The Hokey Pokey teaches your child about opposite sides of her body.

Teaching Children How to Do the Hokey Pokey

by Anne Reynolds

Love the Hokey Pokey and want to teach it to your child? Chances are, she'll encounter a situation at some point where she'll need to know the Hokey Pokey. Many times, this dance is a staple in the physical education curriculum in elementary school. If not, she might encounter it as an adult, like at a wedding or office party. Start her training early, so she'll be ready to “put her right hand in.”


Not only does the Hokey Pokey provide a fun break for you and your toddler or preschooler, dancing it also helps your child’s physical and mental development. From an intellectual perspective, it also teaches parts of the body, opposite sides and motor skills. Dancing the Hokey Pokey creates self-control and coordination, even if your little one isn't naturally athletic. The release of adrenaline helps your child let off steam and perform quieter activities, once the dance is complete. That's always a nice break -- for your munchkin -- and you.


There are numerous ways to teach the Hokey Pokey. Watch a video so your child can visualize the dance. Demonstrate the steps. Break down each portion of the dance and teach a segment at a time. Sing the lyrics while getting dressed in the morning, before quiet time in the afternoon or while taking a bath at night. Practice opposite sides throughout the day. Place a sticker on your little one’s right hand to remind him of right and left sides. Rehearse often, once the dance is mastered. You just might discover that he wants to dance the Hokey Pokey all day long -- which could be helpful for you. You might be able to complete a short chore from your "To Do" list for each Hokey Pokey he dances.

Twists to the Hokey Pokey

Try different versions of the Hokey Pokey, once the main concept of the dance is learned. Pick an animal and substitute animal parts. Replace paws for hands and tail for backside in the lyrics. Set up a stage and show your child how to use puppets or dolls to dance the Hokey Pokey. Teach parts of the song in a different language. Substitute the Spanish word "el pie" for foot or practice French by saying "la jambe" for leg. Add more body parts such as elbows, hips, shoulders and head -- and then shake it all about!

Places to Perform

The Hokey Pokey is a great song to perform anywhere -- and any time. Dance the Hokey Pokey at birthday parties, play dates, in the park, at the roller rink or in the comfort of your own living room. Impress Grandma and Grandpa with your little tike's smooth moves. Dress up in silly costumes and present a live production for your tot’s stuffed animal collection.

About the Author

Anne Reynolds is a writer who has worked for the U.S. government, the public school system and as a public library specialist. She began writing in 1990 and has contributed articles to various online publications.

Photo Credits

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