Everyone knows the "Eensy Weensy Spider," but very few of us can actually get our hands and fingers to move in the correct manner for the spider. Tried it recently? It's hard! But it's a fun learning tool for playing with and teaching toddlers. Fingerplays and songs aren't just fun for toddlers; they also help brain function and memorization.
What Are Fingerplays?
Fingerplays are, to put it simply, motions to go along with a rhyme or song. They typically use only fingers and hands, although some rhymes, such as "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" use whole arm motions. Fingerplays are a great way to introduce rhymes, poems and songs to children. A toddler may not sit besides you on the couch while you just say the rhyme, but he will if he gets involved in the rhyme. There are no tools or supplies needed to do fingerplays, so they are great for using in the doctor's office waiting room, in the car or at Grandma's house.
How Fingerplays Help
Fingerplays help a child with sequencing; as she learns the rhyme, she starts to think ahead to what comes next. Memorization goes hand in hand with this. Some rhymes can help teach number concepts, while all help develop listening skills. Fingerplays and songs can be used to get a more sedentary child up and moving. Marching around the room, rowing her arms back and forth or galloping like a horse are all good forms of movement and exercise. Calmer fingerplays can be a way to quiet down before a nap or nighttime. It focuses your toddler's attention on you and the movements you are doing together and blocks out surrounding distractions.
How to Teach Fingerplays
Sing the song to your child and show her the accompanying motions; repeat the fingerplay several times. Ask your toddler to join in, helping her with the trickier motions, as necessary. Once she gets the hang of it and can do the motions by herself, let her lead the fingerplay. She may get it wrong a few times, but tell her how proud of her you are. Praise goes a long way towards helping her want to memorize the rhyme and motions. Once you've taught the fingerplay, be prepared for her to practice everywhere -- typically at the top of her lungs, over and over.
Popular Fingerplays and Songs
In addition to the popular fingerplays mentioned, consider "Skinnamarink." This is a fun song with only a few motions. Toddlers love it because it's full of made-up words but emphasizes your love for them. "This Is the Way" is another great song featuring fingerplay. The verses have suggestions like "This is the way you brush your teeth," "... pick up clothes" or "... tie your shoes," but you can also substitute your own actions. Having problems getting your child to wash his hands before eating? Sing about it. "I'm a Little Teapot" is another fun one for toddlers, as this fingerplay involves the whole body. Be forewarned, the last line tends to get shouted, so don't begin this one in a quiet place. Keep in mind that fingerplays don't have to be popular to use them -- you can also make up your own.