Wee Willie Winkie

Wee Willie Winkie seems to be a staple in Orff Schulwerk repertoire. It is something that I have encountered during my undergraduate career and in many Orff workshops. I personally have not used this with my students, but wanted to look into it because it seems like many other teachers use this song regularly.

Suggested Grade Levels: 1st grade, 2nd grade


The subject of Wee Willie Winkie first appeared in a poem written by William Miller in 1841. The original poem contained more stanzas than the rhyme most commonly known today. See the original Scottish poem here.

Willie Winkie, the crier of the town, would run about and check to make sure that children were in their beds by 8 o’clock. Due to his constant presence, Willie was compared to the Sandman, a figure who would come to children at night to bring them to sleep.

It has also been mentioned that Willie Winkie was the Jacobite name for King George III. While they shared a name, it is unlikely that the Willie Winkie of the rhyme is a reference to the king. It is more probable that it was a name used for alliteration and convenience.

“Streets & Alleys” is a great game to accompany Wee Willie Winkie. To play, children need to set themselves in a grid formation. All of them must be facing the same direction in order for the game to work properly. The kids in the grid will extend their arms so that their finger tips are touching when the word “street” is called. This will create a column effect. When the word “alley” is called, they will change their body facing all together, now creating a row effect.

Once the grid is set up and the instructions are established, two children will be asked to step out to opposite ends of the grid. One is a cat and one is a mouse. The cat must catch the mouse as they run through the “streets” and “alleys.” The cat and mouse cannot go underneath the arms of the children in the grid. See the video below to see how the game is played.

Classroom Applications:
–Mi-sol-la song
–Opportunity for dramatic play

“Streets & Alleys” game that you can use for Wee Willie Winkie
Video of children singing, playing, and performing Wee Willie Winkie


–Alchin, L. (n.d.). Wee Willie Winkie. Nursery Rhymes Lyrics, Origins & History. http://www.rhymes.org.uk/wee_willie_winkie.htm

–Bow Tie Music. (2020, September 18). Wee Willie Winkie (song, game, and Orff instrument activity) [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4jUY9CcdlVQ

–Fone, M. (2015, September 10). Tales from the nursery – part twenty four. Windowthroughtime. https://windowthroughtime.wordpress.com/tag/origin-of-wee-willie-winkie/

–Opie, I., & Opie, P. (Ed.). (1951). The Oxford dictionary of nursery rhymes. Oxford University Press.

–Ultimatecampresource. (2010, August 6). Streets and alleys camp game – ultimate camp resource [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3hDBIVwOwp4

Wee Willie Winkie. (n.d.). All Nursery Rhymes. https://allnurseryrhymes.com/wee-willie-winkie/

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