Duck, duck, goose

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"Rag Tag" redirects here. For the 2006 film, see Rag Tag (film).
Duck, duck, goose
US Navy 101206-N-8721D-222 Sonar Technician Seaman Joy Chase plays duck-duck-goose with local school children during a community service project wi.jpg
A group of people playing the game
Players 4 or more
Age range 2 and up
Setup time None
Random chance None
Skill(s) required Running; chasing; logic

Duck, duck, goose or duck, duck, gray duck is a traditional children's game often first learned in pre-school or kindergarten.[1] 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 child's head until one is finally chosen and he or she must chase the picker to avoid becoming the next picker.

Basic concept[edit]

An animated schematic of how duck, duck, goose is played.

A group of players sit in a circle, facing inward, while another player, the "picker" (a.k.a. the "fox"; some young children call the "picker" the "ducker"), walks around tapping or pointing to each player in turn, calling each a "duck" until finally picking one to be a "goose". The "goose" then rises and chases and tries to tag the "picker", while the "picker" tries to return to and sit where the "goose" had been sitting. If the picker succeeds, the "goose" is now the new picker and the process begins again. If the "goose" succeeds in tagging the picker, the "goose" may return to sit in the previous spot and the "picker" resumes the process. With older players, the "goose" may attempt to tackle the "picker".

Alternate versions[edit]

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."[2]

Mush Pot[edit]

The Mush Pot variation involves a group of people sitting in a circle facing inward. One person is "it" and walks around the circle. As he walks around, he taps players' heads and say whether the player is a "duck" or a "goose". When a player is called a "goose", he gets up and chases "it" around the circle, possibly running multiple laps around the circle. The goal is to tag that person before he is able to sit down in the "goose's" spot. If the "goose" is not able to do this, he become "it" for the next round and the play continues. If the person who is "it" is tagged, he has to sit in the center of the circle (the "Mush Pot" or "Stew Pot" or "Cookie Jar" or "Pickle Pot" or "Pickle Jar"). Then the "goose" becomes "it" for the next round. The person in the middle can't leave until another person is tagged and he is replaced.

Duck Duck Splash[edit]

"Duck duck splash" is an alternative to the traditional game. This alternative is typically played during the summer months. The "picker" carries a small bucket of water around the circle and uses it to splash the person who will be the goose. This version is also commonly called "Drip Drip Splash" or, alternatively, "Drip Drip Drop."

Duck Duck Gray Duck[edit]

"Duck Duck Gray Duck" is a variant that is played by people in the U.S. state of Minnesota. The core gameplay difference is that the picker taps the heads of the other players while calling out variant colored ducks (ex: blue duck, red duck, purple duck, etc.) and then calls "gray duck" in place of "goose".[3]

Rag Tag / I Wrote a Letter to My Mother[edit]

"Rag tag" redirects here. For other uses, see Ragtag.

In Rag Tag or Drop the Handkerchief, the players sit in a circle facing inward, while another child, the "picker", walks around the outside of the circle carrying a rag or handkerchief until finally dropping it behind one child. This child then rises, grabs the rag, and chases and tries to tag the picker. The picker tries to return to the spot where the picked child had been sitting and sit in that spot. If the picker succeeds, the other child is now the new picker and the process begins again. If the child succeeds in tagging the picker, the same child may return to sit in the previous spot and the picker resumes the process. In some versions, the one who is tagged is "out" and must sit in the center of the circle; when the resulting circle becomes too small, a new game may be started.

There is also a version called I Wrote a Letter to My Mother, where the handkerchief is imagined as a letter being accidentally dropped. This version has a song which goes:

A tisket, a tasket, A green and yellow basket, I wrote a letter to my mother, on the way I dropped it, and one of you has picked it up and put it in your pocket. Not you, not you, not you, not you ...

The Marathi version of this song is "Maazhya aaiche patra harawla, te malaa saapadla".

The Rag Tag version is the standard game in France where it is called jeu du mouchoir (handkerchief game), although an even more common variant is "Le Facteur n'est pas passé" which starts with the same principle as the Rag Tag version but also adds the days of the week. Germany also uses the Rag Tag version, where it is called Plumpssack (plop sack), and for Poland, where it is called Mam chusteczkę haftowaną (I got a knitted cloth) or Chodzi lisek koło drogi (A fox is walking by the road), as well as in Japan, where it's known as Hankachi-Otoshi (handkerchief drop). In Brazil, it is called "Corre Cotia", in Dutch it is called "Zakdoekje leggen" (lay down the handkerchief).

Extreme Duck Duck Goose[edit]

This variant is played the same as regular duck duck goose, except in how the goose and picker try to get back to the empty spot. Instead of the goose chasing after the picker, he or she goes the opposite way and tries to intercept the picker on the other side of the circle. Physical contact is allowed (but not required); this usually involves wrestling and soft tackling. Throwing of limbs or fists is never allowed, the intent is always to only temporarily slow down your opponent so you can be first back to the empty spot. This version is also sometimes referred to as Yak Yak Moose.

