Duck, Duck, Goose Around the World

800px-Duck_Duck_GooseDuck, 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 saying "Duck".  Eventually, the one who’s "It" taps a kid’s head and says, "Goose".  The one who was tapped has to chase the one who’s "It" around the circle. The one who’s "It" has to go around the circle and finally sit in the 2nd kid’s spot.  The 2nd kid is now "It".  If the 2nd kid catches the one who’s "It" before they get to the spot, then the 1st kid continues being "It" for another turn.  The gif below shows how it works (each dot represents a child and the red dot is the one who’s "It").

Drop the Handkerchief (Postman/Mailman)

Drop the Handkerchief works similarly to Duck, Duck, Goose, but the person who is "It" does not usually tap the other kids.  Here’s how it’s played…

All of the kids sit in a circle looking forward (young kids might even cover their eyes with their hands).  The child who’s "It" goes around the outside of the circle holding a handkerchief while all of the kids chant a specific song or rhyme.  Finally, the one who’s "It" drops the handkerchief (or other item) behind a child.  That child has to pick up the handkerchief and chase the one who’s "It" around the circle until the one who’s "It" takes the 2nd child’s spot.  If the one who’s "It" is caught, she continues being "It".  If the child doesn’t notice that the handkerchief was dropped behind him, he may have a penalty like sitting in the middle of the circle for a turn.  There are other variations of the game where the one who’s "It" might have to perform a task if she’s caught.  This game also has a variation where the one who’s "It" is the Postman or Mailman.

These games are great ways to teach kids about differences as well as similarities between cultures. They can also be used to help teach another language.

Here are some versions of these games from around the world:

China: 丢手绢 – Drop the Napkin
France: Le facteur n’est pas passé – The Mailman Didn’t Pass By
Belgium: Zakdoekje leggen – Putting Down a Hanky

Sadao wrote from Japan to let me know that "Drop the Handkerchief" is played there… but there don’t seem to be any words that go with it.

Please feel free to share your country’s version of this game in the comments below.

Enjoy playing!

-Mama Lisa

Images (Kids): Wikimedia
Image (Duck, Duck, Goose Gif): Wikipedia

This article was posted on Thursday, September 18th, 2014 at 2:54 pm and is filed under Australia, Countries & Cultures, Drop the Handkerchief, Duck, Duck, Goose, England, Games Around the World, The Mailman (The Postman), USA. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

6 Responses to “Duck, Duck, Goose Around the World”

  1. Lisa Says:

    Monique wrote from France, “Re. the Handkerchief game: when I was a child, ‘It’ would drop the handkerchief at any time and the 2nd kids could drop it while chasing the first (that was fun!) and indeed we weren’t supposed to look behind ourselves before the ‘mailman’ had passed by.

    The way my students (1st graders) would play Le facteur n’est pas passé (The Mailman Didn’t Pass By): since they said ‘fermez les petits pois (chez soi)’ and ‘It’ would drop the hanky after everyone had put their hands on their closed eyes (they didn’t need to look forward).

    ‘Fermez les petits pois (chez soi)’ literally translates to ‘shut the peas (at home)’. It only accompanies the action of putting your hands over your closed eyes since the only meaningful word is ‘shut’. All the rest is meaningless, ‘pois’ doesn’t mean ‘eyes’ in any way unless you consider the roundness of both things, and ‘chez soi’ is just to rhyme with ‘petits pois’. It’s just as if you said ‘shut the peas please’ or ‘shut the dome at home’.”

  2. Daniel Says:


    Thank you, this article was exactly what I was looking for regarding duck duck goose equivalent games around the world.

    All the best,


  3. Belle Says:

    8/24/2018 Thank you for the analogy to Duck,Duck, Goose! Same game!
    The game is known as Drop Peter Drop! in Trinidad, West Indies.
    I lost my glove one Saturday Night and found it Sunday Morning, boy drop Peter drop boy!
    Peter wouldn’t drop boy! Drop! Drop! Drop!

    The players form a ring, holding hands.
    The “runner” has a handkerckief (more likely a wooden ruler or twig) while the other players sing, the runner runs around outside the circle, on the last drop! The ruler is dropped behind whoever the runner is behind, that person picks up the ruler and tries to catch the runner, who quickly rejoins the circle. The new runner holding the twig repeats the action of running around the circle and dropping the ruler!

  4. Lisa Says:

    Thanks for explaining the game in Trinidad Belle! Would you like to share any other games from there or kids songs?

  5. Natalia Says:

    In Spain we have the same game, it is called “La zapatilla por detrás” (The slipper is behind).

    Refering to Drop the Handkerchief, you said: “The child who’s “It” goes around the outside of the circle while all of the kids chant a specific song or rhyme”. Which song or rhyme is it normally used? Thanks in advance.

  6. Lisa Says:


    There are many songs around the world that are sung while playing the game. Click the link below to access them.

    Songs used with the Drop The Handkerchief Game.

    Mama Lisa

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