Fingerplay Benefits for Children: Unlocking the Learning Potential in Your Young Child

Updated on April 20, 2016
Tracy Lynn Conway profile image

Tracy has been working in the field of education for many years specializing in both Waldorf and Montessori methodology.

Finger Plays offer children a multisensory learning experience and a foundation for literacy.
Finger Plays offer children a multisensory learning experience and a foundation for literacy.

When my first child was born, I learned how important it was to talk and sing to her as a method of encouraging her language development. However, talking to my daughter felt strange to me since a baby can never answer. For me, singing felt more natural since my baby could be the audience and no response was necessary, or just a smile was enough to let me know she was listening. I began singing to my daughter with the few songs that I remembered from my childhood like "Frère Jacques" and “Pop Goes the Weasel.” As time passed I tried to mix in more engaging fingerplays that I remembered, like “The Eensy Weensy Spider.” My children loved these songs and I began to adore singing them as well. It is wonderful to see the pure delight of a child engaged in a finger play when they either watch or try to imitate it. Fingerplays became a go-to method for calming my children when they were upset or for on the spot entertainment during waits at the doctors office or while traveling.

"Eensty Weentsy Spider" is a well known Finger Play

Not only did I enjoy sharing the fingerplays with my children but I also loved the connection they gave me to the past. Many fingerplays are steeped in history as they have been passed down through many generations. Long before there was formal pre-school education, mothers, grandmothers and other caregivers created and shared this ingenious method of teaching their young children skills like counting, colors, rhyming, and memory sharpening, using the child’s innate ability to imitate in a fun and nurturing way.

Multisensory learning at its' best, shown here when a lesson on Egypt involves nearly stepping into history.
Multisensory learning at its' best, shown here when a lesson on Egypt involves nearly stepping into history.

Multisensory

The lyrics in fingerplays correspond to hand movements and the result is what modern educators would refer to as multisensory learning in that it engages multiple senses such as visual, auditory and motion as a means to learning. Education researchers have found this multi-sensory approach to be a most effective method in comparison to those that utilizes only one sense, such as listening. In a group setting the multi-sensory approach enables one child who is an auditory learner to be just as engaged in the fingerplay as another child whose strength lies in visual learning.

"Musical" is one of the eight intelligences.
"Musical" is one of the eight intelligences.

Multiple Intelligence

In psychologist Howard Gardner’s groundbreaking book, entitled “Multiple Intelligences” he explains that not only do human beings have several different ways of learning and processing information, but these methods are relatively independent of one another: Gardner has identified eight intelligences:

  • Linguistic

  • Logic-mathematical

  • Musical

  • Spatial

  • Bodily/kinesthetic

  • Interpersonal

  • Intrapersonal

  • Naturalistic.

Fingerplays work under Gardner’s theory in that they meet the needs of many types of ‘intelligences’.


Waldorf students engage in movement through finger plays and dance as well as other methods to create a whole body learning experience.
Waldorf students engage in movement through finger plays and dance as well as other methods to create a whole body learning experience.

Waldorf Education Philosophy

The Waldorf Method of education believes that Nursery Rhymes and Fingerplays not only offer one of the best methods of teaching young children, they also help create a bond between caregiver and child. Fingerplays are an integral part of the Early Childhood Waldorf Classroom. As stated by Waldorf teacher and author Rahima Baldwin. “The interaction with your child, the engaging faculties of imitation and the musical elements all used in this kind of play that has delighted children for centuries and that has great value for their development as well.”

Benefits of Fingerplays

  • Language Development

  • Muscular Coordination

  • Body Awareness

  • Rhythmic Proficiency

  • Preparation for playing a musical instrument

  • Auditory Discrimination

  • Self Confidence

Grandma's Glasses

A Natural Bridge Between Movement and Symbols

Children's Songs and Finger Rhymes offer a natural transition between a younger child whose world is focused on movement and that of a slightly older child who is transitioning into learning and mastering the symbolic language of words and letters. Hand symbols for words used in Finger Rhymes offer a transition into the idea that symbols or letters can represent sounds. The finger rhyme “Grandma’s Glasses” and “Mother's Knives and Forks” are excellent examples where you can see a child learning to use their body to create symbols for sounds. These children will move more easily into reading letters with this solid foundation of learning finger rhymes than children that have not been exposed to them.


