Mexican Child Game- “Pon Pon Pata”

The informant is a 47-year old accountant working in California, originally from Michoacán, Mexico. She lived a modest life as a young adult, having to take care of her family at a very young age while still finding success in management. She then moved to the United States with her husband to raise their family and now works in accounting. She primarily speaks Spanish with English as a second language.  He shall be referred to as MB.

“Pon pon pata, cola de la rata, pon pon pon, cola de ratón.”

“Pon pon pata, tail of the mouse, pon pon pon, tail of rat.”

“Pon pon pata, mouse tail, pon pon pon, rat tail.”

While “pata” translates to “foot,” it is not meant as an actual word. As with “pon pon pon,” it is simply a nonsense phrase that is easily rhymed.

This rhyme is used on children barely a few months old (as young as three months). This game is played by the adult taking the index finger of his or her dominant hand, then sticking it to the palm of the opposite hand. This is done to the beat of every syllable. The adult does this with an enthusiastically happy expression, trying to make the infant laugh. Eventually, the child is able to mimic this action and gains a sense of hand-eye coordination by taking his or her own index finger and jabbing into the opposite palm.

MB explains that this very simple game, made partly of nonsense words, is a simple way to engage children in a hand-eye coordination exercise. It only requires the most basic of motor ability at a time when the adult will get sheer joy out of the child learning. By mirroring, the child is actively engaging with an outside influence. Simultaneously, the references to the rat and mouse tails are used to create familiarity with these animals that are common sights in ranch life.