It’s Not All Mary Poppins

The games we play

… are not quite the games as they are normally played.

Daniel is big into Ring around a Rosy these day, or, as he prefers to term it, “Hush-a! Hush-a! Hush-a!” With that as his rallying cry, he gathers the others around him. If I’m part of the group, holding hands in the circle, the game looks reasonably standard. I perform a number of Very Useful Functions in games of Ring Around A Rosy, including (but not limited to):

1. Singing the song. (There are more to the lyrics than “Hush-a!”, much to Daniel’s surprise.)
2. Keeping the circle as a circle. (“Hold Rory’s hand, Poppy. Hold on. Don’t let go. Atta girl.”)
3. Keeping the circle moving in a circular motion.
4. Keeping everyone upright until we “All Fall DOOOOOOOWWWWN!”
5. Encouraging everyone to get up, hold hands again, and start over.

If I’m not part of the game, but am only singing the song… Why do I sing? Well, I’ve found it useful to, you know, remind them of why they’re standing in a circle holding hands. If I don’t sing, they tend to forget, and a number of things happen.

1. Poppy forgets, drops hands and wanders off.
2. Jazz forgets and gets offended that someone is HOLDING HER HAND!!! “Why are you holding my hand? It’s MY hand! I can’t move my hand!!!” She tries wildly and angrily to get them to LET GO!!! (Huh. Writing this, I realize I should put her next to Poppy. Seems to me they have complimentary interests.)
3. Rory doesn’t forget, but gets upset that the others are NOT PLAYING RIGHT.
4. Daniel continues to hold hands in a grip like a vice, beams at all and sundry, and continues with the mantra. “Hush-a! Hush-a!”
5. Grace drops hands and stands still, watching the bedlam around her with wide eyes.

It devolves into chaos, is what I’m saying. Of course it does. Five toddlers? A structured, cooperative game? No adult assistance? Could you expect anything different??

So. Even if I’m not actively playing with them, I sing along. Which keeps it relatively game-like, and less bedlam-ish.

Because Ring Around a Rosy, as anyone with toddlers can tell you, is a WILDLY EXCITING GAME!!! It is not the singing, though that is fun. It is not the holding hands (which is a bit of a pain and a nuisance, frankly, to most toddlers). It is not the moving in a circle (challenging, but fun). No! It is the SUSPENSE!

Ring Around a Rosy, people, is a game of TENSION and SUSPENSE.

You gather round, you form a blob circle, you hold hands with your friends, you start to sing and shuffle around and around, “Hush-a! Hush-a!” (Not yet, Daniel.) and all the while you do this, you know what’s coming. “Hush-a! Hush-a!” (Not yet, Daniel.) You know what’s coming… that moment of peak excitement… you know it’s coming, “Hush-a! Hush-a!” (Not yet, Daniel.) and you can hardly wait!!! As you gather, hold hands, shuffle and sing, the suspense is intense, and builds to near-unbearable level of excitement as you approach that defining moment…

“Hush-a! Hush-a! We ALL! FALL! DOOOOWWWNNN!!!!!


It just does not GET any more exciting.

Toddlers, as we well know, are not big into “deferred gratification”. If something is good, they WANT IT NOW. All of it. Right away.

So, without an adult propping this game up and moving it along to its climax, you get a seething mass of toddlers. Some might be holding hands, some might be shuffling in a sort of circle, some might be singing bits of the song, but they are ALL FALLING DOWN ALL THE TIME.

Let’s all hold han– FALL DOWN!!! — make a circ — FALL DOWN!!! — sing the “Ring arou — FALL DOWN!!!!” — Hush-a! Hus– FAAAAAAAALLLLLL DOWWWWWNNNNN!!!

It would be more efficient just to line them up and shove them over, I swear.

Efficient, perhaps, but far less fun.




November 3, 2011 - Posted by | Developmental stuff | , , , , ,


  1. TOO TRUE.

    Yesterday was unseasonably warm & lovely so we were playing outside. Age range 2 – 6, so we played Simon Says. I was Simon.

    “Simon says… fly around like airplanes!”

    “Simon says… CRASH!”

    Well. That was the most fun ever. EVER. They played for 45 minutes. And all they wanted was to be told to crash into the ground. Every single kid left with soggy grass-stained knees.

    Ring-a-round-rosy just takes too damn long to get to the ALL FALL DOWN, in their opinion. (I did try).

    Ever hear the second verse to Rosy? It goes “sitting in the meadow, eating buttercups. Hush-a, hush-a, we all jump UP!” Cause and effect, man. πŸ˜‰

    MY second verse is “The cows are in the meadow, eating buttercups. Along came a bee, and they all jumped UP!” (Though I have yet to see a cow jump. I don’t think they’re capable…)

    Comment by Hannah | November 3, 2011 | Reply

  2. Thank you Hannah. I’ve often wondered if there was more. Mary.. do you fall down with them?

    No, I don’t. I squat down, but I don’t fall to the floor. They don’t seem to notice. πŸ™‚

    Comment by jwgmom | November 3, 2011 | Reply

  3. I never heard the hush-a part. We always said ashes, ashes, we all fall down.

    I’ve heard of ‘ashes’, but it’s always been ‘hush-a’ in all the areas of Ontario I’ve ever lived. (Central, Southern, and now Eastern).