Fingerplays and Dyslexia

In the highly acclaimed book "Overcoming Dyslexia'" by Sally Shaywitz, it is recommended that children with difficulty learning to read go back and learn children’s rhymes, the cousins to finger plays, since familiarity with language through these songs fosters the building blocks of reading.

"One Two Buckle My Shoe" teaches counting forward and backward

"Little Peter Rabbit" teaches memory

Lessons Hidden Within Fingerplays

Nursery Rhymes and finger plays have been shaped by the caregivers of history and teach children so many necessary lessons including:

Counting:

One Two Buckle My Shoe

Ten Little Fingers

Three Little Monkeys

Five Little Fishies

Holidays

Ten Little Witches

Over the River

Weather and Environment

There is Thunder

It’s Raining

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star

Body Part Awareness

Head Shoulders Knees and Toes

Where is Thumbkin?

Memory

BINGO

Little Peter Rabbit

Fingerplays can become a family legacy to hand down from generation to generation. To learn more finger plays visit the Ms. Rhymetime Channel.

Questions & Answers

    © 2011 Tracy Lynn Conway

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      • Tracy Lynn Conway profile imageAUTHOR

        Tracy Lynn Conway 

        5 years ago from Virginia, USA

        Pinkchic - I am glad you found it interesting and yes, finger plays have worked and lasted because they are fun and educational. Thank you!

        Best, Tracy

      • Pinkchic18 profile image

        Sarah Carlsley 

        5 years ago from Minnesota

        Very interesting! I could definitely see what it would be beneficial. Just like music. I'm sure there's a reason these things go way back!

      • Tracy Lynn Conway profile imageAUTHOR

        Tracy Lynn Conway 

        5 years ago from Virginia, USA

        Vellur - Thank you so much for your positive comment and for the votes!

        Best, Tracy

      • Vellur profile image

        Nithya Venkat 

        5 years ago from Dubai

        Great hub and information on finger play and how it helps to teach a child and build bonds. Interesting and informative. Voted up.

      • Tracy Lynn Conway profile imageAUTHOR

        Tracy Lynn Conway 

        5 years ago from Virginia, USA

        Corascollection - I am glad that you found it interesting, thank you!

        Best, Tracy

      • profile image

        corascollection 

        5 years ago

        As a mom I found this hub very interesting, I think that you are on point and thank you for sharing!

      • Tracy Lynn Conway profile imageAUTHOR

        Tracy Lynn Conway 

        6 years ago from Virginia, USA

        Thank you Vinaya, I hope your friends and relatives find it helpful.

      • Vinaya Ghimire profile image

        Vinaya Ghimire 

        6 years ago from Nepal

        I am not a parent and do not understand child raising. But off course I have seen my relatives and friend raising kids. I will share this wonderful article with them.

      • Tracy Lynn Conway profile imageAUTHOR

        Tracy Lynn Conway 

        6 years ago from Virginia, USA

        Dingyskipper,

        Those noise making books and gadgets lack substance, there is no replacement for true nurturing. Thank you so much!

        Movie Master,

        I am so happy to see you here! Telling kids stories and sharing finger plays like this create golden memories, there is really nothing better. Your children and grandchildren are so lucky. Thank you!

        Thebookmom,

        In some ways I wish there wasn't a need to write this hub and support what is so obviously beneficial to children. With so much electronic media overshadowing what children really need nowadays, it becomes necessary to highlight traditional ways to raise great kids. Thank you!

      • thebookmom profile image

        thebookmom 

        6 years ago from Nebraska

        What a great hub! This was such a thorough article, my favorite part is the breakdown of holiday rhymes. I also love the research that supports the fact the purposeful play really is important.

      • Movie Master profile image

        Movie Master 

        6 years ago from United Kingdom

        I have such fond memories of singing with my children and now I have that pleasure with my grandchildren.

        I have always sang nursery rhymes with finger play, it's something they seem to respond to so enthusiastically!

        A lovely hub Tracy and delightful photos.

        Voting up, best wishes MM

      • dingyskipper profile image

        Carolyn 

        6 years ago from Northamptonshire

        excellent, so many people use noise making books and tv etc, this is the real way to parent

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