Duck, duck, goose

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Duck, Duck, Goose
One person chases another around the outside of a circle of players
People playing the game
Skill(s) requiredRunning, chasing, logic, basic motor skills

Duck, Duck, Goose (also called Duck, Duck, Gray Duck or Daisy in the Dell) is a traditional children's game often first learned in preschool or kindergarten. The game may be later adapted on the playground for early elementary students. The object of this game is to walk in a circle, tapping on each player's head until one is finally chosen; the chosen player must then chase the picker to avoid becoming the next picker.

Basic concept[edit]

A group of players sit in a circle, facing inward, while another player, who is "it", walks around tapping or pointing to each player in turn, calling each a "duck" until finally calling one a "goose". The "goose" then rises and tries to tag the "it", while the "it" tries to return to and sit where the "goose" had been sitting before. If "it" succeeds, the "goose" becomes the "it" and the process begins again. If the "goose" tags the "it", the "goose" may return to their previous spot and the original "it" restarts the process.[1]


Kiss in the Ring or Drop Handkerchief[edit]

In this version of the game, as described by the British folklorist Alice Gomme in 1894, the picker touches the shoulder of each person in the ring with a handkerchief saying "not you", "not you", until the picker reaches the desired chaser, places the handkerchief on the person's shoulder, and says "but you". The picker then runs around the outside of the circle pursued by the chaser. Once the chaser catches the picker, the chaser is entitled to lead the picker into the centre of the ring and claim a kiss. The original picker then takes the chaser's place in the ring and the chaser becomes the picker for the next round. Gomme describes various regional variations: In Shropshire, the two players run in opposite directions and compete to be first to reach the starting point; around London, the chase weaves in and out under the clasped hands of the other people in the ring. Gomme describes Drop Handkerchief as a variant in which there is no kissing. She also connects it to similar games such as French Jackie and Cat after Mouse.[2]

Gomme suggests that " 'Kiss in the Ring' is probably a relic of the earliest form of marriage by choice or selection. The custom of dropping or sending a glove as a signal of a challenge may have been succeeded by the handkerchief in this game."[2]

Daisy in the Dell[edit]

A variation described in the 1919 book, Entertaining Made Easy by Emily Rose Burt, has children standing in a circle, joining hands. The daisy picker goes around the outside, saying "Daisy in the dell, I don't pick you … I do pick you."[3]

Duck, Duck, Gray Duck[edit]

"Duck, Duck, Gray Duck" is a variation played in Minnesota.[4][5] The core gameplay difference is that the picker taps the heads of the other players while duck calling "duck, duck,..." and then calls "gray duck!" to signal which player must chase the picker. The picker can make the game trickier, by calling various colors or adjectives that might sound like "gray duck," such as saying "Duck, duck, green duck, gross duck, grape duck, GRAY DUCK!" In some regions and variations, the caller may change the direction in which they run.[6]

Drip, Drip, Drop[edit]

"Drip, Drip, Drop" is another version played by children mostly in warmer climates. One player who is "it" goes around the circle with a container of water and "drips" a small amount on each person's head. They will then select someone in the circle to "drop" the entire container on top of them. This player will then try to tag the "it" before the "it" sits in the spot of the person who got "dropped" on. If "it" is tagged then they will remain "it" for another round.[7]

Vrot Eier[edit]

A similar, common Afrikaner game is called "vrot eier", meaning rotten egg. Instead of saying anything or pointing at anybody a token of some kind (usually a handkerchief) is carried by the one who is "it" going around the circle of sitting players. The token is then dropped behind one of the sitting players. Players are not allowed to look behind themselves, but can feel with their hands on the ground behind them. If the player behind which the token has been dropped discovers it, that player chases the one who dropped the token. If the player who was "it" is caught and tagged, that player will sit in the center of the circle and become a rotten egg ("vrot eier" ) and the player who did the chasing becomes the next one to be "it". If the player who was "it" was chased all the way around the circle, that player sits in the place of the player behind which the token was dropped. The chased player is then the next one to be "it". If the player behind which the token was dropped does not become aware of this by the time the "it" player has gone around the circle, the player so caught becomes another rotten egg to sit in the center. The "it" player then remains "it", picks up the token again and continues. The game can continue until there is only one person left that is not a rotten egg or more usually when the "rotten eggs" get tired of sitting in the center and demand to restart the game.

Rumaal Chor[edit]

A similar game to vrot eier is known as "Rumaal Chor" in Hindi speaking regions of India and by other names in rest of India. A "rumaal" or handkerchief is thrown by the picker and the players have to constantly search behind them using their hands to search for the handkerchief.[citation needed]

Majhya Aaicha Patra Harawala[edit]

This game is also played in the Indian state of Maharashtra, where it is referred to as Majhya Aaicha Patra Harawala in the local Marathi language, which literally means My mother's letter is lost. This phrase is shouted by the runner, while the kids sitting in the circle respond with Te mala sapadla (I found your mother's letter).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "How to Play: Duck, Duck, Goose", by Sally Worsham,
  2. ^ a b Gomme, Alice Bertha (1894), The Traditional Games of England, Scotland and Ireland, London: Nutt, pp. 305–310
  3. ^ Burt, Emily Rose (1919). Entertaining Made Easy. New York: Edward J. Clode. p. 56.
  4. ^ Lileks, James (February 19, 1999). "'Duck, Duck' apparently has no shades of gray". Star Tribune. Archived from the original on February 26, 2007. Retrieved May 20, 2018.
  5. ^ Strickler, Jeff. ""Minnesota's kids' game can't duck controversy". Star Tribune. March 26, 2014.
  6. ^ Thorkelson, Berit (2005). You Know You're in Minnesota When...: 101 Quintessential Places, People, Events, Customs, Lingo, and Eats of the North Star State. (1st ed.). Guilford, Connecticut: Insiders' Guide. p. 18. ISBN 978-0-7627-3895-3.
  7. ^ Julianna Rose; Darell Hammond (2012). Go Out and Play!. Candlewick Press. ISBN 0763655309.

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