Fingerplay Benefits for Children: Unlocking the Learning Potential in Your Young Child
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.
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.
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:
Fingerplays work under Gardner’s theory in that they meet the needs of many types of ‘intelligences’.
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
Preparation for playing a musical instrument
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:
One Two Buckle My Shoe
Ten Little Fingers
Three Little Monkeys
Five Little Fishies
Ten Little Witches
Over the River
Weather and Environment
There is Thunder
Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
Body Part Awareness
Head Shoulders Knees and Toes
Where is Thumbkin?
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.
© 2011 Tracy Lynn Conway
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