Fingerplays~ Building Fine Motor Skills and Vocabulary

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It doesn't take an expert to know that children respond to music.  Music captures their attention.  Music encourages children to move.  But music can do so much more than that.  I've learned through my daughter who has Trisomy 21 {Down syndrome}.  I have specifically seen that through music, more exactly fingerplays, she has strengthened and refined her fine motor skills, been encouraged to communicate and expanded her vocabulary.  All while having fun within a few minutes each day.

Shortly after Dianna was born, I began to read about possible learning difficulties related to Trisomy 21 {T21}.  Somewhere I read a suggestion that children with T21 and those with Autism may be musical learners.  What is a musical learner?  Many are familiar with visual, kinesthetic and auditory learning.  Auditory learners use their sense of hearing more to learn so can listen to a lecture to learn.  Visual learners would do better with charts and graphs, and so on.  This is a very simplified explanation.

There has been much research and understanding of other styles of learning {for more read about the theory of multiple intelligences, especially Thomas Anderson's In Their Own Way}, eight or nine other styles actually.  One of them is a musical or aural learner.  Musical learners enjoy music and varied sounds; they notice music even if faintly playing.  One day while playing in the basement with Dianna, she stopped and looked up.  Something had caught her attention.  It was my cell phone which was upstairs.  I would not have noticed if she had not.

Around the time Dianna turned 1 {April 2013}, I began doing fingerplays and singing songs with her to improve her fine motor skills.  It worked wonderfully!  Almost instantly her pincer grasp improved {grasping between forefinger and thumb}.  She quickly more able to pick up smaller pieces of food for self feeding.

The first song we started with was 'The Itsy~Bitsy Spider' {or as most people say Eensy~Weensy}.  I began to recognize her requests to sing and play this song as she would put her finger tips together and twist them back and forth.  She was so excited I knew what she wanted.  This simple song was not only helping her use her fingers more precisely, it was allowing her to communicate quite effectively!

Dianna loves to sing as she makes actions for Itsy~Bitsy Spider.

We were both so excited.  Once I noticed this, I decided to do more.  I had a copy of Wee Sing Children's Songs and Fingerplays, which I had purchased years before and had never much used.  I pulled it out and decided on a few other songs with different motions to teach to myself and Dianna.  First we listened to the cd and I noticed which songs she seemed to enjoy more.  The great thing about the Wee Sing cd is that it comes with a book of lyrics and actions to each song.  I also like to add some sign language to our fingerplays; just a few signs that we are learning to help reinforce them.

The next two songs we learned where 'Hickory Dickory Dock' and 'Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed'.  She loves Little Monkeys!  Another thing I began to notice was that she was trying to say some of the words that went along with the actions.  She began to say 'bump' whenever she would tap her head as I sang 'One fell off and bumped his head'.  Now she says it when she bumps other things accidentally, including her own head.

Dianna using one finger to 'jump' up and down on her hand as we sing 'one little monkey jumping on the bed . . . '

Then she takes her finger and shakes it back and forth as she does her head side to side while we sing 'no more monkeys jumping on that bed!'

She and I continue to learn new songs and actions.  Our next step is learning transition songs, little chants or rhymes to help lessen the distress of ending one activity and moving on to another.  We're learning 'Little Girl, Ready for Bed' to help her transition to bed time without so much protesting.  The words and actions can be found at Songs for Teaching, along with many, many, many other songs which are listed by topic.

I'm so excited to have a simple and fun way to encourage Dianna to learn and work.  I'm certain you'll find that these little songs and actions are beneficial, too, if you just try one.  It only takes a few minutes of the day.  We started with Itsy~Bitsly Spider because it was one I know and didn't have to learn.  Just start with what you know.  And add to it.  It will be fun!

She always claps enthusiastically at the end of a song.


  1. aww she's beautiful!!! I used to sing those songs with my kids too, my youngest has Autism so we played lots of those games!!!

    1. I have definitely begun to sing more, especially to Dianna, now that I see the importance and the link to learning. Her therapist said the other day, 'It's good you were born to a singing mom!' I didn't tell her that it is a new skill.


Catching my breath. Be back ASAP.