SELECTED TURKISH CHILDREN’S GAMES
Aç Kapıyı Bezirgan Başı
Open the Door, Head Merchant
Two of the children hold their hands together like a bridge, and the others go under in single file. During the game, they sing this song:
- Open the gate, head merchant.
- I’ll open it, but what will you give me?
- Take the scoundrel behind me.
- One rat, two rats, three rats.
Whoever is under the bridge when they come to the end of the rhyme is caught by the children making the bridge.
Açıl Susam Açıl
Open Sesame, Open
This game is played by two children. One of them makes a fist and the other tries to get his finger into his fist. During the game, the children say:
- Open sesame, open.
- I won’t open.
- Where’s the key?
- It fell in the water.
- Where’s the water?
- The cow drank it.
- Where’s the cow?
- It ran off to the mountain.
- Where’s the mountain?
- It’s burned up and turned to ash.
Afterwards the children make a fist of both hands, put them to their chins and yell “vay benim köse sakalım” (Ah, my beardless beard!). -Erzincan
The Man’s Eye
This game is played by schoolboys and girls. One of them draws a face on the blackboard. Then the children put on a blindfold and try to find the man’s eye with the chalk. Whoever guesses wrong is made to sing a song, do an imitation, etc. -Şanlıurfa
The children choose a captain. The captain draws a straight line, and stands beside it to watch the jumps. The children then stand with their feet planted behind this line and jump, and wherever he or she comes down, a line is drawn. The winner is the one who has jumped the farthest.
Children lock fingers and make a bet on any subject, clinching it by saying the words below.
I swear, so help me,
Whoever breaks the bet, let him go blind
They then say “çek kopsun” (pull, let it break) and separate their fingers. Whoever wins the bet gets whatever reward was agreed upon in the bet. -Zile, Tokat
The game is played with five stones. The players start by casting the stones on the ground and then trying to pick them up one-by-one, and then in groups of two, three and four.
In the second part of the game, called köprü (bridge), the players must pass the stones one-by-one first through their thumb and forefinger, then through their forefinger and middle finger, middle finger and ring finger and finally their ring finger and little finger.
In the last part of the game, they throw all the stones in the air and try to catch a stone on the top of the hand. The stones caught are then grabbed by the same hand. The number of stones caught is entered into the player’s score. Whoever fails to catch a stone or comes in last in the “bridge” part, is out of the game. Whoever reaches the agreed-upon number first, wins the game. -Zonguldak
Birdirbir Oyunu / Uzun Eşşek
“One, it’s one” Game / Long Donkey
This game is played by girls and boys. The children use a counting game to choose who is “it” — the uzun eşşek (long donkey). They then jump over the “donkey’s” back, saying words that mean roughly “It’s one, it’s two, three, fly; four, throw the handkerchief; five, take the handkerchief; six, gather the apples…” etc. On the fourth jump, a kerchief is placed on the neck of the “donkey,” and on the fifth jump, it’s taken off. Those who forget to say the necessary words, say the words or fail to jump over, becomes “it.” -Şanlıurfa
The Walnut Game
The children pound a nail into the ground and put a coin on top of it. The players then try to knock the coin off the nail by throwing walnuts at it. Whoever succeeds in knocking the coin off puts the coin back in its place and waits by the nail. This player takes all the walnuts that the other children throw. The next to knock the coin off takes the last one’s place.
First the children chose a large stone or log as a target. They then divide into teams, and extend their hands in front of them, holding their left hands in their right. Then they recite the following poem, opening and closing their right hands with each syllable:
Spouse to spous, five to five
Bald man to bald man
At the end of the rhyme, they are divided into throwing or guarding teams, according to whether their hands are open or shut. If someone on the throwing team manages to throw the stick to within a long stick’s length of the target or hits the target, then all the members of the guarding team lose and the teams change places. A member of the guarding team tries to prevent this by hitting the short stick with a stick in his hand while it is in the air. Whoever succeeds then measures the length between the target and the stick with his long stick, and the number of lengths that comes up is added to his team’s score. If the guarding team catches the stick in the air, he gains ten points for his side, the other side loses and the teams change place.
