October 3rd, 2017
Written by Emanuela Marsura, a schoolteacher from Italy. “Once upon a time…” so begins every tale, returning to a time outside of time. So also began the narrative of games of yore in Italy… Once upon a time there was a place where little boys and girls could fill their days with games. Especially days […]
October 2nd, 2017
The Telephone Game is played all around the world. To play, a group of children sit in a circle. The first child whispers something into the ear of the person next to him. That person in turn whispers the same sentence into the ear of the person next to her and so on around the circle. […]
August 24th, 2016
Check out Folk Dance Notes to find the instructions to many dances around the world… including the Alley Cat, Fandango, many mazurkas, tangos and waltzes… plus much more!
March 24th, 2016
In Iran, they have a two handed finger snap that’s louder than the traditional western finger snap. It’s called Beshkan (in Persian: بشكن ) The beshkan snap is often used in Persian dances. It’s also done to egg people on to dance. It’s done at parties. It’s done when someone hears good news. The easiest […]
March 22nd, 2016
On Good Friday, two days before Easter Sunday, people of all ages in Bermuda fly their own homemade kites. It symbolizes the ascension of Jesus into heaven. The kites are made using flat sticks, glue, string and different colors of tissue paper. The shape of the kites are usually hexagonal, though sometimes octagonal or other […]
March 21st, 2016
Monique Palomares wrote from France about a game she and her friends played when they were younger… When we were children we would play "le jeu du bac" – also called "le petit bac". FYI Bac means baccalaureat, which is an academic qualification French students take at the end of high school. It’s the main […]
February 24th, 2016
I recently came across this short video (below) that shows some interesting styles of Jamaican Folk Dances. Here’s a breakdown of the dances you’ll see… 1. Ring Games – Danced in a circle – These were traditionally played and danced by adults and children alike. Though today, they’re more for children. 2. Maroon Dances – […]
February 22nd, 2016
The tropanka is a folk dance from the Dobruja region of Bulgaria. In Bulgarian, it’s spelled Тропанка. It’s traditionally danced as a line dance in the shape of an arc. The dancers generally hold hands throughout the dance. There are many regional variations to it. You can listen to the Tropanka Tune here and watch […]
February 8th, 2016
Joel wrote asking for help with an Italian rhyme game… Hi Lisa, I’m doing some research about an old Italian child game a friend’s grandfather used to play. I saw your site and thought you might be able to help me out. Basically it goes like this: The child would hold his/her index finger straight […]
Briana wrote looking for help with a Native American Stick Song. You can read her letter and hear the song in the YouTube below… "Hello! My name is Briana. I was actually wondering if you would by chance be able to help me identify this song. My sister and I learned it in Elementary school […]
January 28th, 2016
Barbie dolls now come in new sizes! There’s a tall one, a petite one and a curvier Barbie. This is major progress… Now girls won’t just have the image of a doll with a shape that’s physically impossible in the real world. Hooray! Image: Mattel
January 14th, 2016
When kids in the US are playing a game and they want to temporarily pause it, they’ll yell, “Time-out!” Sometimes, they’ll also make a “T” with their hands or arms (see pic). The term “time-out” comes from sports. They use it to pause games too. More recently, I’ve heard kids say, “Pause!” It’s possible this […]
January 13th, 2016
Gweta is a modern dance style in Africa. Toofan, the group that sang the Gweta song originally, made up the dance itself and the name of the dance. Eli wrote about it below… "The whole concept is called "gweta soeme" which is equivalent to dodging jealous people. Gweta is a village in Botswana so I […]
January 12th, 2016
Makar Sankranti is a harvest festival in India and Nepal that’s celebrated around January 14th every year. It not only celebrates the beginning of the harvest season, but also the end of the monsoon season in southern India. It also marks the lengthening of days and the warm weather of spring to come. Perhaps all […]
December 18th, 2015
Las Posadas is part of the Christmas caroling tradition in Mexico. People go from house to house reenacting Joseph and Mary looking for housing in Bethlehem. After caroling, people have parties with piñatas. Piñatas are made of papier-mâché, tissue paper and sometimes clay inside. They’re filled with candy. People take turns beating the piñata with […]
