Finger Plays for Early Language Development

    Finger Plays

    Finger plays are a great way to develop baby’s fine motor skills, to boost his mood and stir him up, or vice versa, to soothe the fidget. The article “Finger Plays for Early Language Development” is posted on our blog to help mums organize these useful plays.

    Movements of the fingers and the hands of a child have special, developmental effects. The influence of manual (hand) influences on the human’s brain development has been known since the 2nd century B.C. In China experts assure that games involving hand movements promote the harmonious state of the body and mind, support brain systems in excellent condition. In China exercises when hands manipulate stone and metal balls are popular. In Japan exercises for hands using walnuts are widely used.

    Simple hand movements help to remove stress not only from the very hands but from the lips as well, and relieve mental fatigue. They are able to improve pronunciation of sounds and develop a child’s speech accordingly.

    Why are finger plays so useful for babies? Studies of scientists have proved that each finger has a “representation” in the cerebral cortex of the brain. This explains the fact that the correct formation and development of a wrist, and especially fingers, are very important for the language development and for the whole development of a baby. Babies start mastering language only when the movements of their fingers become precise a bit. In other words, little baby’s hands “lay a foundation” for language development. Scientists note that there is every reason to consider a hand as the organ of speech – a kind of the articulatory apparatus. The development of finger fine movements promotes the appearance of articulation of syllables. Due to the development of fingers, a projection of “schemes of the human body” is formed in the brain, and verbal reactions directly dependent on the trained fingers.

    Finger plays are not only entertaining and funny for both children and adults, they also have a huge developmental potential.


    • Coordination of movements is being improved.
    • Fine motor skills and deftness of hands are being developed.


    • Development of memory and attention.
    • Very powerful for language development!

    Moreover, finger plays help a child’s brain develop relationship between the left and right hemispheres, and synchronize their work. The stronger the relationships are between the two hemispheres, the more there are nerve impulses in the brain, the more their speed and the more active process of thinking, the more capable and attentive your baby will be. Therefore, if you strive for your baby to be able to talk well, to be a deft person and to be able to learn, you should train his fingers and hands from birth.

    What rules should be followed, when organizing finger plays for babies? Finger plays for babies have some distinctive features. If older children tend to imitate and copy adults’ movements on their own, so the smallest ones need to be taught and interested.

    What does the concept “finger plays” mean?

    Finger plays for children are not just targeted lessons but also daily activities for them. For example, the daily lacing and knotting are a great stimulation for little fingers. With the right approach, fingers of the school-age children should already be perfectly deft and independent.

    Types of finger plays

    Plays based on the reaction speed development.  These can be claps, touches, and various hand movements which should be exactly repeated by a child. Such finger plays as “Give me Five”, “Where are Baby’s Fingers?” can be appropriate.

    Plays based on the fairy-tale plots.

    Plays-gymnastics.  These finger plays are a kind of exercises and are usually played after long lessons with the child.

    You can not only use each type separately but also combine them to achieve the best effect.

    When playing finger plays with the baby under one year old, you should follow the recommendations.

    To achieve maximum effect, lessons with a baby from the first months of life should be comprehensive. Each lesson should involve the games for stretching, relaxation and closing fingers for baby’s hands to develop harmoniously. Start and end a play with hand massage. Within the first months of life babies cannot make the movements on their own, so adults should help. To hemispheres develop equally, both hands must be involved in playing and the exercises should be done correctly.

    Praise your baby for every even the smallest achievement; it is the obligatory condition for successful lessons.

    It is necessary to start training baby’s fingers from an early age, since the baby’s motility in the early period of life is the first and the only aspect of his development available to observe objectively. Fine motor development promotes the fine development of a child.

    Remember that your baby’s nervous system is not stable yet, so the games especially developmental ones, should last no longer than 10-20 minutes. Otherwise, the baby will quickly get tired and capricious.

    The following exercises are recommended to do at an early age:

    • Pull baby’s fingers slightly, as if you want to pull them out. The movements should be very slight and delicate.

    • Perform clockwise and counterclockwise circular movements of each finger separately.
    It is also great to use mini-training equipment such as fluffy latex balloons (they are sold in pet shops).

    Up to 3 months put small balls with a diameter of 3-4 cm into your baby’s palms. When he falls asleep, holding these balls, his hands keep the correct form.

    In 4-5 months large balls are used. Massage is changed as well: holding baby’s arms in your hands, it is necessary to fix the ball between his hands and twist.

