Do you want your kids to focus and listen to you? What if I told you there a easy solution that works like magic? That magical solution is the simple and easy finger play. Now before you say you can’t do finger plays, think again! I bet you already are using finger plays with your kids and don’t even realize it.
The Itsy Bitsy Spider climbed up the water spout
Down came the rain and washed the spider out
Out came the sun and dried up all the rain
And the Itsy Bitsy Spider climbed up the spout again!
If you have performed this fun rhyme for your kids lately, you are using finger plays.
Finger plays are rhymes combined with hand or finger movements. They can be in the forms of songs or chants. Their main purpose is to engage and hold children’s interest.
Kids love finger plays because they are so engaging and mesmerizing. The benefits of using finger plays with your kids is similar to singing to your kids (which I also recommend you do every day).
Benefits of Using Finger Plays with Your Kids
1) They tell a story
Everyone loves stories, especially children. When you read a book to your child, the pictures help keep your child’s interest. When you change your voice to match the voices of the characters in the story, it hooks your child’s interest even more.
When you tell a child a story without pictures to look at, he is not nearly engaged. However, when you add finger, hand and or body movements as well as different voices or singing, your child is instantly focused on what you have to say.
2) They grab and hold children’s attention
Primary teachers use finger plays often because they grab children’s attention immediately. Young children have short attention spans and anytime you use a story or a song, it is almost a guarantee that you will gain their immediate focus.
Having your kids’ attention is necessary if you want to tell them something important or transition to a different activity.
Having difficulty getting your children to clean up their toys before going to bed?
Try this finger play I wrote to use with my kids.
Five Tired Children
Five tired children playing with their toys. (Hold up five fingers)
The first child said, “Let’s pick them up without making noise.” (Put a finger on your lips).
The second child said, “I’ll pick up the dolls.” (Pretend to rock a baby in your arms).
The third child said, “I’ll pick up the balls.” (Pretend to throw a ball).
The fourth child said, “Let’s race to put them all away.” (Pretend like you are running in place).
The fifth child said, “I’m going to win! Hooray! Hooray!” (Pretend like you are cheering).
They picked up the toys (Pretend to pick up toys)
and turned out the light (Pretend to turn off a light switch or turn off a real light switch)
And the five tired children (Pretend to yawn)
Went to sleep for the night! (Close your eyes and pretend you are sleeping).
I started performing this finger play while my kids were playing in their room last night. They immediately stopped playing and looked at me.
After I finished the finger play, I repeated the line that said “Let’s race to put them all away.”
I turned on a kid’s timer app on my phone for 3 minutes and the race was on. The kids were ecstatic when they beat the timer.
Set the timer long enough that the kids can have success finishing their toy clean up before it buzzes.
Our kids always love it when my husband and I play the game too. Especially when they beat us picking the toys up.
3) They encourage kids to use their imaginations
One of my favorite finger plays to do with my children is “Two Little Blackbirds.”
Two little blackbirds sitting on a hill. (hold up the first finger on each hand)
One named Jack. (wave the first finger on your right hand)
One named Jill. (wave the first finger on your left hand)
Fly away Jack. (Put your right hand behind your back)
Fly away Jill. (Put your left hand behind your back)
Come back Jack. (Bring your right hand in front of you again)
Come back Jill. (Bring your left hand in front of you again)
You are only using two fingers and hands to act out this story, but your children won’t see fingers in their minds when you perform this finger play.
When you hold up your two fingers at the beginning of the finger play and say “two little blackbirds sitting on a hill” your children automatically visualize two blackbirds. For the rest of the poem, your kids will see your fingers as birds.
Part of the entrancing magic of finger plays is the imagination your children must use in order to see the story in their mind.
In a world full of videos and pictures, using finger plays is a wonderful way to teach and encourage your children to use their imaginations.
Imagination is important because it is where wonderful ideas and creativity comes from. Being able to use their imagination will help children their entire life.
4) They are simple and easy
Most finger plays are very short and contain rhythm and rhyme. This makes it easy for you to memorize and remember. It also makes it a simple and quick way to entertain your children.
My favorite thing about using finger plays, is that they require no props or materials. I like using puppets and story boards with kids, too, but you have to make or buy the puppets or props. Then you have to make sure they are ready and available to use whenever you need them.
Finger plays can be used anyplace at any time because you only need your voice, fingers and hands to perform them. Since you always have these with you, it makes finger plays the best method of entertainment to use on the spur of the moment.
5) They teach many concepts and skills
Finger Plays are perfect for teaching basic skills and concepts. The finger play I wrote about picking up toys before going to bed is a good way to teach children ordinal numbers.
The next time you perform that finger play, hold up one finger when you say the word first. Display two fingers when you say the word second and so on. This will help your children understand that first means one, second means two, three means third….
There are lots of finger plays that teach other basic concepts such as body parts, shapes, colors, numbers and letters.
6) They are fun, engaging and interactive
As I was writing this article, my toddler daughter crawled on my lap. She was wiggling around, wanting my attention.
I started performing The Itsy Bitsy Spider to her. She immediately became still and laser focused on my fingers.
When I started singing about the sun coming out to dry up all the rain, she put her hands above her head and started shaking them.
She was not only focused, but ready to engage and interact. After singing the finger play with her a couple more times, she crawled off my lap and off to do other toddler things. I could hear her periodically singing and caught her saying the words “rain” and “spider.”
Although she doesn’t know all the words to this fun rhyme yet, she has retained some of it. The more I perform it with her, the more she will also perform it. Before long, she will be able to sing the song and perform the actions independently.
7) They help you bond with your kids
Bonding with your children is a natural result of the warm engagement of finger plays. When you perform a finger play, it is an opportunity to closely share a story or a lesson with your children.
Your children are never too young to start bonding with you via finger plays. Even babies are mesmerized by your actions and voice as you attempt to tell them a story.
You’ll be amazed by how much you can bond with your kids via finger plays.
Begin using finger plays with your kids today!
The benefits of using finger plays are numerous.
Every time I use finger plays with my kids I am blown away by how instantly they are focused and engaged. It is like magic!
That is why I recommend you use them with your kids. Start by performing just one finger play a day and gradually add more until you are doing at least 3-4 a day.
Your kids will love the interaction and entertainment finger plays provide. You will love the how they grab and hold your children’s attention. Talk about a win-win for both you and your kids!