Four and five-year old boys and girls roll hoops. As it’s considered a distinguished game, parents encourage their children to play it. The hoops are divided into fourths by wire or string passing across the middle. Sometimes additional hoops are added to these wooden hoops, resulting in multi-layered hoops, which are more durable than single ones. The hoops are rolled with sticks around 35 cm long. Several children compete together. Sometimes the end of a long piece of wire is bent in such a way as to fit inside the hoop, and used to keep the hoop rolling. Sometimes several children get together and compete to roll the hoop the distance between to set points. -Istanbul
This ceremony is held in February or March, according to how early spring comes. The children gather with sticks called köküç in hand, to dig crocus. The ends of the sticks are slightly burned so that they won’t bend while they are digging. Every child has a knitted bag on his shoulder, decorated with regional motifs. They go into the fields and dig the crocus without damaging the corm, and put it into their bags. While collecting the crocus, they play games such as çelik-çomak, sülenke, hınzo and değnek vurma. Later they remove all the crocus from the bags, peel the corms and tie the crocus into bunches of fifty. They tie these on to the end of their sticks, and go back to the village, singing songs. They go from house to house singing the following song:
Gıdıman has come to the house
Bring out some butter
Who ever gives butter, may they have a on
Who ever gives bulgur, may they have a daughter
Whoever gives nothing, may God take what they have
Let’s say Allah, Allah
The homeowner gives them some butter, bulgur, salt etc. Then the children take these ingredients, go out into the fields, make pilaf and eat it happily, play various games and sing songs. -Boğazlıyan, Yozgat
Poor people have devised a ritual in order to gather flour and bulgur and entertain their children. The children go to homes and repeat this rhyme:
Çömçe gelin ne ister
Allah’tan rahmet ister
Göbekli harman ister
Koç koyun kurban ister
Ver Allah’ım ver
Bir yağmurnan seeel…
What does the çömçe gelin* need?
She needs grace from God
The big bellied man needs a good harvest
The ram needs to be sacrificed
Give my Allah, give
Your rain in a flooooood… -Urfa-
*A çömçe gelin is a large doll that is used during rain ceremonies.
This game is played by two children with nine stones, on the board below. Each player has different colored stones. The players put their stones on the board and move them from intersection to intersection. Whoever manages to get three stones in a row wins the game. -Niğde
The players stand in a circle holding hands. One side of the circle is open. The children then sing the words below to a simple rhyme and pass through each other. The child who goes between the arms of the children, folds his hands and turns to face outside the circle. The other children follow suit.
The words are:
Box box pliers
Let him eat the apple
Let my friend Ayşe
Turn her back
In the second half of the game, the children reverse the movements they did before and turn back into the circle, and sing:
Box box pliers
Let him eat the apple
Let my friend Ali
Turn forward. (İçel)
This is played between two children. They stand facing each other, and one of them extends his hands palms up. The second child places his hands facing down on the palms of the first child. The first one then tries to move quickly and slap the hands of the second child, who tries to pull them out of the way. When the first child succeeds, the players change places. -Antalya
Closing the Fez
One of the children puts an aşık, the kneecap of a sheep or goat) into a fez, and then quickly turns it over, closing it on the floor. One of the others guesses which side of the bone is up, saying “aç” (“hungry,” the concave side of the bone) or “tok” (full, the convex side) and puts one or more aşıks on top of the fez. Then the fez is lifted. If the position of the aşık is as the child guessed, then the one who turned the hat must give the successful guesser as many aşıks as he put on the hat. If the guess was wrong, then all the aşıks go to the one who closed the fez. The act of winning aşıks is called yutma (lit. “swallowing”). -Balıkesir
Fiş Fış Kayıkçı
Fshh Fshh Boatman
This game is played indoors. Two children sit face-to-face, put their feet together and lock hands. Repeating the rhyme below, they pull each other back and forth:
Fshh fshh boatman
The boatman’s oar
His heart is dancing
Fincan böreği* for dinner
Sometimes children’s mother, father and siblings take part in the game. -Bartın
*Fincan böreği is a type of filled fried pastry cut out with a fincan, or Turkish coffee cup.
Gölgeye Basma Oyunu
Stepping on Shadows
This game is played outside on sunny days. One of the children is chosen to be “it.” Whoever’s “it” stands in the middle of the area and the other children scatter around him. When the game starts, the one who’s “it” tries to step with his foot on the other children’s shadows, as they try to evade him. Whoever has had his shadow stepped on then raises his hand and tells the other children that he’s now “it.”
