This post is highlighting Fingerplay Songs as an excellent developmental tool. An important skill in child development, is the ability to use the fingers individually and together. When holding a pencil, pick up cheerios, button, zip, or cut with scissors, you are using two or three fingers, and tucking the rest away! When typing on a keyboard, all of your fingers and thumbs must move individually, but at the same time, in order to type efficiently. Pay attention to what your hands and fingers do in a day, and you may be surprised!
Finger skills development is essential to the preschool age, however play starts with babies! Check out this article on The OT Toolbox about Baby Play.
There are many ways to encourage this fine motor development, but one of my favorites that doesn’t get enough attention (in my opinion, of course) is fingerplay songs! I do these silly finger plays all the time with my preschoolers during their OT time, or with any of my other students who wants to have fun.
They won’t even know they are developing important motor skills while doing these finger play rhymes. Let’s break down the skills used in the most popular finger play song: Pat-A-Cake.
Fingerplay Songs and Fine Motor Skills
This is a classic finger play rhyming activity for thumb and index finger isolation! The term “finger isolation” will come up a few times in this article, so why is it important?
When babies are born, their fingers all move together as one unit, and one hand tends to copy each other! The body of an infant can be seen as one moving piece, in comparison the movement as we develop, which is a complex system of moving pieces. In order to develop skills as we age, it is important to learn to isolate the movements of our hands and fingers from each other.
Activities that use the hands to complete motor tasks, sequencing of movements, and dexterous games include other fine motor skills too, including:
- Wrist extension
- Separation of the sides of the hand
- Finger opposition
- Arch development
- Motor planning
- Hand strength
You can see why fingerplay songs support child development!
Pat-a-cake fingerplay song
First, motor plan a pattern of movement. Add motor planning and bilateral coordination skills by alternating movements of patting hands on lap and clapping hands while chanting the words:
- Pat-a-cake pat-a-cake baker’s man,
- Bake me a cake as fast as you can.
- Roll it. (rolling hands one over the other)
- And pat it. (patting hands to lap)
- And mark it with a B. (Index finger isolation to draw a B with your finger)
- Put it in the oven for Baby and me! (reaching forwards with both arms)
There are many ways to develop fine motor skills through play in addition to these fingerplay activity songs. Check out this post on Hands on Preschool Activities
WHERE IS THUMBKIN Fingerplay song for preschoolers
This video does a great job of explaining the motions to this simple, easy to learn fingerplay rhyming song. The song starts at about marker one minute and thirty (1:30) seconds.
Fingerplay songs for fine motor
Of course fine motor development comes from more than just fingerplay songs and rhymes, here is an article on developing Fine Motor Skills.
FIVE LITTLE DUCKS interactive finger play song
Here is a fingerplay song where the individual and cohesive movement of fingers really get to shine. This video demonstrates the hand, finger, and arm movements to be used while singing. I find it best to sing to your child once you know the song, instead of playing the video for them. Make sure to show your child how it’s done by doing it with them! This is true for all of the preschool songs and fingerplays we share.
While you watch the video and learn the movements, notice:
- Finger isolation while counting,
- Cohesive movement for the “quack, quack, quack”
- Wiggling of the fingers as the ducks waddle away
There are many books written to correspond to this song. Here is one I tend to reach for: Five Little Ducks. This one is “interactive” with little doors on the page that require a pincer grasp to pull open. This is another way to encourage important fine motor skills!
More fine motor resources for preschool
If you are looking for more interactive books, to develop fine motor skill development, the OT Toolbox has you covered!
ITSY-BITSY SPIDER silly fingerplay for preschoolers
This is preschool fingerplay activity is by-far my favorite way to increase finger isolation and motor patterns in reluctant kids. In the video below, check out the wrist movements, wiggling fingers, and more, while interacting with a well recognized song!
Many young children, especially those with delayed fine motor control, are not able to motor plan the spider moving up the spout as shown in the video. However, they will adapt and create their own way, using the movement of only two or three fingers, while the rest are tucked away. This pattern is the building block for mature grasps. Sometimes, I teach the spider as the index fingers and thumbs touching in a circular pattern, instead of the L shape in the video. This adaptation may be less confusing for some. See what makes your child most successful!
boosting childhood development with action rhymes:
Boosting Child Development with Action Rhymes and Fingerplay Songs
OPEN AND SHUT THEM fingerplay chanting rhyme
“Open and Shut Them” is a song I have used for years to keep babies occupied while I change their diapers. I knew a kindergarten teacher who used it to help transition her students to carpet time. This fingerplay song is useful for many different purposes, not just fine motor development and rhyming. It is a perfect addition to this list. There are many different versions of this song you can find online, but here is a video that clearly demonstrates the many different actions the hands and fingers can do!
Did you notice the pinky finger isolation? What about the movement of two fingers, with the rest tucked away? These are advanced movements that are motivating and fun!
You may have noticed all of these fingerplay preschool songs are repetitive. This is perfect for increasing opportunities to practice and learn a new skill. They integrate movement of both hands and fingers in a particular sequence, which teaches and enhances motor planning. Additionally, singing songs such as these familiar preschool finger play rhymes in a group, or one-on-one develops social skills, and can build rapport with one another. It’s a win-win method to teaching important skills.
If you are interested in teaching more fine motor skills, check out these resources from the OT Toolbox:
Use these Fine Motor Kits for hands-on activity kits to develop fine motor skills, strength, dexterity, and manipulation. Kids LOVE these fine motor kits for the motivating activities. Therapists love them because it’s fresh, fun ways to work on pinch, grip, manipulation skills, and much more. Try some of these themed therapy kits:
- Fall Fine Motor Kit
- Winter Fine Motor Kit
- Spring Fine Motor Kit
- Summer Fine Motor Kit
- Frogs and Toads Themed Fine Motor Kit
- Letters! Fine Motor Kit
- Outer Space Themed Fine Motor Kit
- Valentine’s Day Fine Motor Kit
- Penguin Themed Fine Motor Kit
- Snowman Themed Fine Motor Kit
Sydney Thorson, OTR/L, is a new occupational therapist working in school-based therapy. Her
background is in Human Development and Family Studies, and she is passionate about
providing individualized and meaningful treatment for each child and their family. Sydney is also
a children’s author and illustrator and is always working on new and exciting projects.