More circle games

Tea Rye Riley

That’s the life of a farmer

The button and the key

The Elfin Cap

The feather bed’s the best bed

The juniper tree / Oh, Sister Phoebe

The leaves are green

The needle’s eye

The wind blows high

There came an old woman from Sandy Land

There once was a princess

There stands a lady on the mountain

There were two jolly sailors

Ting, tang, tellerlein

To push the business

Tread, tread the green grass

Last updated: 1/11/2018 10:20 AM

These songs are nursery rhymes and other traditional songs compiled, illustrated and music arranged by Dany Rosevear.

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To listen to music from these songs click on 🔊

To watch the author sing a song click on the title at:

 

© Dany Rosevear 2013 All rights reserved

You are free to copy, distribute, display and perform these works under the following conditions:

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Your fair use and other rights are no way affected by the above.


 

 

Tea Rye Riley 🔊

 

 


A circle game from Texas found in the ‘Handy play party book’ published in 1940 by the Cooperative Recreation Services who have published the most wonderful collections of games and songs.

 

A circle of partners face the centre. 1. Circle to the right. 2. Circle to the left. 3.Forward to the centre and back. Repeat. 4. Drop hands and swing partners. Promenade round the cirlce.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Right around this way, Tea Rye Riley,

Tea Rye Riley, Tea Rye Riley,

Right around this way Tea Rye Riley,

Tea Rye Riley, ray.

 

Right back this way ...

 

All in a motion ...

All I want is a fine young thing (gal, lass or lad)

To ride upon Ole Charley.

 

I want no more of your weasely wheat,

Your weasely wheat, your weasely wheat,

I want no more of your weasely wheat,

Tea Rye Riley, ray.


 

 

 

That’s the life of a farmer O

 

 


I found this song in Lynn Kleiner’s delightful book ‘Farm songs and the sound of Moo-sic’. The music is traditional and I presume the words are too but have been unable to find more information about this song.

 

Children sit in a circle. A small group of children stand inside the circle and dramatize digging and hoeing and then planting seeds. The same number of rabbits waiting outside hop into the circle and nibble the plants. On ‘Shoo, shoo, shoo!’ the farmers chase each rabbit out of the ‘garden’ and attempt to catch them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


This is the way we dig and hoe,

This is the way we dig and hoe,

This is the way we dig and hoe;

That's the life of the farmer.

 

We’ll plant the seeds and watch them grow,

We’ll plant the seeds and watch them grow,

We’ll plant the seeds and watch them grow;

That's the life of the farmer.

 

Here come the bunnies hippity hop, x3

That's the life of the farmer.

 

Out of my garden, Shoo, shoo, shoo! X3

That's the life of the farmer.

 

 


 

 

The button and the key O

 

 

This is a game that encourages careful listening and voice recognition.

Choose from a cache of objects, natural ones if playing outside!

 

Children sit in a circle with eyes closed and hands cupped behind their backs. As the song is sung a named child walks round the outside and places the button and the key in two hands. Everyone sings “Who has the button?” and one child answers “I have the button” This is repeated for the other object. The others listen carefully and try to identify the voices. The child on the outside ask the others if they know who has each object. One of the successful children replace the one on the outside.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Around comes Johnny, around comes he.

He is hiding the button and the key.

Who has the button? I have the button.

Who has the key? I have the key.

Let us see! Let us see!

 

…He is hiding the acorn and the leaf...

…He is hiding the feather and the pea…


 

 

 

The Elfin Cap O

 

 

A jolly circle game from Germany

 

Children stand in a circle holding hands. As the song they skip round for the first three lines. One child, Elfin Cap, with hands together above head skips in the opposite direction. Nodding head on the 4th and 5th line. The circle then stands still and Elfin Cap stops in front of a child; jumps to the left and right then kicks heels behind self. Elfin Cap then shakes hands with the new Elfin Cap and the game begins again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Around, around our circle runs a pointed Elfin Cap, diddle, dum,

Around, around our circle runs a pointed Elfin Cap,

Three times three is nine you know,

See the cap nod to and fro;

Add some more then if you will,

Elfin Cap stands still, stands still, stands still,

Then jumps to the left and jumps to the right,

Kicks up heels, it's quite a sight,

Then greets new Elfin Cap,

Then greets new Elfin Cap.


