Mother May I?


Mother May I?

Mother May I? is a children's game. Also known as "Captain May I?" and "Father May I?".

Objective, Rules, and General Gameplay

One player, particularly a female (but sometimes a male) plays the "mother", "father" or "captain". The other players are the "children" or "crewmembers". To begin the game, the mother or father stands at one end of a room, while all the children line up at the other end. The children take turns asking "Mother/Father, may I ____?" and makes a movement suggestion. For example, one might ask, "Mother/Father, may I take five steps forward?" The mother/father either replies "Yes, you may" or "No, you may not do that, but you may _____ instead" and inserts his/her own suggestion. The players usually move closer to the mother/father but are sometimes led farther away. Even if the mother/father makes an unfavorable suggestion, the child must still perform it. The first of the children to reach the location of the mother/father wins the game. That child then becomes the mother/father himself, the original mother/father becomes a child, and a new round begins.

Some suggestions that fill in the "Mother/Father/Captain, may I ____?" blank include:

  • Take (#) steps forward
  • Take (#) GIANT steps forward (usually a small number, due to large step size)
  • Take (#) BABY steps forward (usually a large number, due to tiny step size)
  • Take (#) umbrella steps forward [1]
  • Hop forward like a frog, (#) times
  • Run forward for (#) seconds
  • Crabwalk forward for (#) seconds
  • Take (#) CINDERELLA steps - Twirl forward with index finger touching the top of the head (Manhattan, late '40s)

If the "children" are reaching the "mother" or "father" too quickly, the "mother"/"father" may reject the child's suggestion by replacing it with "No, you may not do that, but you may ____ instead." They may reduce the child's original suggestion (for example, reducing five giant steps to three giant steps), or make a different suggestion, such as:

  • Take (#) steps backward
  • Run backward for (#) seconds
  • Walk backward until I (mother/father) say "stop"
  • Return to the starting line (in rare cases)

Other varations of this game are "What's the time Mr Wolf" or "faint o gloch di Mr Blaidd?" (Welsh name for What time is it Mr Wolf), played in Britain. Gameplay is the same, except that the children say what time is it Mr Wolf, and if he replies with 9 o'clock, the children move 9 steps forward. The first to reach Mr Wolf is the new Mr Wolf.

References in fictional media

See also


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