Fingerplay for pre-schoolers

Here are some ideas on how to have fun and play simple games through nursery rhymes with your baby.

Game 1: 'This Little Piggy Went to Market'

(Traditional, origin Great Britain and North America)

This little piggy went to market. (touch big toe)

This little piggy stayed at home. (touch next biggest toe, and so on)

This little piggy had roast beef.

This little piggy had none.

And this little piggy cried, 'Wee, wee, wee!'

All the way home. (tickle him all over)

Chant this classic nursery rhyme while changing your newborn's diaper. Touch each toe as you go, starting with the biggest and moving down the row. When you get to the word 'home,' tickle your baby all over and watch him squeal with delight.

Game 2: 'Round and Round the Garden'

(Traditional, origin Great Britain)

Round and round the garden (draw circle on child's tummy)

Like a teddy bear.

One step, two steps... (walk your fingers up his chest)

Tickle him under there! (tickle under his chin)

Your newborn will love this action rhyme because it ends with a surprise tickle. Start by drawing an imaginary circle on your newborn's tummy, 'round and round'. Then with 'one step, two steps', walk your fingers up his chest, and then tickle him under his chin and arms.

Game 3: 'Jack in the Box'

(Traditional, origin United States)

Jack in the box (cover your eyes)

Sits so still.

Won't you come out?

Yes, I will! (throw up your arms)

Babies love this exuberant game of hide-and-seek. Show your baby how to cover his eyes, and then say the first couple of lines in a low voice to set the mood. Add some anticipation with the third line, and then throw up your hands and shout out the last line. Your baby will love quietly waiting, waiting... and then popping up like a jack-in the-box!

Game 4: 'Row, Row, Row Your Boat'

(Traditional, origin Great Britain and North America)

Row, row, row your boat (rock back and forth)

Gently down the stream.

Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily

Life is but a dream.

Your baby loves doing as much possible with you, including riding in a boat. Sit down on the floor and settle your baby in your lap so he's facing you. Make sure that his neck and head are supported. Hold both his hands with yours, and rock back and forth in time to the song. Vary the tempo for a fast boat ride or a slow one. Take advantage of the easy rhythm by substituting some of your own words (wash, wash, wash your face; roll, roll, roll the ball...). You'll both end up giggling.

Game 5: 'Old McDonald Had a Farm'

Old McDonald had a farm,


And on this farm he had a cow,


With a moo, moo here

And a moo, moo there.

Here a moo, there a moo

Everywhere a moo, moo.

Old McDonald had a farm,


You can continue with whatever animals you like, such as duck ('quack, quack'), dog ('woof, woof'), cat ('meow, meow'), sheep ('baa, baa'), and horse ('neigh, neigh').

This song is so engaging it can make a baby feel as if he's actually singing the words. The sounds are fun to make, and the words help your baby learn the names of many animals. Sing it on the way to the zoo or to a farm, then make the sounds when you meet the animals. Your child will be thrilled to find it all so familiar.

Game 6: 'Humpty Dumpty'

(Traditional, origin Great Britain)

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall.

Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. (tip your baby back slightly)

All the king's horses and all the king's men

Couldn't put Humpty together again.

Game 7: 'Trot, Trot, Trot'

(Traditional, origin Great Britain)

Trot, trot, trot to London.

Trot, trot, trot to Dover.

Look out, ____, (baby's name)

Or you might fall OVER! (tip baby to the side)

What could be better than a knee-bouncing action rhyme? Sit your baby on your lap so he's facing you. Hold him under his arms, lift your heels, and let the bouncing begin. This game is best for older babies whose neck muscles are strong enough to support their head.

Learning and Growing

Through music, your baby is learning the auditory discrimination skills essential for language development and later for reading. By singing songs throughout the day, you are helping him begin to identify and respond to the sounds, pitches and patterns of language. You're also helping to develop a strong emotional and social connection with your child.

Finger play, action rhymes and simple repetitive songs are important to a baby's development of language and memory as he learns to anticipate, predict, and attach words and meanings to actions.

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