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These 10 (fun!) finger-play songs for babies and toddlers build brainpower



Your baby or toddler loves when you make music—whether you’re a singing natural or a tuneless, self-conscious introvert. Finger-play songs, in particular, stimulate the brain and the body while your baby and you have a really good time.

The benefits: Finger-play and other “action” songs stimulate emotional, auditory, and visual connections in the brain. They help learners link language and meaning. They also work both small and large motor skills, give kids practice with muscle coordination, and enhance memory. At first, babies simply love the rhythms and the sound of your voice. Over time, with lots of repetition, your child learns to mimic your movements and words.  Best, you can “play” anywhere, no toys necessary.

Ten of our faves:

The Itsy-Bitsy Spider

(Or Eensy-Weensy, if you prefer—there’s a great divide out there over how to say it!)

The itsy-bitsy spider went up the waterspout (fingers climbing)

Down came the rain and washed the spider out (whoosh hands down)

Out came the sun and dried up all the rain (arms outstretched)

And the itsy-bitsy spider went up the spout again (fingers climbing)

Where is Thumbkin?

Sing this song and the following one to the tune of “Frère Jacques.” 

(Start with hands behind back)

Where is Thumbkin? Where is Thumbkin?

Here I am, here I am (reveal one thumb, then the other)

“How are you today, sir?” (bend one thumb toward the other)

“Very well I say, sir” (now bend second thumb toward the other)

Run and play! Run and play! (thumbs return behind your back)

You can continue this with the other fingers: Where is Pointer? Where is Tall Man? Where is Ringer? Where is Pinky?

I Love Mommy

I love Mommy, I love Mommy, yes I do, yes I do

Mommies are for hugging (hug yourself)

Mommies are for kissing (blow a kiss)

And Mommy loves you! (reach for your baby)

I’m a Little Teapot

This is a great one for toddlers to work their whole bodies.

I’m a little teapot, short and stout (point to self)

Here is my handle (bend arm against hip)

Here is my spout (extend opposite arm)

When I get all steamed up, then I shout

“Just tip me over and pour me out!” (bend over)

The Church and the Steeple

This one mesmerizes toddlers: “How did she DO that?!”

Here is the church (fingers on both hands interlocked, fingers down)

And here is the steeple (raise pinkies together to form steeple)

Open the doors (open the thumbs)

And see all the people! (turn hands upright to reveal the wiggling fingers) 

If You’re Happy and You Know It

This song helps teach about feelings as well as rhythm.

 If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands (clap, clap)

If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands (clap, clap)

If you’re happy and you know it, then your face will surely show it

If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands (clap, clap)

Add verses:

If you’re sad and you know it, say boo-hoo (pretend to wipe eyes)

If you’re mad and you know it, stamp your feet (stomp, stomp)

If you’re silly and you know it, wiggle around (shake body)

If you’re sleepy and you know it, say good night (pretend to sleep)

Two Little Blackbirds

Use your hands to represent the birds.

Two little blackbirds, sitting on a hill

One named Jack (right hand)

One named Jill (left hand)

Fly away, Jack! Fly away, Jill! (each hand goes behind back)

Come back, Jack! Come back, Jill! (hands return)


Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake, baker’s man (clap hands together)

Bake me a cake as fast as you can

Rrrrroll it (rolling motion)

And pat it (patting motion)

And mark it with a “B” (air-write the letter B on your palm)

And put it in the oven for baby and me! (point to your child and yourself)

Row, Row, Row Your Boat

Row, row, row your boat (rowing motion)

Gently down the stream

Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily

Life is but a dream

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This Is the Way

Sing this to the tune of “Here we go ’round the mulberry bush.”

This is the way we clap our hands, clap our hands, clap our hands

This is the way we clap our hands, so early in the morning.

Other verses:

This is the way we…tap our feet…stretch our arms…stomp our feet…touch our nose 

This Is the Way the Ladies Ride

This bonus game is more full-body play than finger play—and a small-child super-favorite. You lie on your back and set your child atop your bent knees.  (Feel free to substitute your own non-gendered versions of the riders; this is the classic version.)

This is the way the ladies ride: Clip-clop, clip-clop (gentle bounce)

This is the way the gentlemen ride: Trit-trot, trit-trot (livelier bounce)

This is the way the farmers ride: Hobble-dee, hobble-dee (a bit wild)

And down into the ditch! (Gently roll your child off your knees)

Photos and videos: “Itsy Bitsy Spider”/YouTube, Donnie Ray Jones/Flickr

By | 2017-08-30T08:42:13+00:00 April 10th, 2017|Baby, Toddler|

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