Young children enjoy rhymes, particularly if they can join in the fun with some finger plays and other actions and movements. This type of activity builds confidence and improves children's listening skills and language ability. Rhymes, through their reliance on rhythm, lead on to poetry and music when the child is older. Games help children's co-ordination and motor skills. Group games help improve social interaction.
Some simple rhymes and finger plays include the potato rhyme: "One potato, two potato, three potato, four, five potato, six potato, seven potato, more." Another favourite for babies and very young children is "This little pig." When reciting the rhyme, hold up a finger (or toe) for each line, and tickle your child at the end. The rhyme goes, "This little pig went to market, this little pig stayed home. This little pig had roast beef, this little pig had none. And this little pig went 'wee, wee, wee,' all the way home!"
Finger plays provide an early introduction to counting. Children enjoy the touch and the movement. One simple finger play is: "Round and round the garden (parent uses his index finger to twirl round on the child's hand), Like a teddy bear, One step, two steps (parent uses fingers to walk up one of the child's arms), Tickly under there!" (parent tickles the child's underarm). Other popular finger plays include "A Teeny Weeny Spider "
Games with movement and song suit toddlers and young children. A good game for a group is the "Hokey Pokey" because children can sing along and use different parts of their bodies, not just their fingers. Clapping games are also a good choice. These include "A Sailor Went to Sea" and "If You're Happy and You Know it Clap Your Hands."
Demonstrating Finger Plays and Action Rhymes
In a large group of children, the leader must ensure she sings the rhyme clearly and accompanies this with exaggerated finger play actions. Repeat this several times. Get the children to imitate what you are doing. The trick is to go slowly and make sure that the children can clearly see your hands. If you are teaching a class, consider sending home the rhyme and music so that the children can practice at home.