    Comment by Katherine | November 3, 2011 | Reply

  4. We say “atishoo, atishoo” – I have always believed that the rhyme comes from the Black Plague but I start to doubt that when I hear the other versions. I wonder where it first started?

    I’ve seen that written. No idea how you’d pronounce it. “A tissue”? “Ah-ti-shoo”? “Atty-shoo”? I’ve heard the Black Plague origins, as well, though I’m uncertain how accurate it is. As I’ve heard, the “rosy”, is the boil (carbuncle) that would form (often in the groin of the poor sufferer) the “ring around” it is the reddened area around the boil (or boils). The “hush-a” (or ‘atishoo’) is the sneezing that preceded “all fall down”… dead. Cheery little ditty, no?

    Comment by May | November 3, 2011 | Reply

  5. The version we always did was:

    Ring around the rosey
    pocket full of posey
    ashes, ashes, we all fall down!

    Cows in the meadow
    eating buttercups
    ashes, ashes, we all jump up!

    I always find it interesting to see how other parts of the world say/do things like this. I’m in New Jersey in the US, by the way.

    My second verse is similar, but, as I said to the first commenter, not identical. No ‘ashes’ anywhere in my version!

    Comment by Bethany | November 3, 2011 | Reply

  6. Hahahahahaha!! I love toddlers!

    It’s been quite awhile since I’ve had a toddler around, so now that Evan is 16 months, we’re having so much fun! And next year when I have TWO toddlers around– even better!

    I just love your descriptions of toddler chaos.

    I love toddlers, too. (Good thing, huh??) The chaos they create is pretty entertaining. (When it’s not making you want to tear your hair out by the roots…) πŸ˜€

    Comment by rosie_kate | November 3, 2011 | Reply

  7. A-ti-shoo, certainly. By the way, I heard the back story on Lucy Locket Lost Her Pocket the other day. That was a bit startling for a nursery rhyme, I must say.

    Accent on which syllable? And Lucy? Is she now a young woman of easy virtue, then?

    Comment by Z | November 3, 2011 | Reply

  8. Speaking as an English person, I’m pretty sure that “atishoo” is pronounced the same as “a tissue” with the accent on the “ti”. It always was where I came from anyway. And it’s what we say when we sneeze (or sometimes shortened to “aachoo!” for a sneeze). So what do you say when you sneeze?! (I mean the explosive noise, obviously, not the polite “excuse me” or whatever you might say afterwards).

    And as for lining them all up and pushing them over – definitely that sounds like fun. I once played that with my toddler son in one of those ball pits. He’d stand up, I’d push him over (gently, obviously, but it doesn’t take much to topple them) with a sound effect of “Ker-BOOM!”. Too funny.

    When Canadians (North Americans, probably) sneeze, it’s written “achoo!” (And you cover with your elbow and say “excuse me”. Obviously. And you never, EVER sneeze DIRECTLY into someone’s face when she’s buttoning your sweater, changing your diaper, or (the worst) has just given you a mouthful of lunch. Nope. Not around here.)

    Comment by Kate R | November 3, 2011 | Reply

  9. Over here (uk) it’s “ring-a-ring of roses” (and definitely “a-TI-shoo” but as plausible as it sounds, it doesn’t date back to the Black Death. I can’t remember who wrote it, but it actually has an atributted author and everything! I believe (don’t quote me) that it may have been written as background music for a film about the plague, which would make sense of the lyrics (apart from the cow bits – I assume they were added later to enable care-givers to encourage kids to get up!), but it’s a very common misconception that it actually dates back to plague times.

    I’ve heard the “ring-a-ring” variation, probably in a movie! The song couldn’t have been written as background music for a movie, though, as it’s a nursery rhyme that was first printed in a book in 1881, long before movies! That was only when it was first printed; it had been around as a spoken rhyme long before that. That’s why there are so many variations — it had been around, spoken but not written down, for hundreds of years, likely. However, agrees with you about this: It has nothing to do with the bubonic plague!

    Comment by Angie | November 4, 2011 | Reply

    • Ahh, so glad I said don’t quote me on the movie connection – I was dragging that out of the depths of my (clearly poor!) memory! If you do want an historical nursery rhyme though, we are ex-re-enactors, and there is documented evidence of a large wall/field gun in the English Civil War called Humpty Dumpty. No idea whether the rhyme tells a true story, or whether it was merely a the parliamentarian taunt, but it was definitely a gun, and not an egg, as it rather bizarrely often seems to be depicted!

      Comment by Angie | November 6, 2011 | Reply

  10. It was a quite learned lecture about Casanova. Lucy Locket was supposed to be a barmaid, and also a prostitute. Kitty Fisher was a well-known prostitute. What I didn’t know was that early condoms were made out of leather, with a ribbon drawstring – and that was the pocket.

    Comment by Z | November 6, 2011 | Reply

  11. we sing “ring a ring a roses, a pocket full of posies, a-tissue, a-tissue, we all fall down” “fishes in the water, fishes in the sea, we all jump up with a 1-2-3!” I did think it was about the plague, the posies-flowers were believed to ward off germs?

    Comment by jenny | November 7, 2011 | Reply

  12. I haven’t laughed that hard in ages…. I grew up in Quebec, and we did hush-a hush-a. I’m now in western Canada, and they say ashes. Weird to me…. and I never knew there was a second verse!

    Comment by Deborah | November 13, 2011 | Reply

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