December 6th, 2015
My favorite Hanukkah song is The Dreydl Song! A dreydl is a little top with four sides and a Hebrew letter on each side. The dreydl is played with on Hanukkah. There’s a dreydl game kids play too. Here are the lyrics and a video… The Dreydl Song I have a little dreydl I made […]
November 12th, 2015
Thanksgiving is a time consider what we’re thankful for in our lives. It’s also a great time to teach children the art of gratitude. Studies have shown that people who practice gratitude are happier in life. Here’s a Circle Game for Thanksgiving that’s all about gratitude. It’s sung to the tune of "The Farmer in […]
October 2nd, 2015
We have a little collection of rhymes and lullabies about fairies. You can click on the titles below to find the songs. They’re from all Ireland and Scotland. Ireland Are You a Witch or Are You a Fairy? (Jump Rope Rhyme and Chant) Ballyeamon Cradle Song Fairy Lullaby Seoithín, Seo Hó – Hush-a-bye, Baby (Irish […]
June 4th, 2015
Playing real video games for fun is a great way to improve your foreign language skills. I’m talking about games you’d want to play in your own language, not specifically language learning games. There are many fun games that are available in many different languages. I’m an early advanced French learner, so I understand enough […]
June 1st, 2015
The Moribayassa is a dance of the Malinke people of West Africa. It’s danced in Guinea, Mali and other West African countries. When women need help with something very important -like becoming pregnant or healing from a sickness- they ask the spirit of Moriba Yassa for help. The woman vows that when the wish is […]
April 12th, 2015
Did you know that Japanese people do a circle dance to the tune of "Turkey in the Straw"? The version of the tune they dance to is a little slower and they call it the "Oklahoma Mixer"! Sadao Mazuka wrote to us about it from Japan: "In the description on Wikipedia, they say: ‘A slower […]
April 3rd, 2015
Do you remember doing the Bunny Hop? I learnt it as a kid in the early ’70’s in dance class. The Bunny Hop and the Finnish Folk Dance called "Letkajenkka" (aka Letkis) are nearly identical. Both became a dance craze around the world. The Bunny Hop became popular in the early 1950’s. The Ray Anthony […]
February 3rd, 2015
Maria wrote asking for info about the song, "Zimbole". Here’s her email: I have been trying in vain to find the meaning of the African folk song “Zimbole”. I believe it’s an Zulu word for peace but I’m not sure and I can’t find any information anywhere! There are videos on youtube of kids singing […]
December 11th, 2014
Ray Lee, who grew up in Hong Kong, wrote, "We played all these when we were kids… The bottom right is Chinese Chess. Adults play that too. The other three are for kids. They don’t really have English names. Top left is 鬥獸棋 (Jungle). It’s like chess in that there are two opposing players/sides and […]
October 22nd, 2014
I’m so excited! I just discovered a major collection of online recordings of children’s singing games! Iona and Peter Opie are among the world’s top collectors of English nursery rhymes and kids songs. When working on Mama Lisa’s World, I refer to their research quite a bit. They published one of the most comprehensive collections […]
September 18th, 2014
Duck, Duck, Goose is a game every English-speaking kindergartener knows. In other cultures, there’s a similar game called Drop the Handkerchief. Here’s the difference… Duck, Duck, Goose To play Duck, Duck, Goose the kids sit in a circle except for the one who’s "It". The person who is "It" goes around tapping each child’s head […]
September 16th, 2014
Bob Anderson wrote looking for help with a Swedish childhood rhyme. Here’s his question: Do you know of a children’s verse my dad (born 1879) used to do with the grandkids? He would bounce them on his knees, holding their hands, and at the climax, open his knees and drop them down as if to […]
July 9th, 2014
Vanuatu is a country that consists of a group of islands in the South Pacific Ocean. There’s a kids game that’s played there called, "What’s the Time Mr. Wolf?" This game is played throughout the English-speaking world. How to play "What’s the Time Mr. Wolf": The kids go around in a circle like a clock. […]
June 18th, 2014
Anigur is a traditional musical game in Mauritania that’s been around for a long time. Two people dance and duel with sticks to a beat. The spectators play the drums or clap to encourage them on. This game is played more for amusement than anything else. It’s played at weddings and special events too. You […]
September 9th, 2013
Play the Great Language Game by trying to identify some eighty languages by their sound alone. It’s very challenging. Check it out!
