Is It the End for Jump Rope Chants?

Mable, Mable,

Set the table,

Don’t forget the salt,




At least when I was a 6-year-old boy, jumping rope was a thing that girls mastered with an ease that still mystifies me.   There I would be, in a line with other little kids, waiting my turn as the two big girls, one at each end, turned the rope. They would, at first, turn the rope at a leisurely pace, allowing a naive, seven-year-old boy (me) to think that he had mastered the form…until….”HOT PEPPER!”

Yes, “Hot Pepper,” that moment when the rope would move immediately from a slow pace “Mable, Mable, Set the table…” to supersonic speed, causing the rope to smack into your head or tangle up your feet and causing embarrassment.   Jump rope rhymes were so deceptive.

I was thinking about chants, rhymes, sidewalk songs, or whatever you want to call them when it occurred to me that they might be an endangered species.  Think about it; school recess is down to 15 minutes a day, and children no longer play alone on the sidewalk.  When do they have time to use, much less pass down, sometimes century-old rhymes. When you think about it, rhyming games are a kind of throwback to times when the majority of people did not read and stories were passed down orally.

So, if older children no longer teach the chants to younger ones, will the chants end up being stale rhymes in musty books or odd parts of the Internet?  It would be sad if the death of the chant were to be a side effect of too little time to play and too much parenting.

Nevertheless, plenty of websites want to keep the memories alive; you just have to look for them.  It would be nice if the various toy and play industries took up causes like preserving sidewalk chants from extinction by advocating for more playtime for kids in school and at home.

Below are some rhymes and, at the end, some websites where you can find more.  If you have a favorite verse or were really good at “Hot Pepper,” let us know.


Cinderella, dressed in yella
went upstairs to kiss her fella
made a mistake, kissed a snake
how many stitches did it take?
1, 2, 3,…

Five Little Monkeys

Five little monkeys, 
Jumping on the bed. 
One fell off, 
And bumped his head 
Mama called the doctor, 
And the doctor said: 
“No more monkeys 
jumping on the bed!”

I Had a Little Puppy

I had a little puppy. 
His name was Tiny Tim. 
I put him in the bathtub, 
To see if he could swim. 
He drank up all the water. 
He ate a bar of soap. 
The next thing you know, 
He had a bubble in his throat. 
In came the doctor 
(person jumps in). 
In came the nurse 
( person jumps in). 
In came the lady 
With the alligator purse 
(person jumps in). 
Out went the doctor 
(person jumps out). 
Out went the nurse 
(person jumps out). 
Out went the lady 
With the alligator purse 
(person jumps out).

Playground Jungle

Games Kids Play

The Mudcat Café

3 thoughts

  1. My favorite jump rope chants were Not Last Night, but the Night Before 24 Robbers Came Knocking at My Door, As I ran out, they ran in. All they wanted was a bottle of Gin. Turn around, touch the ground, do the splits and get out of town before sundown. I also liked Down in the Meadow and H.E.L.P. (I won’t write all the lyrics here).

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