A second version of extreme duck duck goose that has existed since at least 2004 maintains the usual roles for the goose and the picker, but changes the rules for the others in the circle. The rest of the group can get up and tackle or otherwise help or hinder the picker or the goose as they desire.

A third variation of Extreme Duck Duck Goose involves the circle of players in a different way. In this variation, as the goose spot is opened, any player in the circle may switch from their spot to the open one, causing the "goose" spot to move around the circle, prolonging the chase.

A fourth variation of Extreme Duck Duck Goose is for larger groups (20 or more) and older children (even into college). In this variation, the game is played as normal, however there are two "pickers" going in opposite directions. Their respective geese must maintain the direction of their "picker" as they chase them around the circle.

Bonga Bonga Boof[edit]

A version popular among American Boy Scout troops, this is a very physical and rough version of the game and is meant for older players. Instead of sitting, everyone stands in the traditional circle formation. In the middle of the circle is a ball or similar object (a rubber playground ball is preferred). Much like Extreme Duck Duck Goose, instead of chasing the picker, the boof instead goes the opposite way around the circle and tries to intercept the picker on the opposite side of the circle. All out physical contact is allowed and encouraged depending on the involved parties. Once they come back around to the boof's starting location, instead of taking the empty spot, the picker and the boof must crawl between the legs of the person to the right of the boof's starting spot. The first person to crawl through and grab the ball inside the middle of the circle is deemed the winner and joins the circle.

Duck Duck Animal[edit]

This variant can suddenly be applied to a standard game of duck duck goose if the picker decides to tag someone as an animal other than a duck or a goose. The picker then chooses a relevant form of movement or charade, and the picker and the animal race back to the spot using that form of movement or charade. Some examples include hopping around the circle for duck duck kangaroo, or pulling oneself around on one's stomach for duck duck amoeba. The motion does not necessarily have to correspond to an actual animal, as the picker may choose to roll around the circle for duck duck rock.

Pato Pato Ganso[edit]

When the "goose" is picked, the "picker" runs in one direction of his or her choice around the circle, while the "goose" runs in the other direction. The first person who gets to the vacant space rejoins the circle, while the other person becomes the "picker".

Other variations[edit]

  • In many cases, the picker will tap heads and state the names of other birds, like "hummingbird", or "crane". When they do that, however, the picker is not actually choosing the "goose". If you make a move to get up and start running when you have not yet been called "goose", you are now the picker. The game restarts with the original picker sitting down in your spot.
  • In Israel, the game is called "Black Rabbit", when instead of 'duck' the player says "(color) rabbit", and 'goose' is "black rabbit"
  • In Turkey, the game is called "Yağ Satarım". Instead of saying 'duck' the player sings a rhyme and carries a handkerchief. Instead of saying 'goose' the player drops the handkerchief.
  • In Portugal, the game is called "Lencinho da Botica", and in Brazil, "Jogo do Lencinho". In both, instead of saying 'duck' the player sings a rhyme and carries a handkerchief. Instead of saying 'goose' the player drops the handkerchief.
  • In India, the game is called "Ghoda Chamaar Khai". Instead of saying 'duck' the player sings a Hindi rhyme and carries a handkerchief. Instead of saying 'goose' the player drops the handkerchief and player keeps on circling until the "goose" player discovers that they have a handkerchief behind their back. Players are not allowed to look back.
  • In Chile, the game is called "Corre Corre La Guaraca". Instead of saying 'duck' the player sings a rhyme: "Corre corre la guaraca / al que mira para atras / se le pega en la pela'" and carries a handkerchief. Instead of saying 'goose' the player drops the handkerchief and the player keeps on circling until the "goose" player discovers that they have a handkerchief behind their back. The "goose" then picks up the handkerchief and chases the "duck" player around the circle till one reaches the empty spot. Players are not allowed to look back while the rhyme is being chanted.
  • In China, the game is called "丢、丢,丢手绢", with the kids singing the titled song while playing. 丢手绢
  • In Philadelphia, the game is called "Duck Duck Dumbldore", with one player, designated at the beginning of the game, allowed to yell "Dumbldore" if the Gooser has taken too long to yell "goose". If this occurs, the Dumbldore can chase the Gooser around the circle.
  • In Belgium (Flanders) and the Netherlands a handkerchief is used while singing a the song "zakdoekje leggen, niemand zeggen....etc" when the song stops the singer drops his handkerchief and the one who gets the handkerchief begins to chase the singer. A variation is with a dumbledore, then the dumbledore decides when the handkerchief is dropped. During the song he/she suddenly whistles, it is the sign to drop the handkerchief and start the chase.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "'Duck, Duck' apparently has no shades of gray", Star Tribune at the Wayback Machine (archived February 26, 2007)
  2. ^ Burt, Emily Rose (1919). Entertaining Made Easy. New York: Edward J. Clode. p. 56. 
  3. ^ Thorkelson, Berit (2005). You Know You're in Minnesota When... (1st ed.). Guilford, Conn.: Insiders' Guide. p. 18. ISBN 978-0-7627-3895-3. 

External links[edit]