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10 Timeless Jamaican Ring Games
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traditional jamaican ring gamesTraditional Jamaican Ring Games

Let me tell you this, you could be as much out of breath repeating the list of Jamaican Ring Games as you would be participating in many of them. There’s also a good chance that your throat would get dry from singing the accompanying songs too.

See Also: The full list of traditional Jamaican games

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Ring games and other Jamaican children’s pastimes were de rigueur prior to the mid 1990’s. Those of us who are late twenties may have been around when the popularity of Jamaica children’s pastimes began to recede. Those were the days of sunshine and outdoors. Before video games, colour television, cable TV, 24hr TV programming, the Internet and computer games.

In those days it was almost unholy just to pass the time cooped up indoors. There were ring games, hand games, skipping, marbles, kite flying and so much more. Boredom was unheard of because we had ten thousand ways to inject fun and frolic into any day. It was even more fun when the adults jumped in and strutted their stuff. That was pretty cool. 

In those days were had our parents wondering where our energy came from. Yeah. We had them literally scratching their heads. Now we have the Ministry of Health and Wellness scratching its head trying to come up with ways to get the nation to become physically active again. Very sad.

Anyway, back to the subject of Jamaican Ring Games. The games shared here are not all Jamaican originals.

Based on the influence of our diverse culture some of these games have been Jamaicanized. Oh and did I mention that we have more than a few?

Well ten (10) have been selected just for you.

1) Bull Inna Pen

This game inspired the Jamaican dance move known as ‘raging bull’ with a corresponding song by the recording artiste Mr. Vegas, featuring Overmars.

Basically the ring is called a pen and a participant posing as a bull will try to breach the pen to make an escape.

This can prove difficult as the children holding the ring find creative ways to close the gaps. All the while the ‘bull’ is being taunted with the words, “Bull inna pen caah cum out! A new bull enters the pen whenever one escapes.

2) Run Bredda Rat

This is an exciting ring game it begins in the ring but it won’t necessarily remain/end there…it has an energetic twist! Two selected opponents face off in an angry (faked) dialogue between Brother Rat and Brother Puss.

Puss: Good morning Bredda Rat.

Rat: Good morning Bredda Puss.

Puss: I heard that you went into my father’s cane piece and cut out the very best cane.

Rat: So what about it?

Puss: Something about it…if a ketch yu a crick yu neck.

With Bredda Puss throwing down the gauntlet a chase immediately ensues with Rat trying to elude Puss. Both will make twists and turns between those who form the ring. The ring participants sing to encourage the adversaries.

“Run Bredda Rat! Bredda Puss ago ketch yu.” Or to encourage Bredda Puss,“lay lay I will catch you today.”

More energetic participants can navigate the whole school grounds or playing area until rat is caught and the scenario is repeated with a new pair facing off.

3) Those Who Born In January

I think this is the most popular ring game in Jamaica and it is the one that is most commonly used in schools as a teaching tool. It is a straightforward game. Just listen for your birth month and while it is being sung you skip around the ring.

It’s a great game for getting to know the birth month of classmates or love interest at church socials or fairs.

You may even end up skipping around with someone you have been secretly admiring.

4) Ring A Rig A Rosy

This game is not a Jamaican original but local dancehall deejay Elephant Man created a song with a sample of lines from this game.

They go something like this...

“Ring a Rig a Rosy, pocket full a posy asham asham yu all fell down, ashes in the water ashes in the sea, shizzle mah nizzle di girls dem dead ova we”.

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5) Twenty Four (24) Bounces

Bring your dancing shoes because in this lively game the participants get a chance to show off their dancing skills.

The song talks about a girl/boy from over yonder who impresses everyone with his/her ability to do the 24 bounces.

At this point the girl/boy chooses a dancing partner and begins to dance. The lead singer challenges the dancer by complicating the dance e.g. way down low, side by side, back to back, foot to foot and so on.

The dance partner then takes over and the bounces continue. Soon you’ll be doing the 24 bounces too… that is if you don’t have two left feet.

6) There’s a Brown (Dark) Girl in the Ring

Although it says girl in the title boys can play it too. The participant in the center of the ring is introduced:

 “There’s a brown girl in the ring sha la la la laa (rep x3) she looks like a sugar in a plum.” 

The participant is invited to show his/her motion i.e. show what he/she can do. The participant makes an interesting movement or sound.

The song prompts ‘Brown Girl’ to “Skip and take a partner, this person will become the next person in the center of the ring while the previous participant falls into the ring and the game continues.

I have used this game on Career Day at school the participant in the center mimes a motion that is common to their career interest. Eg an aspiring footballer (soccer player) would mime juggling a football. 

