Appalachia children Games

Riddle Ma Riddle Ma Re


Hello Tipper, I’m Susie way over here in Kentucky. In response to your post to share with ya any games, songs, or folklore from our being a kid days, I needed to ponder over it awhile, as that was within 66 years ago today. Over the years there were many  different games, or songs according to our age at the time, and like many others have listed. I was a puddle wading, tree climbing, tadpole and crawdad catching, rock collecting (especially fossils) kinda girl, so I  was barefoot and outside most summers long, and winter there was snow. There were outside and inside games through our years, like playing jacks, kick the can, monopoly, and card playing (slap-jack, rummy, and battle). One favorite go to game we often played, especially when we were riding in the back seat of our car on a long trip was called,”Riddle ma riddle ma re, I see something that you don’t see’’..   and it’s red or blue or otherwise color. Then the other would have to guess the thing you picked to have a turn.



I love the beginning of Susie’s game: Riddle-Ma-Riddle-Ma-Re. We played I Spy a lot, but I wish we’d known the cool intro to say before we started a game. I’m not sure if the girls have ever played the game, I need to ask them.

Don Casada had this to share about I Spy:

“There’s a variant of this game which we played – “I spy”. The object had to be in the room and in plain sight. Someone would select an item, and give a clue, such as “I spy something blue”
The goal of the selector was to select something which was both obvious and yet obscure. The goal of those doing the spying was to hone in without additional hints other than “warmer” or “colder.” The longer it took – and the more obvious the answer was once it was known, the greater the satisfaction of the person doing the selecting. In the example of “I spy something blue” – it could be the color of someone’s eyes, a bruised shin, or the ink from a blue pen. Color wasn’t the only choice of a clue, but probably the most common.”


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  • Reply
    José Luis
    September 4, 2018 at 7:57 pm

    Hello Tipper, children’s games are international. Here in Argentina was the I see, I see, … what thing do you see ?, … one thing, … what color ?, and there began the game of guessing what it was. Another game was “The poisonous spot”, played in a not very large area, (like a basketball court), A child started to run to the others and when he reached someone, he touched it somewhere in his body, and who was touched had to start running to the other children, with his hand put in the place where they had touched him, (it was always a matter of touching the leg under the knee, hahaha, so that it would run like a limp), there in Appalachia was played? Big hug for all, José Luis, from Buenos Aires.

    • Reply
      September 5, 2018 at 6:49 am

      Jose-I’ve never heard of the poisonous spot game but it sure sounds like fun 🙂

  • Reply
    September 4, 2018 at 5:43 pm

    My Husbans grandmother taught our kids to play cow poker.
    When on along trips before interstates where built. We would travel many miles to the beach or to visit with family in the mountains., on beautiful country roads. Those on the right side of the car counted cows on their side and of the left side did the same. When you went by a cemetery your cows lost. And you had to start over. Who ever had the most cows when we reached the destination won. This was how grandmother taught the kids to count in 5’s and 10’s. With a little cheating going on.

  • Reply
    September 4, 2018 at 2:13 pm

    We played “I Spy”, too. One variant I’ve heard in recent years is, “I spy with my little eye…”, which adds to the suspense. And I like the rhyme Susue shared.

  • Reply
    September 4, 2018 at 12:51 pm

    I spy with my little eye something red. I would always choose a book or magazine that could be “read”. I’d get kicked out of the game for it but it was always more fun to mess with their heads than play the game.

    We had to put the “with my little eye” to make the game authentic.

    I still have fun messing with peoples heads. Have you noticed?

  • Reply
    September 4, 2018 at 12:45 pm

    “Sometimes burning, sometimes cold, what is it that I behold?” Another way to start an “I Spy” game – and, of course, you tell the players they are “warmer” or “colder” as they get closer to identifying the object.
    Word games in which there would be a “start” word and each player in turn had to list an associated word that begins with the last letter of the previous word – with the very young, the category was wide open; with older kids categories might be narrowed down to “tools” or narrower still “plumbers tools” – of course, some tools were up for rather raucous debate – Does a plumber use a hammer? – or a mallet ? – hmmmmmm??? Is a fork a “tool”? Great for getting into discussions (arguments?) about specificity and accuracy of language.

