“Three Little Girls A-Skating Went”


"Three little girls a-skating went, a-skating went, a-skating went, Three little girls a-skating went All on a summer day." "The ice was thin, they all fell in, they all fell in, they all fell in... Or else they've run away."

Supplemental text

Three Little Girls A-Skating Went
  Complete text(s)

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From _Tommy Thumb's Pretty Song Book (Volume II)_, c., 1744,
as printed in William S. Baring-Gould and Ceil Baring-Gould,
_The Annotated Mother Goose_, p.46, item #32.

Three children sliding on the Ice
  Upon a Summer's Day,
As it fell out they all fell in,
  The rest they ran away.

Oh! had those children been at School,
  Or sliding on dry Ground,
Ten Thousand Pounds to one Penny,
  They had not then been drown'd.

Ye Parents who have children dear,
  And eke ye that have none,
If you would keep them safe abroad
  Pray keep them all at home.


Although most American editors seem unaware of the connection, this goes back at least to the eighteenth century in Britain, and was common in garlands in that period. It has been ascribed to John Gay and to the editor of _Mother Goose's Melody_ (Oliver Goldsmith?). However, its appearance in Tommy Thumb's storybook pretty well precludes Goldsmith's authorship, and I know of no reason to believe in Gay's.

The original air is said to have been "Chevy Chase," but this does not appear to have been the tune used in the U. S. - RBW

Opie-Oxford2, p. 19: "In The Lamentations of a Bad Market ... it is the twelfth, eighteenth, and nineteenth stanzas which are known to the world; thet tell of 'Three children sliding on the ice' [Opie-Oxford2 99, "Three children sliding on the ice"]." - BS

Cross references

  • cf. "The Lamentations of a Bad Market" (and notes there)


  1. Linscott, pp. 288-289, "Three Children Sliding on the Ice" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. Randolph 588, "Three Little Girls A-Skating Went" (1 text)
  3. Opie-Oxford2 99, "Three children sliding on the ice" (2 texts)
  4. Baring-Gould-MotherGoose #32, p. 46, "(Three children sliding on the ice)"
  5. ST R588 (Full)
  6. Roud #3744
  7. BI, R588


Alternate titles: “Six Little Girls A-Sliding Went”; “The Ice Was Thin”
Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1651 (The Loves of Hero and Leander, according to Opie-Oxford2)
Found in: US(MW,NE,So) Britain