7) Riddim Selector / Who sell Out

A very good listening game. The leader begins with a rhythmic clapping which everyone tries to replicate then he/she sings inserting names to in time to the rhythm.  E.g. 

Leader: Mark

Mark: Oiie (yes)

Leader: Who sell out?

Mark: Mitsy

Leader: Mitsy…?

Whoever fails to answer in tune to the rhythm is “O-U-T out” this the entire ring spells out in unison with the rhythm.

Once you’re out you fall out of the ring but you still help with the singing. As the game intensifies, the leader often changes the pace and pattern of the rhythm to keep things interesting and catch you off guard.

Progressively the ring members are reduced until it gets to the last two. May the best man (or woman) win.

So listen keenly and stay pon di riddim or else you’ll be O-U-T!

8) Yes, Barrister (Skipping in the Ring)

I was introduced to this one when I came to St. Elizabeth. The participants select a ‘judge” who occupies a position just away from the ring.

Everyone sings a song, “Skipping in the ring”. The judge invites a selected person to “choose the one yu love” and bring to the judge.

The ring goes silent as judge asks a series of questions to which the person who made the selection must respond such as:

Judge: A dis ya man yu love?

Participant: Yes Barrister!

Judge: A tall man (or any other adjective describing the person) yu love?

Participant: Yes Barrister!  

At this point the judge may ask additional questions to amuse the audience at the expense of the ‘loved one’ and may finally decide to keep them in the ring or kick them out.

If the love one was kicked out a new round of selection begins. Both adults and children play this game. Warning: you may not find all the judge’s adjectives complementary. It’s all in good fun though.

And guess what? A dis yah game mi love.

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9) What can you do PunchinelloLittleFellow?

Another very popular game here. Most children know it and stillenjoy playing it too. It is lighthearted and fun with a catchy repetitive song.

In this game Punchinello (male/female) stands in the center and is asked...

“What can you do Punchinello little fellow? What Can you do Punchinello little dear?”

Punchinello then demonstrates, in response the participants then sing...

“We can do it too Punchinello little fellow! We can it too Punchinello little dear!” 

They then demonstrate their version of the action shown while singing...

“This is how we do it Punchinello little fellow! This is how we do it Punchinello little dear?”

Punchinello is then asked, "Who is coming next?"

At which time a new Punchinello is selected and the fun continues.

10) Saltfish deh pah Counter 

Another game that’s easy on the body is this one, Saltfish deh pah Counter.

The ring is formed with a person in the center, that person is the ‘saltfish’. Then the chant  begins:

Saltfish deh pah counter

An it nu ha no owna 

So meck it tan deh rotten till di owna come fah

An a ru kum ku kum ku dash,

Ana ru kum ku kum kum dash,

An a ru kum ku kum kum, ru kum ku kum kum, ru kum ku kum kum dash.

One of my current students told me about this ring game. She says at the point of the series of ru kum ku kum kums the person in the center of the ring does a dance in front of a random person who next becomes ‘saltfish’ when the last line is said.

Since we are a people with ‘riddim inn a wi bones’ you can imagine the waistline moving to the ru kum ku kum kumd dem!

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BONUS: Follow The Leader

Get ready to laugh at yourself and maybe others too.

First a participant is selected and sent to an area out of earshot. The ring then huddles and selects a leader. The singing begins instructing everyone to “Follow the leader, leader, leader, follow the leader.”

The leader does an opening action and all the followers join in. The person who was sent away is then called back and will have to try and find the leader. Remember everyone is now doing the same thing.

The group must discretely observe the leader and comply smoothly if the action is changed. This makes it harder for the seeker to catch on. 

Sometimes if the action gets too repetitious (when it takes a while to identify who the leader is) the group sings, “Change leader, change”.

The leader changes the action when the seeker is not looking in his/her direction. When the leader is discovered he/she becomes the seeker, a new leader is then selected and the fun continues.

I find that this game teaches us to support our leaders and to be a keen observer of people’s actions. It is also a lot of fun to play.

There are many Jamaican Ring Games that could not be included here. 

These include:

  1. The Farmer in the Dell
  2. Old Macdonald 
  3. Johnny was a Miller
  4. One and Twenty
  5. Back to Back my Baby,
  6. Bingo was his Name 
  7. and Zacky yu Knee Caah Ben.

Sorry we could not include them all but you should see at least one or two that you can remember playing or would like to play with your children, grandchildren, other family members or old friends.

What was your favourite game?

WATCH CLIP: Keville Jr. drives his Drinks Box Truck :-)

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Other Sources & References for Traditional Jamaican Ring Games

  1. Senior, Olive, Encyclopedia of Jamaican Heritage, 2003

  2. "Jamaican Games - The Good Ole Stuff",,

  3. "Games played by children in Jamaica",,

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