Tuesday, April 26, 2011

finger plays

Since the time Naiya was a small baby we have played with rhyme, song and hand gesture games.  We've collected a number of what are often called "finger plays" over the years and I am so delighted to discover those I've not heard before (especially when my dear child is the one to bring them to me!)
A few weeks back Naiya brought this one home from school.  (She was so excited for a chance to be the teacher...)

Shoemaker, shoemaker, make me a shoe
Have it ready by half past two
Sometimes red and sometimes brown
Is it up or is it down?
Before she begins she finds a special small object, usually a pretty stone and holds it secretly in one fist.  Then holding both fists closed she taps one on top of the other, switching back and forth as she sings.  At the end I then have to guess which hand holds the special stone.  Whether I'm right or wrong, she giggles with glee at her game and wants to perform it many more times.

Click below for more fingerplays...

The finger play with which I was most familiar as a child was Itsy Bitsy Spider but there are dozens of these fun rhymes and games that have been around for, I believe, hundreds of years in some cases.  I couldn't say why children find them so captivating but they do.  These are some of our other favorites:

Where is Thumbkin?
Where is Thumbkin?  Where is Thumbkin?
Here I am!  (a)  Here I am! (b)
How are you today sir?  (c)
Very well, I thank you!  (d)
Run away... (e)  Run away... (f)
Start with both hands behind the back and sing to the tune of Are You Sleeping?  (a) out comes one fisted hand with the thumb raised (b) out comes the other hand (c) the first thumb wiggles as if talking (d) the second thumb wiggles as if speaking in response (e) the first hand goes back behind the back (f) the second follows
This coming forward, greeting and running away is repeated for Pointer, Tall Man, Ring Man, Pinky and then The Whole Family

Here are Grandma's forks and knives (a)
Here is Grandma's table (b)
Here are Grandma's looking glass (c)
Here is baby's cradle (d)
(a) begin with fingers extended with tips up and interlaced (b) flatten hands and arms (c) hold one hand up and gaze into as if into a mirror while holding that same arm as a "handle" with the other hand (d) with palms up, rock arms as if holding a baby

Pea Pods
Bean Pods
Poppy Pods
Seed Pods
Swell until they ripen
Then they open with a pop!
Begin with hands clasped together, fingers interlaced (like a child in prayer) with the fingers laying on the backs of the opposite hand.  As each pod is announced raise up first the pointer fingers together, then the middle, ring and finally pinky.  As they swell the palms slowly pull apart and round as if a ball is held between the two hands.  Pull the hands apart as they "open" and clap back together with the pop!

'Round the Garden
'Round and 'round the garden
Goes the little mouse (a)
Up the garden path she creeps (b)
Into her little house (c)
(a) hold the child's hand palm up in yours and draw little circles with your index and middle finger (b) creep your fingers up the child's arm (c) tickle under the child's chin or armpit

Here is my garden (a)
I rake it with care (b)
Then a few seeds I shall plant there (c)
The sun will shine (d)
And the rain will fall (e)
And up come the flowers straight and tall (f)
(a) hold one hand palm up throughout (b) use opposite hand with bent fingers to "rake" the soil of the first hand (c) plant little seeds with forefinger and thumb (d) gesture to the sun shining in the sky (e) pitter patter onto the "garden" with tinkling fingers (f) tip up fingers slowly sprout up between the palm up fingers of the garden hand 

Peter Hammers
Peter hammers with one hammer, one hammer, one hammer (pounding one fist on the floor or leg)
Peter hammers with one hammer all day long
Peter Hammers with two hammers, two hammers, two hammers (pounding two fists)
Peter hammers with two hammers all day long
Peter hammers with three hammers, three hammers, three hammers (add one stomping foot)
Peter hammers with three hammers all day long
Peter Hammers with four hammers, four hammers, four hammers (add a second stomping foot)
Peter hammers with four hammers all day long
Peter hammers with five hammers, five hammers, five hammers (add the head nodding up and down)
Peter hammers with five hammers all day long
Peter's very tired now, tired now, tired now (gently rub fists on eyes)
Peter's very tired now, the day was so long (lay head on hands)
This is a great way to channel the exuberance of very spirited children.  It's an outlet for a lot of energy, brings giggles every time and ends in a state of calm.  Substitute your child's name in place of Peter.

