How to Play the Bubble Gum Counting Game

By Kate Lee

Children use this simple counting game in order to choose a player who is “it” for a game such as tag, or to determine who goes first in a group game. The bubble gum counting game can be fun for children, and it can help them practice basic counting skills. To play the bubble gum counting game, the players first have to pick one person to do the counting. The same player may do the counting throughout the game, or the players may take turns doing the counting.

Choose one player to be the counter.

Have all the players sit in a circle and hold out both hands in the shape of fists. As the counter, you hold out only one fist.

Tap each player’s hand while reciting, “Bubble gum, bubble gum, in a dish. How many pieces do you wish?” As you work your way around the circle, you may tap a hand for each word or each syllable, or whatever rhythm seems to flow comfortably with the phrase. You should also tap your own free hand, and you may tap the place where your other hand would be if you were not counting.

Have the player whose hand you tapped during the word “wish” choose a number. You may want to limit the wisher’s selection to numbers between 1 and 10, or numbers that you can reasonably count.

Tap the hands again, following the same order, the number of times chosen by the wisher. Tap one hand for each number.

Have the player whose hand is tapped during the last number take his or her hand out of the circle. This player’s hand is “out” and cannot be it.

Repeat the game until only one hand is left in the circle. This player is the winner, and gets to be “it” or first during the game.


Counting games like the bubble gum game work best with children who are too young to calculate how it will turn out, based on the numbers they choose.

If the children have difficulty choosing one player to start the counting, you may want to use a different choosing game, such as pick a number or drawing straws, to get them started. They can then use the bubble gum game to continue their selection.


Remind the children that they should be gently tapping, not hitting, each other’s hands.