 

 

 

The feather bed’s the best bed O

 

 

I first came across this in the classroom classic ‘Infant Joy’ 1954. I have slightly modified the words after looking it up in Iona and Peter Opie’s ‘The singing game’ 1985 which says it is a game that belongs to the north-east of England and the Scottish borders.

 

Children sit in a circle with one child skips around in the centre holding a cushion. At the end they lay the cushion in front of a chosen child. They both kneel on the cushion and give each other a hug or shake hands (traditionally a kiss). The chosen child then becomes the new bearer of the cushion and the game begins again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


The feather bed’s the best bed,

The best bed of all;

The best bed in our house is made of pease straw,

The pease straw was dirty and lying on the ground;

But never mind my bonny wee lass,

Just lay the cushion down.

Lay it down, lay it down,

Lay it down at someone’s feet, feet, feet, feet.

 


 

 

The juniper tree / Oh, Sister Phoebe 🔊

 

 


‘The juniper tree’ was a play-party game that was popular on the American frontier in the first half of the 19th century.

 

Children join hands and skip or walk around a child in the centre. One child in the circle holds a hat in their hands. On the second verse this child places the hat on the one in the centre and kisses or shakes their hand. During the second verse that child chooses someone from the circle and they swap roles so the game can continue.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Oh, Sister Phoebe, how happy were we,

The night we sat under the juniper tree,

The juniper tree, hi-o, hi-o,

The juniper tree, hi-o.

 

Put this hat on to keep your head warm,

And take a sweet kiss, it will do you no harm,

Will do you no harm, I know, I know

Will do you no harm, I know.

 

Go choose you a partner, go choose you a one,

Go choose you the fairest that ever you can,

Now rise you up sister and go, and go,

Now rise you up sister and go.


 

 

 

The leaves are green O

 

A song for autumn; talk about the changing colours of this magical season.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


The leaves are green, the nuts are brown.

They hang so high they won’t come down.

Leave them alone ‘til frosty weather,

And they will all fall down together.

Walk round the circle holding hands. Hold hands high on the second line and and wave from side to side. Sink to the ground on the last line.

 

The leaves are green, the apples are red.

They hang so high above my head.

Leave them alone ‘til frosty weather,

And they will all fall down together.

As before.

 


 

 

 

The needle’s eye  🔊

 

 


A ‘choosing’ play party game or in the past more likely to be a ‘kissing’ game!

Two or three arches can be made for the game to progress more quickly.

 

Two children secretly choose ‘pins’ or ‘needles’ or ‘apples and ‘pears’ etc. and then facing each other join and raise hands to form an arch. The others form a line in a circle and follow each other through the arch singing. At the end of the song the pair drop hands to catch a child as in ‘Oranges and lemons’; that child is asked to quietly choose between ‘pins’ and ‘needles’ and then leaves the line to stand behind the one they have chosen.

The game continues until the players are divided into two separate groups and a tug of war ensues.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


The needle's eye, it does supply,

The thread that runs so truly,

There’s many a lass that I let pass,

(There’s many a beau that I let go,)

Because I wanted you,

Because I wanted you, because I wanted you.

There’s many a lass that I let pass,

(There’s many a beau that I let go,)

Because I wanted you, because I wanted you.


 

 

The wind blows high 🔊

 

 


This is another singing game that can be found all over the English speaking world but has its roots in Ireland and Scotland. Sometimes it is sung as a jump rope song. The game below is from the ‘Clarendon books of Singing games’ 1957.

Traditionally many of these circle games were played in streets and playgounds by girls though younger brother’s were often allowed to join in; the themes were often of love and courting; I have adapted this song from a variety of sources to make it more gender neutral so both boys and girls can happily participate.