    In 5-6 months to strengthen the palm muscles the exercise “Combing” is good to do. Put your baby’s hands alternately up and gently move them along the head forward and backward. While doing this exercise, muscles of shoulder girdle, hands and fingers work. At the same age you should start massaging baby’s hands, each finger and each phalanx. Knead them daily for 2-3 minutes.

    If your baby’s hands are mostly in fists, insert your pointing fingers into the baby’s palms. It will be a great training. Your baby will reflexively compress his hands, and you will be able to slightly lift him up. In length of time this exercise will help your little one to learn to grab and let go, and as it is well known, grasping reflex is directly connected with the emotional development. It is better to start massage with the strokes, perform the alternate bending and unbending. After a few lessons your baby will be able to perform these movements on his own. Once the baby is about 10 months old, you can start developing his hands and fingers by movements.

    In 6-7 months, besides previous exercises, start rolling a walnut along the baby’s palm (circular movements) for 3-4 minutes. You baby can already master such finger play as “Fee Fi Fo Fum” for example. Finger plays for babies of this age can be played by sorting large and smaller items, rolling balls and beads of various diameters.

    In 8-10 months start doing intensive exercises involving as more fingers as possible.  Such finger plays as “Here we go”, “Five Fingers”, “Merry Mice”, etc. train well the movements of fingers.

    At an early age, when a baby has not yet learned to talk, he can imitate the sounds of characters from finger plays, thus developing his articulatory apparatus (“ribbit- ribbit,” “squeak-squeak”), or show actions with facial expressions and gestures (“bear walks, swaying”, “bunny hops” etc.).

    At this age it is recommended to use peeping toys during the exercises. Give your baby a peeping toy. While you are saying a rhyme, your baby should press tight and slightly a peeping toy in his hand.

    In 10-12 months encourage your baby to disassemble and assemble a pyramid, number and size of rings don’t matter. Teach your baby at this age to hold a spoon, a cup, a pencil. Show him how to draw scribbles.

    Children’s plasticine is a great way to stimulate early language development, fine motor skills and logical thinking of a child.

    By the age of eighteen months old infants should be taught to lace shoes and button clothes on their own. And young babies can train these skills with the help of pieces of cloth where buttons of different size are sewn, and special lacing toys. And these will be great finger plays for children.

    Also drawing with pencils and collecting lego will be great finger plays. Moreover, all children at the age of 2 years old just love the mosaic, which is an ideal toy for the fine motor skills development. And 3 year old children already can manipulate scissors and plasticine, creating fairy-tale characters or picturesque applications. At older ages children can start beading and knitting.

    What kind of games can be played outdoors? Of course, games with the sand. Even the adults know that while moving sand on the beach, emotional stress is being relieved, and it is possible to relax. It is also useful for the baby to sort the stones and put them in a bucket.

    It should be noted that finger plays are a unique opportunity for children to be happy, and to create good relations between the restless babies and their parents.

    Finger plays and rhymes

    Finger Plays for Early Language Development

    Learning the texts with finger exercises stimulates the language development and emotional expressiveness. Finger plays when combined with learning texts are one of the best ways to stimulate not only language development, but also attention, spatial thinking, reaction speed, and imagination.

    Finger plays make it easier for a baby to remember the poetic texts and to make his language the most expressive.

    A rhyme is a means of soothing a young child. Finger plays should be learned step-by-step.

    If there are characters or concepts unknown for the baby in a finger play, you should first acquaint him with them using toys or pictures beforehand. Firstly you should choose the finger plays the plot of which allow you to “run” with your fingers along the baby’s back or a hand, stroke or tickle him.

    Then you should demonstrate the upcoming game to your baby. Secondly show him the game manipulating his fingers already. Now both you and your baby can perform the movements of the play at the same time, and you say the text. After some time your baby should perform the movement on his own and you only say the text. But if the little one suddenly needs help, you should immediately help him. After some more time your baby will not only independently perform movements of the play, but also say the rhyme, and your task will be to suggest and help your baby.

    For a play to be successful you should play with very expressive facial expressions; for your baby to understand the information easier, you should pause in the appropriate places, and comment the movements with the correct intonation.

    At first it is better to play two or three games, and once they are mastered, play the new ones.

    In conclusion it should be noted that it depends on you whether your baby will like the play. Therefore, if your baby is very young, you should be gentle and calm and your touches should be soft. And if your child is older than four or five years old, expressive facial expressions and interesting speech are very important, so working with this age group, it is better to learn the poems by heart.


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