Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, Turn Around...
By Gwen Stewart
We often hear about how childhood has changed. In some ways, that’s certainly true. In my seventeen years of teaching, I’ve experienced some of those changes first-hand. The day I heard a second grader holler to another, “Email me tonight,” I knew we’d entered a whole new era.
But in essentials, childhood remains much the same through the ages. Children love to experience with their senses, preferring active to passive learning. Children love to play, laugh, roll in the grass, and squeal with delight. Children love to sing—and the more active the singing, the better.
This is no more apparent than in hand-clapping games, those catchy singsong rhymes children teach one another. In every culture in the world, children sing and move, as they've done for thousands of years. This is true today, at the school where I teach. Up and down the hallway, I hear the rhythmic swish of tiny hands on hands as they scrap, slap and clap--on the playground, at recess, in the lunch line. I teach clapping rhymes and games in my music classroom, and have students teach me the latest and greatest as well.
As most pastimes that draw children’s attention, hand-clapping games are more than purely fun. They build important skills in young learners. Research proves that chanting or singing while keeping a beat improves the firing of brain synapses. Hand-clapping games build language, improve reading capability, and hone motor skills. Moreover, they help children release tension and become more relaxed.
And of course, hand-clapping rhymes are purely fun! From the simple “patty cake” to the most complex rhymes of the older children, children usually collapse in giggles as they perfect the claps, slaps and complex motions. But they rarely become discouraged, no matter how many times they start over. Nor do they cast aspersions on themselves or others. I’ve never heard a child say, “Why can’t I get this! I’m just not good at these games!” Perhaps there’s a lesson for adults in there somewhere.
Do you remember any hand-clapping games from your childhood? Do your kids play them with their friends? Share your favorites below!