    • Reply
      September 5, 2018 at 12:01 pm

      We also play that when we are camping, so fun .

  • Reply
    September 4, 2018 at 11:26 am

    When I was a kid, Sis and I looked for our state license plates wherever we traveled. There are 99 counties in Iowa, and the first numbers of the plates indicated where the car was registered, alphabetically by county number. It became a game to see how many of the 99 we might see on a family trip, especially when traveling in another state.

    It was also amusing to watch people from our state at gas stations, and restaurant parking lots ask us what town we were from when they recognized the county designation on our license.

  • Reply
    September 4, 2018 at 11:16 am

    They say, “Youth is wasted on the young.” I think not, as it takes that endless energy and imagination to make strong productive adults. I am not familiar with the Riddle Ma, but endless hours were played without toys. I Spy was played when the rowdy games of tag and “hidy go seek” were not feasible. We could get really rowdy, so we had to have some quiet games available. Whether it be a blessing or curse I am not certain, but we played hours of card games, and even played poker if we wished. My parents were avid card players.

    I did not realize playing cards was strongly frowned on by some families, as my Dad had been known to stay up for hours playing cards with friends, Anyway, I had been left at home at possibly twelve years of age and was cleaning the house. I decided to stop and play Solitaire, and immediately there was company at the door. It was my dear Aunt D and family dropping in without calling as was the custom back then. Always glad to see them, we discussed where my family had gone for the day and they left to return home. When my mom arrived back home she was upset that my very religious Aunt D had seen me playing cards. I remember as though it was yesterday saying, “She may be perfect, Mama, but she don’t expect me to be.” I told my aunt years later, and we laughed. To me this was such a typical example of kinfolk back then–they did not care that we saw things differently, and nobody squabbled nor expected others to be perfect. I did learn the term “fell out” but it was a rarity.

    Great post today thanks to Susie from Kentucky and Don.

  • Reply
    aw griff
    September 4, 2018 at 10:02 am

    That’s what we called it or just riddle riddle ma re. My Grand children call it I spy with my little eye. I’m not sure but think the rural kids in still call it riddle riddle ma re.

  • Reply
    September 4, 2018 at 9:28 am

    Miss Cindy mentioned the energy and enthusiasm of children. When our daughter began to think she could out maneuver us or beat us at some game I told her, “Age and experience will beat youth and energy anytime,”

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    September 4, 2018 at 8:09 am

    We played I Spy with our kids in the car and they played it between themselves. But I do not recall my parents playing it with us three siblings. We also liked the “Where’s Waldo” and the “Eye” books where one looks for the hidden objects. Each of those are good training for observation, seeing past the surface.

    You have posted about it before. But in the country it is important to recognise hazards such as snakes, hornet nests, poison ivy, etc without having to stop and think about it. It is also the way to spot the thing that is unusual so as to give it focused attention.

  • Reply
    Ginger Hubbard
    September 4, 2018 at 8:08 am

    Hey Tipper,

    When we go to visit our grandbabies in PA around Christmas we play “punch Santa”…a play off of “punch bug”. So many people those blow up Santa yard “art”‘, Santa Christmas décor, door wraps, Santa and his reindeer on the roof, etc. So when someone see Santa, they yell Punch Santa!!

  • Reply
    Lula Mae VanWinkle
    September 4, 2018 at 7:02 am

    My great grandchildren and I still play these games. We set on the porch in the summer and have a boundary. We play Riddlema, riddlema re, and I spy with my little eye something ( a color). I introduce them to as many of the games I played and played with my children as possible, and I try to learn new games from them. In the winter, inside, we play, Lemonade, Lemonade, what’s your trade? and Mother May I?, from younger to older, the kids all enjoy being part of something together.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    September 4, 2018 at 5:47 am

    I remember that game, we called it I Spy , I never heard it called Riddle Ma. We played it a lot in the car usually on trips home to the mountains when we lived in Texas. We lived there till I was 9 or so.
    One of the things you got to love about kids is their ability to make a game out of almost anything. Their little minds are running all the time. Sometimes wish I still had some of that energy and enthusiasm!

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