Get Jumping! Making Playground Poetry Using Jump-Rope Rhymes
Did you know that kids have been skipping rope—or playing some type of very similar game—for hundreds of years? In the United States, skipping rope was a common way for city kids to play in the streets together from the early 1900s through the 1940s. A special version of jumping rope, called Double Dutch because it uses two jump ropes at the same time, was introduced to the children of New York City by Dutch families who had immigrated to America. Double Dutch later became a competitive sport worldwide.
Kids today still enjoy chanting or singing rhyming poems while they skip rope. Jump-rope rhymes allow you to combine the fun of poetry with the physical activity of skipping rope—a great way to stay physically fit while entertaining your brain!
Some of the jump-rope rhymes that you’ve heard on the playground or at the park are probably the same ones that your parents or grandparents used to recite when they were kids. Maybe you know this one:
Miss Mary Mack, Mack, Mack
All dressed in black, black, black
With silver buttons, buttons, buttons
All down her back, back, back
She asked her mother, mother, mother
For fifty cents, cents, cents
To see the elephant, elephant, elephant
Jump over the fence, fence, fence
He jumped so high, high, high
He touched the sky, sky, sky
And he didn’t come back, back, back
Till the Fourth of July, July, July
In “Miss Mary Mack,” the last word of each line is repeated. In some other jump-rope rhymes, instead of repeated words, there is counting included in the rhyme. Here is one example:
Dressed in yellow
Went upstairs to kiss her fellow
Made a mistake
Kissed a snake
How many doctors did it take?
One, two, three, four…
Sometimes the words of jump-rope rhymes have changed a little over time or in different places. For example, here’s one that you might hear differently in different parts of the United States:
Teddy bear, teddy bear, turn around
Teddy bear, teddy bear, touch the ground
Teddy bear, teddy bear, go upstairs
Teddy bear, teddy bear, say your prayers
Teddy bear, teddy bear, turn out the light
Teddy bear, teddy bear, say goodnight
Instead of “Teddy bear, teddy bear,” you might hear a version of this rhyme that uses the words “Ladybug, ladybug” or “Butterfly, butterfly.”
Jump-rope rhymes are meant to be chanted out loud, sometimes by one person and sometimes by a group of kids together. Some jump-rope rhymes are like songs, with their own special tunes, while other ones are simply spoken out loud in a singsong way to emphasize certain syllables, like this:
TED-dy bear, TED-dy bear, TURN a-ROUND.
TED-dy bear, TED-dy bear, TOUCH the GROUND.
If you’d like to read more about jump-rope rhymes, and maybe even give a few of them a try, here are some books you may enjoy:
- Jump Rope Magic (by Afi Scruggs)
- Schoolyard Rhymes: Kids’ Own Rhymes for Rope-Skipping, Hand Clapping, Ball Bouncing, and Just Plain Fun (by Judy Sierra)
- Double Dutch: A Celebration of Jump Rope, Rhyme, and Sisterhood (by Veronica Chambers)
- Red Hot Peppers: The Skookum Book of Jump Rope Games, Rhymes, and Fancy Footwork (by Bob Boardman)
And remember, nearly any rhyming poem with a good rhythm can be turned into a jump rope rhyme. You might want to try jumping rope while chanting one of my rhyming poems out loud—or even write one of your own!