August 6th, 2013
This summer we brought our kids to see "The Art of the Brick" at Discovery Times Square in New York City. It features Nathan Sawaya’s Lego artwork. Here’s my 12 year old daughter’s assessment of the show… Nathan Sawaya’s Lego sculptures are truly works of art. They are well built and neatly sculpted brick by […]
July 29th, 2013
Etegami is a Japanese style of drawing with a written message on it. Etegami artist Debbie created the drawing here which contains the Japanese phrase "otenki uranai". That basically means "a trick for prophesying the weather." Here’s what Debbie wrote about the weather trick: "When I was little, the neighborhood kids and I followed an […]
June 7th, 2013
Who remembers the expression "I love you with a cherry on top"? I remember saying it to my mother either to express love or to butter her up if I wanted something! You can make the expression even stronger, by adding more and more toppings as if your love was an ice cream sundae. You […]
May 24th, 2013
Variations of the choosing game Rock, Paper Scissors can be found all over the world. The Korean version is "kai, bai, bo" (sometimes pronounced "gawi, bawi, bo"). In Korean, the order is different. It’s always: "Scissors (가위 – kai)", "Rock (바위 – bai)" and "Paper (보 – bo)". You can see a youtube of the […]
February 5th, 2013
Laba is a Chinese festival that has traditionally started off the Chinese New Year preparations. It’s on the eighth day of the twelfth lunar month. Agnes wrote about it from China: "We eat Laba Rice Porridge and Laba Garlic for the Laba Festival. Laba Porridge is made of mixed grains and corns, like peanuts, chestnuts, […]
February 1st, 2013
One step at a time we can help change the world. Take the example of Playpower… "People need affordable learning games. Worldwide, 4.1 billion people earn under $3,000 per year, meaning that even a $100 computer is often out of reach for the world’s emerging middle class. Playpower is targeting a $10 platform that makes […]
January 23rd, 2013
The Ring on a String Game is a traditional game that’s played in many countries. Sometimes it’s called Hunt the Ring. Here’s how you play… 1. Slip a ring on a long string and tie both ends. To determine the length of the string, you need to use about 24" of string (50cm+) per player. […]
November 8th, 2012
We’ve been without electricity, and have had only intermittent internet connections, since last Monday due to Hurricane Sandy. There are many people in similar situations (or worse) in the areas affected by the hurricane. This is the most we’ve been without electronical devices and computers since they became widespread in the 1990’s. I’ve found we’re […]
October 17th, 2012
Many cultures have a Peek-a-boo Game that’s played with little kids. First you hide the child’s face behind a cloth, a hand or another object. Then you say "Peek-a-boo!" Next you quickly take the object away from the child’s face and say, "I see you!" A similar game called "Bo-peep" has been around since at […]
October 12th, 2012
Here’s a video of the French rhyme and hand play, J’ai deux mains (I Have Two Hands), with the French lyrics and an English translation. J’ai deux mains J’ai deux mains, Elles sont toutes propres, Elles se regardent, Se tournent le dos. Elles se croisent, Elles se tapent, Elles nagent, Elles s’envolent tout là-haut Et […]
September 24th, 2012
What happens if you use a yo-yo in zero gravity? Astronaut Don Pettit demonstrates on board the International Space Station. With a physics lesson thrown in to boot! Hat tip: Kottke.org.
