Eenie Meenie Miney Mo – French Word Games & Nursery Rhymes

When learning a second language at an advanced level, it’s important to find your own style of expression; one of my goals as a French tutor is helping students to figure out how they would sound, what they would say, the things they would do, etc. if they grew up speaking French as their native language. How does your personality translate across language and culture to be expressed in French as a fully realized person? Would you use as much slang? Would your sense of humor be different? Would you articulate in the same was as you do in English? Bref, what would you be like if you grew up in French?

To help figure all this out, it’s great to step back in time and recast your common American experiences into French. We started this off with the French Mnemonics posts on the blog – it’s about transferring your knowledge over to its closest French equivalencies to recreate common French experiences that would have shaped you should you have grown up in France.

Nursery rhymes seem like a silly thing to learn as an advanced student of French, but these are part of the collective pool of knowledge all French speakers share. And since the French don’t like to talk about personal information when meeting people, it’s essential to be able to hold conversations about typically French experiences.

Click the links after each word game or rhyme for more resources!

Rock Paper Scissors – Pierre-Feuille-Ciseaux-Puits

Just to be difficult, the French had to throw a wrench in Rock Paper Scissors by adding ‘Puits’ – the pit. You shape your hand as if you were holding a bottle of water; Puits is only defeated by Paper as it lays on top of the opening. Rock and Scissors fall down into the Puits. Enjoy!

La pierre casse les ciseaux
La feuille recouvre la pierre et le puits
Les ciseaux coupent la feuille
Dans le puits tombent la pierre et les ciseaux

Image Credit: Canal Blog

Eenie Meenie Miney Mo – Am Stram Gram

Just follow the same rules as Eenie Meenie Miney Mo. Perfect for choosing in between that pain au chocolat or the croissant aux amandes 😉

Image Credit: Boldomatic

Duck Duck Goose – Le facteur n’est pas passé

Many countries around the world have variants of Duck Duck Goose. In France, this game is called Le facteur n’est pas passé (The Mailman Didn’t Pass By) and, rather than tapping the top of the head of whoever is ‘it,’ you drop a handkerchief on them!

Le facteur
Image Credit: Mama Lisa

Check Mama Lisa’s fantastic site for full rules and more information:

Au clair de lune

Au claire de lune is quite obviously a very well-known French nursery rhyme. Yet another good one to look at through the eyes of someone who now knows the French language thoroughly!

Au clair de la lune,
Mon ami Pierrot
Prête moi ta plume
Pour écrire un mot
Ma chandelle est morte
Je n’ai plus de feu
Ouvre-moi ta porte
Pour l’amour de Dieu !

Aux marches du palais

Aux marches
Image Credit: Isabelle Nicole

Aux marches du Palais is an adorable French princess fairytale story. This one is certainly best learned through TV5Monde’s video:

C’est la mère Michel qui a perdu son chat

This is for all the future cat ladies out there. In all seriousness, take note of the myriad of verb tenses used in this comptine: passé composé, conditionnel du passé, futur simple, and impératif. The French don’t ‘baby’ kids in the same way people might here in the States. You’ll notice adults speaking with kids in fully complex ways, not dumbing anything down.

Mere Michel.PNG
Image Credit: Isabelle Nicole

Dans sa maison un grand cerf

Warning: Do not watch if you don’t want Christmas jingles stuck in your head all day.

Dans sa maison un grand cerf
Regardait par la fenêtre
Un lapin venir à lui
Et frapper ainsi
Cerf, cerf, ouvre moi
Ou le chasseur me tuera
Lapin Lapin entre et viens
Me serrer la main (x3)

Frère Jacques

Frère Jacques, frère Jacques
Dormez-vous, dormez-vous ?
Sonnez les matines, sonnez les matines,
Ding, ding, dong, ding, ding, dong.

Frere Jacques
Image Credit: Isabelle Nicole

Savez-vous planter les choux ?

There’s honestly nothing more adorable than a kids song about planting cabbage. Enough said.

Savez-vous planter les choux,
A la mode, à la mode,
Savez-vous planter les choux,
A la mode de chez nous ?

On les plante avec le doigt,
A la mode, à la mode,
On les plante avec le doigt,
A la mode de chez nous.

Une souris verte

Une souris verte unfortunately has a bit in common with Alouette (see below); what seems to be a feel-good kids song is actually about killing the little mouse… At least the tune is sweet?

Une souris verte qui courait dans l’herbe
Je l’attrape par la queue
Je la montre à ces messieurs
Ces messieurs me disent :
Trempez-la dans l’huile,
Trempez-la dans l’eau,
Ça fera un escargot tout chaud !

And you can’t forget… Alouette

It’s a good thing most English-speaking kids don’t now what the words are saying in Alouette… You might be in for a rude awakening when you reread what they do to the poor bird! Maybe we’ll all get some foie gras out of the deal?

Image Credit: Momes

More resources for this and many other of the above word games and rhymes can be found on Momes (, Mama Lisa (, TV5 for kids (, and Il était une histoire (

I also recommend you look into Les Fables de la Fontaine – essentially the French version of Mother Goose stories. Jean de la Fontaine is a famous French writer who lived during the reign of Louis XIV; his set of children’s fables is the most widely known in France.

One thought on “Eenie Meenie Miney Mo – French Word Games & Nursery Rhymes

  1. Oh, I love this! Thanks for all the great info.

    Now I’m really tempted to start using Am Stram Gram all the time. Though, I’m not sure if I can get everyone else on board with rock, paper, scissors, pit.


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