Fantastic fingerplays

Fingerplays are great fun and can be used to teach, entertain, and more. First, let’s look at what a finger play is.

What is a fingerplay?

A fingerplay is a rhyme or song that uses hand and finger movements to accompany them. I’m sure you’re aware of some typical English ones like twinkle, twinkle little star or the incy, wincy spider.

Fingerplays help practice and develop fine motor skills, aid language development – especially useful in an international environment – and, very importantly, are fun! Fingerplays can be used at all different times of the day at preschool or at home; getting and holding children’s attention, helping to distract and relax, and teaching language.

Circle time

Fingerplays are great to use during circle time as they, when used in routine, help children understand what activity is coming next.

I like to use a certain fingerplay when children sit down for circle time as it gets their attention, focuses them on me, and lets them know what kind of behaviour is expected and appropriate for circle time.

Gaining focus

This also relates to circle time as fingerplays are great at getting children’s attention when it is lost or there is a disruption.

I use them often during transition periods, along with silly songs, to help children when waiting to use the toilet or waiting to return from outside play.

Here, fingerplays keep attention as children have to focus on the song, rhyme, and hand movements to join in. The key here is to vary the fingerplays so that children don’t get bored by them.


Again, this relates to the point above, as fingerplays can help a class calm down should there have been a disruption in the classroom. For example, my last classroom was directly connected to a cloakroom and there would often be people going in and out.

By nature, children are curious and easily distracted by people leaving and entering, saying hello, or just generally speaking and they would need their attention to be brought back to the circle. In this situation, fingerplays that catch children’s interest because of their subject, words, or actions are great. The visual and auditory stimulation brings their attention back to the teacher.

Teaching language

Music and songs are a great way for children to learn a new language and, in an international environment, teachers use songs and fingerplays a lot to teach keywords and phrases.

Often, there will be fingerplays that will be used over and over again as they help children understand the topic or activity due to their repetition.

Teaching behaviours

Fingerplays are a great tool for teaching behaviours or desired language as they get children used to the words and their uses.

During circle time, if the goal is for children to sit cross-legged or to keep their hands to themselves (and not wandering over the face of someone sitting next to them!) then this behaviour can be modelled with a fingerplay.

This is also a great way to encourage positive behaviour rather than negative: by making the positive behaviours fun, children will be more inclined to copy.

Themes and topics

Depending on the centre that a child attends, they may have daily, weekly, or monthly themes. Themes should supplement a child’s early education experience and there are dozens of fingerplays for each and every topic.

An old employer of mine once said that a teacher should always have at least 5/6 fingerplays/songs/rhymes for each topic off the top of their head. This may sound like a big ask but, after a few years of teaching or educating your child, you will have a whole repertoire. 

Learning preschool skills

Fingerplays are a really good way for children to learn numbers and countless rhymes help do so. By using their hands and fingers while counting, fingerplays start to develop the connections between the brain and hands.

Songs like 1,2,3,4,5, once I caught a fish alive are super fun. Even if children are not able to use their fingers correctly (holding up the right amount of fingers to the corresponding numbers) they still hear the numbers and assign them to the action of counting.

For toddlers

Fingerplays like twinkle twinkle or mummy finger are very nice for toddlers as they are well-known, simple, and easy to follow along with. Though some of our small friends may not be able to speak yet, they enjoy using their hands and fingers to be involved.

I’ve often found that children start to sing before they start to speak in sentences – initially just using words, of course, and fingerplays are a great way to develop vocabulary.

I’ve often found that children start to sing before they start to speak in sentences – initially just using words, of course, and fingerplays are a great way to develop vocabulary.

Do you know any finger play songs?

Fantastic Fingerplays

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