to share some counting out rhymes with you.

See if you remember any of them. Most of the rhymes are said as children are standing in a circle or line-with one lead person pointing out each person as they say each word-eliminating players in the group until only one is left to be ‘it’ first.

One two three,
Momma caught a flea,
Flea died, Momma cried,
Out goes Y O U!


Ennie meenie minie moe
catch a tiger by the toe
if he hollers let him go
ennie meenie minie moe


My momma told me to
pick the very best one
and it was Y O U!


One, two star blue;
All out ‘cept you.


My mama and your mama were hanging out clothes’
My mama hit your mama right on the nose.
Did it hurt? Yes.
Y E S spells yes and out you go.


Bee bee bumblebee,
Stung a man upon his knee;
Stung a pig upon his snout.
I declare if you ain’t out.


Acker backer
soda cracker
Acker backer
Acker backer
soda cracker
Out goes you!


William Trembletoe
is a good fisherman.
He catches hens
puts them in a pen.
Some lay eggs
some none.
Wire briar limberlock;
three geese in a flock.
One flew east, one flew west
one flew over the cuckoos nest.
There I met my father.
He had rings, many pretty things.
Be gone you dirty dish dog!


Drawing straws was also used to decide who went first. Seems like when I was little we always accused whoever was holding the straws of cheating so we didn’t use that method much.

Flipping a coin to decide something is still common today-but have you ever heard of flipping a rock? I read a book or a story or something-that detailed two boys flipping a rock to decide who went first. They wet one side of the rock-then called out either wet or dry as the rock was flipped in the air.


*Source: The Frank C. Brown Collection Of North Carolina Folklore


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  • Reply
    RB Redmond
    May 13, 2013 at 10:21 pm

    I don’t know the Flea or the Star one or the Bumblebee one or the Trembletoe one. I remember the Acker Backer as Icka Bicka but Acker Backer makes more sense cause it rhymes with “cracker” better, and I remember the rest. Some of them were a good way to learn how to spell “you” cause whenever the word “you” was used, it was spelled out “Y-O-U”.
    I also remember picking the “it” person with hands on a baseball bat and short straws. And I remember a person with a blindfold picking the “it” person too.
    God bless.

  • Reply
    May 11, 2013 at 9:03 pm

    Brings back memories–of the rhymes and the anxiety of being it!

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    May 11, 2013 at 8:09 pm

    Tipper–Other than eenie, meenie, minie, moe, with a solid move into political correctness for the next line, the only one I remember is “out goes you old dirty dishrag you” or “you or not it, you old dirty dishrag you.”
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    B. ruth
    May 11, 2013 at 7:31 pm

    and Jackie, I had forgotten about the bat thing. The way I remember it was hand over hand until there was only the end rim left of the bat. The next person had to put his or her fingertips on the rim and try to hold it while the other kicked it out of the ones fingertips. You had to have a very strong grip to hold on. I never could so I did what they would call “I Give” which mean’t I give up! I don’t remember anyone sayin’ totally “I give up”!?! Just like those wrestling matches between brothers and friends…a desperate call, I give, I give…laughing the whole time til the other turned loose!
    Thanks for the memories,
    PS…When they were fightin’ me I would usually yell, “I’ll tell, I’ll tell, to get them to leave me alone!…LOL Girls can get away with that sometimes you know!

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    May 11, 2013 at 5:29 pm

    The first three I know the rest never heard. The straws and coins we used a lot.

  • Reply
    Tim Mc
    May 11, 2013 at 4:57 pm

    I’ve only heard of one,, Eenie Meenie Minie Moe,, We use to use Rock, Paper, Scissors.. or draw straws.. and flip coins..

  • Reply
    May 11, 2013 at 4:01 pm

    Ennie meenie and the coin flip are the only ones I remember. We had one to determine which team got to bat first. We took turns with hand over hand on a bat until no one could get another hold. Then the boy out would attempt to kick the bat out of the other’s hand. If he suceeded his team got to bat – if he failed his team went to the field.
    On another subject; Have you heard of putting banana peels under your tomatos to make them sweeter?

  • Reply
    May 11, 2013 at 2:28 pm

    Yes, I remember quite a few of these rhymes to use to get a game started. Your post was a good refresher course. Thanks!

  • Reply
    Sue Crane
    May 11, 2013 at 11:22 am

    I had forgotten William Trembletoe!!! brings back memories of sunny days, playing till dark, lying in the grass looking for cloud shapes,catching lightning bugs, making clover necklaces (something I did last year with great-granddaughter who then made them for all her classmates). Thanks Tipper!

  • Reply
    May 11, 2013 at 10:44 am

    I didn’t know there was this many
    ways to start being “it”. What an
    imagination of sayings some kids
    had! Eenie, Minnie and flippin’ a
    coin is about the only ones that
    I recognized. But this has been

  • Reply
    Bob Aufdemberge
    May 11, 2013 at 10:30 am

    Back in the old politically incorrect days, it wasn’t a tiger that we caught by the toe in “eenie meenie”, though the last two letters were the same. It’s a good thing we (well, most of us anyway) have gotten beyond such things.

  • Reply
    B. ruth
    May 11, 2013 at 9:54 am

    I’ve heard the second one, “Eenie meenie, the third about my “Mama pickin’ you” and parts of the last one. One flew East, and one flew West and one flew over the Cuckoo’s nest”…I think we were to anxious to play the game to repeat that whole long rhyme..or maybe none of us could remember the whole thing.
    Too wet to play outside today, but might slip out before the ground is too wet and stick some flowers in a pot or two.
    Thanks Tipper,
    PS….Go to Murphy and get my free cookie…Tell them that I gave you permission to have the better half and my share! We’ll catch up with a purchase of cookies next time we are in Murphy!

  • Reply
    Sharon Schuster
    May 11, 2013 at 9:04 am

    My mother and your mother were hanging out clothes. My mother punched your mother right in the nose. What color was the blood? P-U-R-P-L-E. Out.
    Oddly, I never heard the ‘did it hurt’? That makes more sense than the color question, but we kids never thought anything about what we were actually saying! This one and counting taters was the most popular way of selection in my neighborhood. Perhaps you’ll post some jump rope rhymes – there’s lots of ’em. Every now and again I come across part of an old shoe in the woods. When I see a heel, I thiotch. That’s what we threw onto the grid for jumping. Nowadays shoes don’t have those nailed on heels. I don’t know what kids use for hopscotch now.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    May 11, 2013 at 7:56 am

    I hope we are not getting graded on this because I flunked badly.
    Eenie Meenie Minie Moe,
    Is the only counting rhyme I know!

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    May 11, 2013 at 7:29 am

    I have never heard any of these except “Eenie Meenie…”

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