Tag Archives: jump rope songs

Say Say Oh Playmate – Children’s Song


“Say say oh playmate, 

Come out and play with me, 

And bring your dolly’s three, 

Climb up my apple tree, 

Slide down my rainbow 

Into my cellar door 

And we’ll be jolly friends 

Forevermore more more more more more.”


JN is a 50-year-old freelance writer in Minnesota, where she grew up as well. She told me about a rhyme she used to sing as a child with her friends and said that they used to use it to jump rope to.  


This is an example of children’s folklore because it is an easy song to sing and remember, so kids can grasp onto it and use it in different contexts. Beyond it being used as a jump rope song, I’ve also heard it used with a handclapping game. Based on my experience, this song seems to be relatively common around the United States, as it has been around for a few generations at least which has given it lots of time to proliferate. It is likely that beyond its different uses there are other ways of singing this song as well, as something like this is a good contender for having different oikotypes in different places. It is a fun way to connect with friends by singing it, and it is likely something more used by young girls as a way to form connections and play together, as it includes some gender stereotypes by referring to playing with dolls, which is commonly seen as an activity done mostly by young girls. 

“Two Dead Boys” jump rope rhyme

My mom shared the following rhyme, which she learned from her mother, with me:

“One bright day in the middle of the night, two dead boys got up to fight. Back to back they faced each other, drew their swords and shot each other. A deaf policeman heard the noise, came and killed those two dead boys.”

She says of the rhyme, “I learned it from my mom, and she described it as a jump rope rhyme…double dutch jump roping was very popular for many years in elementary schools. And my mom grew up all over the place, so I don’t know exactly where she got this from. She was born in Atlantic City but she was also raised partly in Biloxi, Mississippi and um, Chapel Hill, North Carolina. So I don’t know where this came from originally but, yeah, she was born in 1928 so it would’ve been from the ’30s.”

My mom jumped rope as a child, but she didn’t use this rhyme for that purpose because it seemed “kind of ghoulish” to her. She says she had jump rope rhymes of her own, but can’t remember any of them as well as she remembers “Two Dead Boys.” I imagine that this particular rhyme stuck with my mom because it is somewhat macabre, and things that frighten or disturb us as children tend to remain in our memories. It is interesting, although not particularly surprising, to me that a piece of folklore used in children’s play would have such dark imagery. Children’s folklore often involves subject matter usually deemed inappropriate for them, but expressed and performed with coded language or, as in this case, with whimsy and humor.

For other variants on this nonsense rhyme, see the British Columbia Folklore Society’s blog entry: http://folklore.bc.ca/one-fine-day-in-the-middle-of-the-night/

Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear

This is a skipping rhyme told by a male second grader. As he was singing it some of her peers joined in the song.

“Teddy bear, teddy bear, turn around. Teddy bear, teddy bear, touch the ground. Teddy bear, teddy bear, tie your shoes. Teddy bear, teddy bear, get out of school.”

The skipping rhyme was shared by one student within a small group of second graders and myself. The rhyme associates childish themes, such as the teddy bear and tying shoe laces, with more controversial ideas such as ditching school, or perhaps dropping out. This is an oikotype of Teddy Bear skipping song. Upon further research, I found a different rendition of the song that replaced “get out of school” with “say your prayers.” The latter version was a nursery rhyme that may have been passed down my parents and then modified by the children. The children from whom I collected this rhyme couldn’t remember where that had learned the rhyme, therefore it is unclear whether they changed the lyric themselves or had heard it in that form. Either way, the line “get out of school” reflects children’s frustration with the education system. The skipping rhyme was well known by most of the second graders in the classroom, therefore the negative connotation of school was widely spread amongst them and possible others in different grades or classrooms.

For another version of this song, see 201 Nursery Rhymes & Sing-Along Songs for Kids by Jennifer M. Edwards.

Cinderella Dressed in…What??

Megan is a sophomore in my french class. I’ve known her for a year. She’s a sweet, very soft spoken intelligent girl. She loves horseback riding. She’s majoring in creative writing and wants to be a screenwriter for Pixar one day.

When I first introduced the topic folklore and then mentioned childhood rhymes, riddles, and songs, one of the first things that popped into her head was this song:

“Cinder-ella, dressed in yell-ah

Went upstairs, to kiss, a fell-ah

Made a mis-take, and kissed a snake

Came downstairs, with ah belly-ache

How Many doooctors did-it-take


It’s a song girls sing when they’re jumping rope. I remember all the different variations of this form of folklore:

Cinderella, dressed in green,
Went upstairs to eat ice cream.
How many spoonfuls did she eat?
One, two, three

Cinderella, dressed in brown
Went upstairs to make a gown
How many stitches did she use?
One, two, three

Analysis: One of the more fun parts about being a girl is being able to sing silly things about the toys and characters you love without seeming too odd. Boys aspire to be astronauts, cowboys, police officers, doctors, chefs and more. But all little girls will tell you at least once in their lifetime that they want to be a princess. Whether they were 8 years old and playing on the playground or a 43 year old mother who only wishes to be spoiled and pampered by her prince. Songs like this play into our culture as a reminder that we can still have our imagination while understanding the truth; reality. Yes, we may not be princesses, so let’s make a little fun of Cinderella or whomever. It also keeps the character alive. While slightly teasing the character, little girls bring the princess to the playground and engulf themselves in an environment where they can run around their own princesses.