This game is played with glass or steel marbles/bearings. The players place marbles in a line at particular intervals in the playing area. There is also a set target line. The children then use shooter marbles to hit the marbles close to the target line. The order of turns is determined by who gets the marble closest to the target line. They must shoot without moving their arms, and fire the shooters by squeezing them between their thumb and forefinger. The players squeeze their shooters towards the marbles in the line. If a player hits any marble, then he can hit other marbles as well. Every marble hit goes to the one who hit it. The game ends when all the marbles have been hit. -Antakya
Played between two children, who draw lots to see who will go first. Whoever comes out first, thinks of the name of a singer/actor etc. or a city, and draws as many lines on a piece of paper as there are letters in the word. His opponent tries to guess the name or the city. If he guesses correctly, the letter is written over the line; if wrong, below the line. The opponent has as many chances to guess as there are letters in the word. If he cannot guess the word before using all his tries, the game is over and the players switch sides. They keep score by recording their right and wrong guesses. The player who guessed correctly the most times wins the game. -Şanlıurfa
Hakim-Davacı (Kadı Çavuş)
Judge and Plaintiff
The players sit in a circle on the floor and throw a coffee cup. The one who manages to throw it mouth up is the “judge.” The one who throws it mouth down is the “plaintiff.” Those who throw it on its side are hit on their hands with a switch by the plaintiff, at the order of the judge, who also tells him how many times to hit. After all the hitting is done, the game starts over. -Muğla
Halat Çekme Oyunu
Tug of War
Two children pick their players by using a choosing rhyme: “Ben beni ben de beni bul ba beş al beğendiğini.” When two equal teams have been formed, a line is drawn and both teams hold each end of a rope and begin to pull. The object is to pull the opposing team over the line. The winning team is the one who pulls all the opposing team’s members to their side.
Robber and Policeman
This game requires as many matches as there are players. The end of one of the matches is burnt, and the end of another is broken. The rest are left as they are. One of the players holds the matches, hiding the head ends in his hand. The others each take one of these without showing it to the others. The one who draws the broken match is the “robber,” and the one who draws the burned mtach is the “policeman.” The other children are “members.” The thief can “kill” another child by winking at him. However if he winks at the policeman, the policemen catches him by saying “nani nani.” -Mardin
This is played on the streets by girls. There are three ways to play:
Alone, turning the rope alone.
One girl jumping a rope twirled by two girls.
More than one jumping in a rope twirled by two girls.
The rope should be long enough to touch the ground and allow for the heights of the girls jumping. When more than one play, one player must jump as many times as another. There are various ways to jump:
Çat arası: Catching the rope between the legs at the end of the jumping.
Kurbağalama: Catching the rope between the hands and legs at the end of the jumping.
Tek ayak üstünde atlama: Jumping on one foot.
“No break” jumping. Played together, with no break. Whoever fails to jump or to do the right action at the end of the jumping is out, and takes the place of one of the girls turning the rope. Whoever makes it through without a mistake wins the game. -Bartın
“Blind Kid”(Blind Man’s Bluff)
In the region, a year-old goat is called a çepiş. Yearling goats have locks of hair on their foreheads. To determine which child is to be “it,” one of the players takes a bead, a small stone or a ring and hides in one hand without showing the others. The others say a little rhyme and try to find the empty hand:
Onesies twosies threesies…
The black chicken, the bitch
It’s in this one, it’s in that one,
it’s with the halvah maker’s daughter
Whoever guesses correctly then hides the object and the former child will not be “it,” and the one who guesses the empty hand correctly is also freed from being “it.” The point is to get rid of the object. The last one to be left with the object becomes “it.” His eyes are bound with a kerchief etc. as in “Blind Man’s Bluff.” He then tries to catch one of the other kids. The first child who is caught becomes “it” for the next game. -Ula, Muğla
“Blind Midwife” (Blind Man’s Bluff)
In Turkish, the word for “it” is ebe; literally, “the midwife.” The player to be “it” is chosen with the following rhyme:
I peeled an orange, and put it by my pillow
I thought up a lie
Duma duma dum
The “blind midwife’s” eyes are bound with whatever piece of cloth is available. The players draw a large circle out of which none of them may exit. As they walk around the blind midwife, they sing this song:
We sing a song and walk around
Go on, guess who we are!