 

The children, hand in hand, dance in a ring round a child in the centre; singing that name in bar 5. On ‘good friends, the circle advances and retreats to the centre, then stands still as the child makes a choice. The chosen child goes to the centre and is named in verse 2. The circle once again advances and retreats and then everyone takes a partner and skips round holding hands.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


The wind, the wind, the wind blows high,

The rain comes scattering from the sky,

(Name) comes walking by,

Looking for the one with a roving eye.

S/he is handsome, s/he is witty,

S/he is a child the golden city,

S/he shall choose 1-2-3,

You are the one that it will be!

 

(Name) comes into the ring,

Ready to dance and ready to sing;

Clap your hands and away we go

To *London city, E.I.O.

 

*Or any other city.


 

 

 

There came an old woman from Sandy Land 🔊

 

 


This ‘hiring’ game has been found all over the United Kingdom, the one below, with slight changes, was recorded in a Donegal school playground in 1987 https://www.duchas.ie/en/cbes/4493742/441 one5652 .

The game was not accompanied by a tune so I have added and arranged a generic one from Peter and Ionas Opie’s collection ‘The singing game ‘ p 113 where there are also several other versions. It can also be played as a line game with the woman and children pacing back and forth to the ‘hirer’.

 

Children holding hands walk round in a circle. One child stands in the circle. This child chooses another from the circle and they walk round holding hands .Eventually the inside circle become bigger than the one outside. The last chosen becomes the new ‘hirer’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


There came an old woman from Sandy Land,

With all her children by the hand,

“One can knit, the other can sew,

And one can make a lily white bow,

One can sit by the fire and spin,

One can bake a cake for the king.

One can do most anything.

Pray ma’am, will you take one in?”

 

Hirer: “The fairest one that I can see is Peggy Gordon

“Then poor (name) she is gone

Without a farthing in her hand,

Without as much as a guinea-gold ring.

Good-bye, (name), Goodbye.”

 


 

 

There once was a princess O

 

 


Children make a circle around the princess who sits on a cushion. The wicked fairy and the prince stand outside the circle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


There once was a princess long ago, long ago, long ago,

There once was a princess long ago, long, long ago.

The circle walks round the princess who sits and sews.

And she lived in a big high tower…

The circle raised joined hands high.

A wicked fairy cast a spell…

The wicked fairy enters the circle dances round the princess and waves her wand. Those in the circle cast a spell too.

The princess slept for a hundred years…

The fairy joins the circle and they all crouch down and sleep with closed palms to the cheek. The princess lies on the cushion and sleeps

A great big forest grew around…

As the princess sleeps the children in the circle raise joined hands and move them gently from side to side.

A brave young prince came riding by…

The prince gallops round the outside of the circle while those in the circle make riding actions with their arms.

He chopped the trees down one by one…

The prince walks round the outside of the circle and touches each child on the shoulder and they sink to the ground.

He woke the princess just like this…

The prince enters the circle and wakes the princess who stretches her arms. He holds her by the hand and pulls her up.

The circle rises and the children stretch their arms.

So everyone is happy now…

The prince and princess join hands and dance round singing.

Those in the circle make pairs or groups of three and do the same.


 

 


 

 

There stands a lady on the mountain O

 

 

There are many versions of this circle game including ‘Oh no John’.

 

Children holding hands walk round in a circle. One child the ‘laddie’ or ‘lady’ stands in the centre. On ‘Madam’ or ‘Kind sir’ the children stop to sing. The child in the centre answers emphatically. On the last line he/she answers ‘YES!’ and chooses a child to come into the ring where they dance round to the music. The chosen child then becomes the new one in the middle as the game continues.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


There stands a lady on the mountain,

Who she is I do not know;

All she wants is gold and silver,

All she wants is a nice young man.

 

Madam will you walk? Madam will you talk?

Madam will you marry me? NO!

 

What if I buy you a nice arm chair,

To sit in the garden when you take the air?NO!

