Hand Clapping Games: Summer & Schoolyard Creative Free Play that Supports Learning
Hand Clapping Games Spur Learning
In schoolyards all around the world, hand-clapping games have been a staple activity of childhood for generations. Pairing silly songs and rhymes with quick claps, slaps, snaps, and other movements, hand-clapping games can provide endless hours of entertainment and friendship building.
In addition to the recreational benefits of hand-clapping games, studies have shown that hand-clapping games support children in developing many essential skills. Researchers at Ben Gurion University of the Negev studied children in grades 1-3 and found that children who participated in spontaneous clapping games during their free time had stronger spelling skills than peers who didn’t. Additionally, the same students had neater handwriting and better writing and drawing skills than students who didn’t participate in clapping games.
It should come as no surprise that there are developmental benefits to hand-clapping. Participating in clapping games gives children practice in finding rhythm, making rhymes, honing motor skills, and identifying, repeating, and modifying patterns in body movements. All of these skills are directly related to both academic and real world skills, and strengthening them can help children grow in many different areas. Skills in pattern-finding and pattern manipulation support children in understanding mathematical patterns and patterns in music; finding rhythm can also help students develop a conceptual understanding of how music works. Similarly, clapping games help children develop language skills, as they practice fitting words to predetermined rhythmic patterns and identify patterns in verses.
Hand-clapping games are utilized by educators of all kinds, and can add an entertaining and brain-boosting challenge to learning. Many traditional classroom teachers utilize hand-clapping games with students, using them to energize, build community, and to provide students with a fun and beneficial activity with which to fill wait time. The culture of summer camps often includes lots of hand-clapping games, and mastering them can serve as a rite of passage amongst campers. Similarly, many informal educational settings utilize clapping games so as to build common ground amongst participants.
Learning clapping games as a family can provide hours and hours of summer entertainment. There are hundreds of different clapping games, and they come from all around the world. Even standards like Miss Mary Mack vary amongst communities, lyrics changing subtly to fit a culture or place. Families can explore the world of hand-clapping by utilizing how-to videos, books of rhymes, and by talking to friends and neighbors about clapping games that they know. The more games you learn, the more you’ll learn about other topics, too. For example, families can explore Korean culture while learning some of the country’s traditional hand games. Check out the resources below to get clapping!
- Hand Clap! by Sara Bernstein
- Schoolyard Rhymes: Kids’ Own Rhymes for Rope-Skipping, Hand Clapping, Ball Bouncing, and Just Plain Fun by Judy Sierra
Games to Learn Using How-To Videos
- The Cup Game
- Double This, Double That
- Down, Down Baby
- Tic Tac Toe
- Check My Beat
- Old School Hand Games
(Photo credits: (c) Sienna Wildfield; (cc) Barnaby Wasson)