With your cane, blind midwife
Show us who we are!
The children also try and get the “midwife” made by saying “beni ebelesene, beni ebelesene” (why don’t you turn me into a midwife?). If the blind midwife gets too close to the edge of the circle, the players warn “her” saying “don’t go there, it’s dangerous.” Whoever the blind midwife catches, he/she must then identify with eyes still bound. Whoever the midwife identifies, become the next “blind midwife.”
Köroğlu Kaleden Çıktı
Köroğlu Came Down Out of the Castle
Köroğlu is a legendary hero of the Turks. The players are divided into two groups, those who are in the “castle” (home base) and those who are hiding. The leader of the ones in the castle says “Köroğlu has come down out of the castle,” and starts looking for those in hiding. Then one of the ones hiding goes to the castle and begins to hit the ones inside. The ones in the castle then cry for help from their leader, crying “Köroğlu, save us!” Köroğlu comes to the castle, and if he sees one of the opponents, the game is over. The teams switch sides in the next game.
From Ear to Ear
This game is played by boys and girls on winter nights. The child who is “it” has all the other children sit side by side, and sits on the end. He or she then whispers a sentence or rhyme in the ear of the child next to him. The second player must say the same sentence or rhyme to the one next to him, and so on until it has reached the other end of the line. The last child then says the phrase aloud. It is usually different than the way the first child said it. Then all the children say it, from last to first, and whichever child changed it, becomes the next “it.” -Çanakkale
Grab the Kerchief
The children divide into two equal teams. Each player has a number. The “judge,” sitting in the middle of a circle holding a handkecrcief, calls the players by numbers. One of the most common bluffs used in the game is to make as if one will grab the handkerchief, and allow the opponent to catch the handkerchief and catch him. Whichever team succeeds in grabbing the handkerchief the most times, wins the game. The losing team is “punished” by being made to carry the other children on their backs, sing a song, or forced to do some ridiculous act. Sometimes the winning team gets a prize put in the center. -Trabzon
Hide the Handkerchief
One of the children is selected as “it.” The other children kneel close to each other and form a circle. The player who is “it” is in the middle, and the other players try to pass a handkerchief around, hiding it between their knees without being seen. The player who is “it” must guess correctly who has the handkerchief. Whoever is caught with the handkerchief is “it” in the next round. -Karabayır
This game is played on a table, and requires three coins. The players sit across from one another at the table, and flip a coin to see who will go first. The player has to flick the coins, one between the other two, with his finger and move towards the “goal” which the other player makes with his first and little finger. On the last flick he tries to make a goal. If the coin falls off the table during the game, the turn goes to the other player, and the game resumes with the coin being placed where it fell from the table. Whoever succeeds in making the number of goals decided beforehand, wins the game.
Hide and Go Seek
The first “it” is chosen with one or another counting rhyme. He then puts his face up to a circle drawn on a wall, covers his eyes with his hands, and counts to fifty. While he is counting, the other children hide. When he finishes counting, he says “arkam, önüm, sağım, solum, saklanmayan ebe, gördüklerim sobe,” (my back, my front, my right, my left, whoever isn’t hiding is “it,” whoever I see is home free, the Turkish version of “ally ally otzen free”) and begins searching for the other children. He must call them by name. Sometimes the children change clothes in order to confuse him; if he calls the wrong name they say “kazan, çömlek patladı” (the kettle, the pot smashed). In this case the old “it” has to hide again. The first one seen is “it” for the next round. -Aydıntepe, Bayburt
Hide and Go Seek
Girls older than 15 said they didn’t play this game any more because they considered it too simple. The player to be “it” is chosen by choosing stones. Whichever player guesses which hand the stone is in is freed from being “it,” and it continues until someone is chosen. The “it” closes his or her eyes until the children hiding says “okay, we’re ready.” Then “it” starts hunting them. The first child seen is “it” for the next game. As soon as “it” finds someone, he/she yells “ebe var!” (we have an “it”) and the other children come out of their hiding places. -Istanbul
Sar Sar Makara
Wind Spool, Wind
This game is played by at least five boys or girls. All the children stand in a circle. The children then sing a song together and do what it says:
Sar sar makara - Wind spool, wind. (They move their hands as if winding a spool.)