 

What if I buy you a silver spoon,

To feed your baby in the afternoon? NO!

 

What If I buy you a nice straw hat,

With seven yards of ribbon hanging down the back? YES!

 


 

 

There were two jolly sailors 🔊

 

 


Originally a kneel and kiss cushion game, the version here is similar to the one sung and played with lots of giggling in Dearham, Cumberland in 1962 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kn13PIBVOqM ; it can also be found in Iona and Peter Opie’s wonderful research ‘The Singing game’. That game was played in much the same way in Somerset in the 1920s. It has been adapted here to be gender free so any child in the circle may be chosen.

 

A circle is formed and two children holding hands walk round inside. On ‘as we go around…’ the circle walks round and stops on ‘The one…’; the sailors in the middle choose a new child and take them round the circle. Each time the new child chooses the next on to join the line. When the ones inside exceed those in the circle they leave the ring and walk in a line holding hands outside until eventually all are part of the outer circle.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


There were two jolly sailors

Just lately come ashore.

They spent their days in merry, merry ways,

As they have done before.

As we go around and round,

As we go around and round,

The one who finds another merry child,

Must take them, must take them,

Must take them round and round.

 

There were three jolly sailors…

 


 

 

 

Ting, tang, tellerlein 🔊

 

 

This circle game comes from Germany, you can see the German words below. The English words here were written by Anne Mendoza and published in Sociable songs’ in 1970, the words and the melody are arranged by Dany Rosevear.

 

Children hold hands and stand in a circle. One child the ‘postman’ or ‘post lady’ walks round the outside of the circle and on the last line counts ‘one, two, three’ children. The third child follows him / her and the game continues.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Ting, tang, tellerlein,

Who's knocking at my door?

It is the friendly postman / post lady / postie

And this is what s/he calls:

"Knocking once, knocking twice,

Knocking three times at your door,

Ting, tang, tor!

One, two, three!”

 

Ting, tang, Tellerlein wer klopft an meine Tür?

Ein wunderschönes Mägdelein, das sprach zu mir:

“Erster Stein, zweiter Stein, dritter Stein soll bei mir sein, eins, zwei, drei.”

 


 

 

 

 

To push the business on O

 

 


This traditional circle game was collected by Cecil J. Sharp.

According to the Opies in‘The Singing game’ it was popular dance at Sunday School socials but died out in the 1920s.

It appeared more recently in the Ladybird book of ‘Dancing games’ in 1976 but I don’t recall playing this in class or the playground.

 

The players stand in a circle holding hands with boys and girls alternating; alternatively children could be labelled with coloured bands.

Line 1-3 The circle skips round to the right.

Line 4-5 Partners face each other clapping their hands in time to the music.

Line 6-7 Partners join both hands and swing round changing places to end up ready to play again with a new partner.

This sequence is repeated each time the song is sung until everyone is back in their original place.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


I'll buy a horse and steal a gig,

And all the world shall have a jig;

And I'll do all that ever I can

To push the business on,

To push the business on;

And I'll do all that ever I can

To push the business on.

 


 

 

 

Tread, tread the green grass 🔊

 

 


This choosing ring game from Maryland is from ‘The Games and songs of American children’; it also has a version from Philadelphia with ‘dust, dust, dust’ (a corruption of the Scottish adist, come this way’) instead of ‘star, star, star’.

I have combined the two words, adapted the song to be gender neutral and have added a colour theme but hopefully still reflect the nature of the original versions.

It is ideally played outside.

 

Children circle round one behind the other with hands behind the back. One child walks round in the the circle in the opposite direction; this child decides on a colour and invites a child from the ring wearing that colour to join in holding hands. The game continues with the new child choosing a colour. Eventually all the children will be in the centre circle except the last one who starts the new game.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Tread, tread the green grass,

Star, stardust;

Come, choose the one all dressed in blue,

And walk along with us.

 

If you are dressed in blue,

As I suppose you be,

I’ll take you by the hand, my friend

And lead you across the sea.


 

 

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