August 21st, 2012
I love this video! "There are all these simple little games that people play using their surroundings: don’t step on the cracks, balance beam railroad tracks (or curbs), bicycle slalom, etc." –Jason Kottke I remember being stuck at red lights and trying to shoot them so they would turn green. What games did you make […]
August 20th, 2012
Here’s a video Lego put out for its 80th birthday about how the company got started and how Legos came to be made. It’s about 17 minutes long… The LEGO company is still owned by the Kirk Kristiansen family who founded it in 1932 in Denmark. Photo: Wikipedia
June 18th, 2012
Kristy shared this broom game with us that she played with her family while growing up in Chicago about 50 to 60 years ago… “We had a few games growing up that we played with children and guests that didn’t involve cards. One was sitting in a circle in the living room and passing a […]
June 16th, 2012
Recently, we talked about the French good luck charm dolls called Nénette and Rintintin that are made out of yarn. In a second post we explained how to make the yarn dolls. Here we present a 2nd way to make them. This version of the Nénette and Rintintin dolls won’t have a tuft of hair […]
June 14th, 2012
Recently, we talked about the French good luck charm dolls called Nénette and Rintintin that are made out of yarn. Here you can learn how to make them. Supplies Some Yarn (including a piece of red or pink yarn for the mouth) 5 inch piece of cardboard Scissors Yarn Needle Black Embroidery Thread & Needle […]
June 11th, 2012
Nénette et Rintintin were originally toy dolls for children that were first produced in France in 1913. The boy doll is Nénette and the girl doll is Rintintin. In the tradition of romance in France, they’re seen as a couple! When WWI came, people started making little Nénette et Rintintin dolls out of yarn. They […]
May 23rd, 2012
Maypole Dances were traditionally done on May 1st for May Day. One type of Maypole Dance is called a Ribbon Dance. The dancers each hold a ribbon that’s attached to the Maypole. They then dance around the pole, sometimes intertwining ribbons. Below is a video of a simple and pretty Maypole Dance in the style […]
May 18th, 2012
Ooh La! Ooh La! is an animated video by the band They Might Be Giants. It’s about Double Dutch jump roping Double Dutch jump roping is done with two long jump ropes turning inwards at the same time. The phrase Double Dutch is old slang meaning “to talk nonsense”. It may be a coincidence, but […]
May 4th, 2012
“One, Two, Three, Weeeeee” is an expression you say to young kids when you’re going to do something that’s fun, but that has a feeling of anticipation… like going down a slide. I remember my older sisters playing a “1, 2, 3, Weeee” game with me when I was a little kid. It takes three […]
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Please contribute a traditional song or rhyme from your country.
More about Games Around the World...
Travel to far away places with our new E-Books Kid Songs Around The World and Lullabies Around The World
Whoever the children are in your life - your kids, your grandkids, your students, even yourself (in your heart) - Mama Lisa's E-books are wonderful ways to help them experience other languages and cultures.
In Kid Songs Around The World we've gathered 100 of our favorite songs and rhymes from all the continents of the globe.
Each song includes the full text in the original language, with an English translation, and most include sheet music. All include links to web pages where you can listen to recordings, hear the tune or watch a video performance. Each includes a beautiful illustration.
Many have commentary sent to us by our correspondents who write about the history of the songs and what they meant in their lives.
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Over 50 lullabies and recordings from all over the world. Each Lullaby includes the full text in the original language, with an English translation.
Kid Songs Around The World and Lullabies Around The World are downloadable e-books, which you will gain access to immediately. (They are not physical books.)
We hope these books will help foster a love of international children's songs!
$3.99 for Both Downloadable E-Books Order Here!
A Mama Lisa Book
Over 50 songs and rhymes, in French with translations into English. You'll find well-known songs like Frère Jacques, Alouette, and Au claire de la lune, alongside many you may never have heard of. At the end of each item in this book, there's a web address to an online version of the song or rhyme. There we are often able to include sheet music, recordings and videos of performances. We hope this book will help foster a love of French songs and culture all over the world! Order Here!