Çöz çöz makara – Unwind spool, unwind. (They move their hands as if unwinding a spool.)
Şöyle de böyle de şap şap – This way, that way, shap shap – (They clap their hands together.)
Komşu! Şap şap! – Neighbor! Shap shap! (They put their hands on their knees and lean forward.)
Aslan geliyor, Kaplan geliyor. Tıp tıp! – A lion is coming, a tiger is coming. Freeze!(Everyone stands motionless.)
The person who is “it” then goes into the middle of the circle, and tickles the childrens’ necks. Whoever laughs is out of the game. Whoever keeps from laughing until the end is the winner, and gets a prize or applause. -Ağrı
This is played by two or more boys or girls. The children draw the pattern shown below and then shuffle stones over it with their feet. The object is to move the rock through the pattern without it touching the lines. Of course the players must also not step on the lines. Each child must shuffle the stone through the squares hopping on one foot. The game is starting by throwing the stone onto square 1. The player then hops on one foot and with his foot, kicks the stone onto the second square. They throw the stones on the first, then second and third squares and hop through them. The player hops to the stone in the right square and then knocks the stone out of it with his foot. If the stone lands on the line, the player steps on a line, or steps with both feet where he is not allowed to do so, then he loses his turn and the second player begins. When each player’s turn comes, they pick up where they left off. When a player reaches square 5, he/she may step with both feet.
The game is played by two children on the pattern below:
The player shuffles the stone over the squares, named for their numbers. As in the drawing, squares 1, 2, 3 and 4 are the also the same as 7, 8, 9 and 10. After each course, the player tosses his stone on the next square and begins the game. If he tosses his stone on the wrong square, steps on a line or “stutters” (fails to move the stone to the next square with a single hit), then he is “stuck,” and loses his turn. Resuming the game, he asks the other, “semiz kaçlı” (How many semiz – lit. “fat”). The other child says “birli çiftli semiz,” (single double fat) and the player hops through the entire course on one foot. Then he asks “iç mi dış mı?” (the inside or the outside?). If the other player says “inside,” the first player enters the first square and tosses the stone to the fifth square. Then he closes his eyes and goes to the fifth square. After he picks up the stone, he opens his eyes and tosses it back to the first square, closes his eyes, goes back to the first square, picks up the stone, and finishes the game. If the other player says “outside,” then the player tosses his stone past squares 5 and 6, and continues as if the other had said “inside.” This last part of the game is called “birli çiftli iç ya da dış” (single, double, inside or outside). After this part of the game, the player turns his back to the squares and throws the stone over his shoulder to any square. The square on which the stone fell is then considered the player’s “kuma” (lit. “second wife”). When he comes to the square during the game, he may stand with both feet or open his eyes. If a player throws his stone on his opponent’s “kuma,” then he is “stuck” and can’t continue. The game is over when all the squares have been taken as “kuma.”
This game is played outside by five or six people. According to the order in which they’ll play, the players put their sticks in a row, one pace apart. A player hops over the sticks on one foot and returns to where he began. He must do this three times without knocking a stick from its place and without touching his other foot to the ground. If he succeeds, he takes his own stick and leaves the game. If he fails, he must wait until it is his turn again. If the space between the sticks is widened by the removal of a stick, then they can be moved closer together.
Run Away Rabbit
The children form a circle holding hands. One of the children is the rabbit, the other is the hound. The rabbit waits inside the circle, the hound outside. The children in the circle go around in a circle and say the rhyme below and the rabbit does various things according to the rhyme. At the end of the rhyme, the rabbit runs and the hound tries to catch him. If the rabbit is caught, he becomes the hound in the next game.