Here is the beehive, but where are the bees? (a)
Hidden away where nobody sees (b)
Watch and you'll see them come out of the hive (c)
One, two, three, four, five... (d)
(a) enclose thumb in fist to make the hive (b) place the other hand over the hive (c) closely watch the hive (d) beginning with the thumb, slowly release each finger out one by one until they're all buzzing and maybe tickling your child

Here is a Bunny
Here is a bunny with ears so funny (a)
And here is a hole in the ground (b)
When a noise she hears
She pricks up her ears (c)
And jumps in the hole in the ground (d)
(a) hold up the curved index and middle finger of one hand in the shape of bunny ears (b) make a hole with soft open fist of the other hand (c) straighten bunny's ears (d) dive ears into the hold

I Had A Little Turtle
I had a little turtle (a)
She lived inside a box (b)
She swam in the water (c)
She climbed on the rocks (d)
She snapped at a mosquito
She snapped at a flea
She snapped at a minnow
And she snapped at me (e)
She caught the mosquito
She caught the flea
She caught the minnow (f)
But she didn't catch me (g)
(a) make a turtle shell with one hand (b) place the other hand over the top (c) make swimming motion with both hands (d) climb with both hands (e) snap with index and thumb at various locations (d) pop imaginary catches into mouth (g) wag index finger

Finger Names
Tommy Thumb is up and Tommy Thumb is down
.  Tommy Thumb is dancing all around the town
.  Dance him on your shoulders.  Dance him on your head. 
 Dance him on your knees then tuck him into bed.
Peter Pointer’s up and Tommy Thumb is down.  
Peter Pointer’s dancing all around the town.  
Dance him on your shoulders.  Dance him on your head.  
Dance him on your knees then tuck him into bed.
Terry Tall is up and Terry Tall is down.  
Terry Tall is dancing all around the town.  
Dance him on your shoulders.  Dance him on your head.  
Dance him on your knees then tuck him into bed.
Ruby Ring is up and Ruby Ring is down.  
Ruby Ring is dancing all around the town.  
Dance her on your shoulders.  Dance her on your head.  
Dance her on your knees then tuck her into bed.
Penny Pinkie’s up and Penny Pinkie’s down.  
Penny Pinkie’s dancing all around the town.  
Dance her on your shoulders.  Dance her on your head.  
Dance her on your knees then tuck her into bed.
All the family's up and all the family's down.
  All the family's dancing all around the town
.  Dance them on your shoulders.  Dance them on your head.  
Dance them on your knees then tuck them into bed.

These kinds of rhymes are often used in Naiya's Waldorf class to gather the attention of children at the table just before snack and lunch.  We use them at home in similar circumstances and also during our circle and story time to acknowledge seasonal happenings or daily events.


  1. this is great:) id love to hear some more if you get the chance some time

  2. Thank you for posting these. We have been having a lot of fun learning them/ remembering them. Where is Thumbkin was a classic one I loved. :)

  3. I'll try to post more as the seasons turn. Glad you can use them :)

  4. It's always a pleasure to meet you ,Dionne!When I need inspiration for my job,when I want to see ,to read or to feel beauty and harmony I search in your materials.Today I've discovered these 'jewelries'.Wonderful!I hope to be good enough to translate some of them for my children,at kindergaden.I'll tell them that it's a gift from your country,from a little girl named Naya!Thank you!

  5. Cristina, You are so kind and it is exciting to hear such praise from around the world! I'm glad you're able to find many useful things in my little space and are able to use them in your kindergarten. Thank you again for visiting :) Tell your children Naiya and I say hello!

  6. Philippa SchraderApril 25, 2012 at 2:34 PM

    We used to play this one in England. Not quite a finger play but similar and the kids loved it. They would come over and place their palm out.

    "Round and round the garden,like a teddy bear.
    One step, two step and tickley under there"

    You circle the outstretched palm with your index finger and then make stepping motion up the child's arm and tickle them under their arm.

    1. Thanks for sharing Philippa. I'll add it to the growing list!


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