Category Archives: Picking “IT”

Picking “It”

Like it or not, many games require that somebody is “It”. Tag, hide-and-seek, monkey in the middle and blind-man’s bluff are just a small list of the games that need somebody to be “It”. Often, somebody in the group would volunteer to be “It”, but normally official protocol was followed for the honor. This was the fairest way and also part of the ritual of game playing for children. Everybody was “It” at one point or another, and some even liked being “It” because it gave them the power to make someone else “It”.

There are as many ways to select “It” as there are games to play. If time was precious, we would just draw straws (actually, blades of grass of twigs). The short stick was “It”. More often than not, though, picking “It” was a poetic song and dance involving rhymes and fists or feet. Everyone would stick one of their feet or fists (thumb-side up generally) into the center of a group and a rhyme was chanted as each foot or fist was touched. Basically, there are two different versions of selecting “It” in this fashion. Either the first person selected is “It” or they are freed and the last person remaining is “It”. Again, which version was used depended quite often on how much time we had to play. As each word (or syllable) in the rhyme was said out loud, a foot or fist would be hit (not too hard, but not too softly either!). The foot or hand that was hit as the last word in the rhyme was said would either be “It” or freed. Sometimes, children used two feet or two fists, thus requiring the elimination of both for selection. Oh yes, there are many rules for selecting who is “It” and often the rules for selecting “It” would take as long as the rules of the game itself.  Here are some of the rhymes that we used to select “It”.

One potato
Two potato

Three potato
Five potato
Six potato
Seven potato

So when “more” was said, the child whose foot or hand was hit would either be “IT”, “Free” or take one hand or foot out, leaving the other in to continue the selection process.

Eany, meany, miney, mo
Catch a tiger by his toe
If he hollers, let him go
Eany, meany, miney, mo


Engine, engine, number nine
Going down the Hudson Line
If the train falls off the track
Do you get your money back?

At this point, whoever was hit when “back” was said would say yes or no. If they said “yes”, the rhyme would continue as follows:
y-e-s spells yes, and you can have your money back.

My mother and your mother were hanging up clothes
My mother punched your mother right in the nose
What color was the blood?

(Again, the person who was hit as “blood” was said would select a color. If they selected red, it would continue as follows)

r-e-d spells red.

The selection of “It” was as important as the game itself. It was an aesthetic element of coming together to play. Even the physical proximity of the group was tightened when selecting “It” as everyone had to stand close with feet or fists together. It was as much an element of bonding with your friends as playing the game was.

How did you and your friends decide who was “It”?