Huckle buckle beanstalk

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Huckle buckle beanstalk (or Huckleberry bean stalk) is a childhood game which involves the hiding and seeking of an object. It is a variation of a traditional parlour game which can be played with two or more players, one being the hider, or the person who is "it," and the other person or persons being seekers.

The game has also been known as hot buttered beans in the US since at least 1830,[1] and other names for it include hide the object and hide the key. It is known as hunt the thimble, hide the thimble or hide the handkerchief in both the US and the UK. William Wells Newell described a version called thimble in sight in his 1883 Games and Songs of American Children. The game is known in various European countries.[2]


The seekers must cover their eyes and ears or leave the designated game area while the hider hides a small, pre-selected object. When the hider says to come and find it, or after the seekers have counted to a specific number, usually sixty or one-hundred, the seekers come out and attempt to be the first to find the object. When a seeker has the object in hand, he can alert the other players of his success by yelling "Huckle Buckle Beanstalk!"

Brian Sutton-Smith and other writers put this in a category of "central person" games which give one individual child a central role. The set-up can be reversed with that role given to a single seeker, while all the other players try to keep an object hidden from the odd-one-out, either by sending him out of the room while hiding it, or by passing it round behind their backs. This is a common way of organising 'Hide the Key' or 'Hunt the Slipper'.


A variation of the game has the person who finds the object, continue by pretending to look for the object and then call out "Huckle Buckle Bean Stalk" to draw the other seekers attention away from the objects location. As the other seekers find the object, they perform the same deception until all the seekers have found the object. The winners take pride in how quickly they find the object and how much time passes between them and the next player who calls out "Huckle Buckle Bean Stalk"[citation needed].


Games played like this, sometimes with children forming a circle round the seeker, sometimes with one child blindfolded, pre-date Victorian parlour games. In 1838 Hunt the Slipper, played as a single-seeker circle game, was said by one writer to be "nearly out of fashion" in Southern England.[3] In 1766 Oliver Goldsmith described it being played in The Vicar of Wakefield, calling it a "primaeval pastime".[4]

Both one-seeker and one-hider approaches have been associated with Hot Boiled Beans. A seeker may be called to enter the room and look for something hidden with, "Hot boiled beans and butter; walk in and find your supper!" This can be traced back to at least the mid-19th century.[5] Several similar rhymes from different parts of England were recorded by 19th century folklorist Alice Gomme. They were sung or recited in games with one or more hiders: for example, "Little pigs come to supper/Hot boiled beans and ready butter." Other names were 'Hot Broad Beans' and 'Hot Beans and Butter'.

A modern and more adult variation of Huckle Buckle Beanstalk is Geocaching.

Playing with Hot or Cold[edit]

Often, especially when there is only one seeker, the game is played using "hot or cold," where the hider informs the seeker how near he is to the object, telling him he is cold when he is far from the object (or freezing or if he is extremely far off), and hot when he is extremely close to the object. If the seeker is moving farther from the object, he is told he is getting colder, and if the seeker is moving closer to the object, he is told he is getting warmer.

Charles Dickens refers to this in Edwin Drood:

" . . . like the children in the game of hot boiled beans and very good butter, he was warm in his search when he saw the Tower, and cold when he didn't see it. "

In the season 4 episode of Full House titled "Ol' Brown Eyes," Michelle plays this game with Joey using Becky's engagement ring.

The game is also referenced in Planetfall where one of Floyd's behaviors mentions "Hucka-Bucka Beanstalk".


  1. ^ Halsey refers to Eliza Leslie’s American Girls’ Book (1831)
  2. ^ For example, as cache-tampon in France.
  3. ^ William Holloway, Dictionary of Provincialisms (1838) quoted by Alice Gomme
  4. ^ "Vicar of Wakefield Chap 11". Archived from the original on 2006-09-13. Retrieved 2007-01-03.
  5. ^ Games and Sports for Young Boys (Routledge 1859)

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