Hendekte bir tavşan uyuyordu
Tavşan bana baksana
Yakışmıyor bu sana
Tavşan kaç, tavşan kaç
A rabbit was sleeping in a ditch (they mime a rabbit)
Rabbit, take a look at me
This doesn’t become you
Run away rabbit, run away! -Tekirdağ
Played in a group. The children walk together until the person who is “it” says “Tıp” (Freeze). All the children stop in their tracks and don’t move. Any child that moves, talks or laughs after the command to freeze receives a penalty. The children may not move until they receive permission. -Antakya
This is played by two children. The players each have a pen and paper, and write the numbers from 1 – 10 in a row, with space between. One of the players then writes a number between 1 and 10 on the back side of his paper, and asks his opponent to guess the number. For example, if he thinks of the number “5” and his friend doesn’t guess correctly, then he draws a line over the number “5” on his sheet. If his friend guesses it, then he may not draw a line. Then the turn goes to his opponent. The next line will be on the side, under, and on the other side, i.e. to make a square (a “wagon”) around the number. When all the numbers are enclosed in squares, the “train” then the train “leaves the station.” The one who manages to complete his train first wins. He then picks up his “train” and says “tooooooooooot!” -Trabzon
Tuğara / Tulgara
This game is usually played at night, by both girls and boys. The players divide into two teams of equal numbers. They play “heads or tails” to decide which team will hide. The players who are “it” go into a square drawn on the ground and count to three hundred. During this time the other team hides somewhere all together. When the counting is done, the “it” team goes looking for them. When they find them, they yell “tuğara / tulgara tulgara tulgara!” (These words bear some resemblance to the word “tangara,” the name for idols during the Turks’ Shamanistic period.) Even if only one of those hiding is seen, the teams then switch places. -Bayburt
This game needs eight boys to play. The boys divide into two teams of four and play “heads or tails” to find which team will “lie” and which team will “mount.” After they flip, one team gets to get on the backs of the other team members. One player from the “lying” team leans up against a wall, as a “pillow.” The other children on his team then put their heads between the legs of the next one, and support this child. The members of the “mounting” team then jump on the backs of the “long donkey” in order. The child who got on first holds up a number of fingers. Of the “lying” team, only the “pillow” can see this number. One of the others on the team says a number. If he guesses right, or if one of the mounting team falls when jumping on the backs of the others, the teams switch places. Otherwise the game is repeated with the teams in the same positions. -Niğde
I Sell Butter
First someone as chosen to be “it.” Then the players sit in a circle on the floor facing each other. The player who is “it” takes a handkerchief, ties a knot in one corner, and sings the song that gives the game its name:
I sell butter, I sell honey
My master has died, and I sell it
My master’s fir is yellow
If I sell it, it’s 15 liras
Turn and take a good look behind you.
As the child who is “it” walks around, he/she places the handkerchief behind one of the players without him seeing it. As soon as the player notices the handkerchief, he grabs it and starts chasing the “it.” If the “it” manages to sit in his place without being caught, the one who got the handkerchief then becomes “it.” If he is not caught then he continues as “it.” In another version, the player who chases the “it” hits him with the knotted end of the handkerchief until he manages to sit in his place. Then the child with the handkerchief continues as “it” in the next round.
Yakar Top / Elamsama
The players divide into two equal teams, which stand facing each other a certain distance apart. The area where the teams are is called the kale (fortress). The teams each send two people, called “ambassadors,” to the opposite team. One of the teams throws a ball into the air towards the opposite team. As soon as they do, one of the “ambassadors” on the opposite team runs quickly towards the team that threw the ball. One player on the opposite team then catches the ball and throws it at the fleeing “ambassador.” If he hits him, the ambassador “dies” and is out of the game. Then the second team throws the ball and the other team throws it at their ambassador. The game continues with new ambassadors. The team that loses all its ambassadors loses the game. -Çorum
Yazı mı Tura mı?
Heads or Tails?
In Turkish, the equivalent to “Heads” and “Tails” is yazı, or “writing,” and tuğra (tura), or “seal” – the image of Atatürk. One of the children places a coin into his beret and shakes it, then overturns it on the ground and asks “yazı mı tura mı?” If he guesses correctly then he wins and it becomes his turn to flip the coin, otherwise the first child continues to flip. -Istanbul
The Ring Game
The object is to pass a ring across the fingers of one hand without any help from the other hand. The player takes the ring in his/her hand and tosses it in the air, then catches it on the back of the same hand. The ring on the hand is passed between the index and middle finger, then between the remaining fingers. If the player drops the ring or fails to pass it between the other fingers, he/she receives some punishment. -Amasya
Source: Özdemir , Nebi. Türkiye Çocuk Oyunları Kataloğu, Ankara: Akçağ Yayinlari, 2006.