Saturday, April 25, 2015

Maryann “Mar.” Harman BA Music/MA Ed
Founder of Music with Mar., Inc.

The cerebellum is larger in musicians by up to about 5%.  This suggests that finger exercise (as used in fingerplays for younger children / instrument lessons in older children) may prompt additional nerve growth.  Schlaug et al 1998

Last week, I busted out my Lady Bug Rap.  The children (and the parents) started bopping along.  Then, they started asking for some of the other fingerplays.  Seeing the one, reminded them of how much they enjoyed them.  It reminded me, too.

Why are finger plays and finger puppets so important for children?  Besides the fact that they are fun and very engaging, they get the whole brain involved.  Any time we move, we activate the motor cortex which is in the cerebellum. This is the same part of the brain that processes learning.  Add to it the benefits of singing (tongue hitting the roof of your mouth stimulates the inner ear), and you’ve got a powerful tool for engaging the whole brain.

The area of the brain most associated with motor control is the cerebellum.  It takes up nearly one half of the brain’s neurons.  Ivry & Fiez, 2000

      It is fun to act out the fingerplays.  And, that is something the children enjoy as well.  Don't be a puppet hog!  Let the children lead the songs.  Much is happening in tiny nano seconds as children themselves manipulate the puppets.  Their brains are processing "Which finger do I move with which word?", "When do I take that finger down and put the next up?" and "Should I wiggle this finger or bend it up and down?".  WOW!!!  This teaches motor control, self-control, language and is also a child directed activity.  
Music is children’s first patterning experience and helps engage them in mathematics even when they don’t recognize the activities as mathematics.  
                                                      Geist, Geist & Kuznik, ’12

      There are finger plays that invite children to make a sound for each animal displayed.  Each time another animal is added the child realizes it is taking longer to make the sounds.  That translates into five is larger than one.  A simple math concept taught without any need for discussion.  Using fingers that go away introduces subtraction.  Counting forward wires the brain for addition.  Counting backwards wires the brain for subtraction.  This is why it is important to do both. 

     It takes a pre-operational child 1200 times before a concept becomes concrete.  That is a lot of repetition.  As an adult, we may get bored repeating the same thing 1200 times; a child wouldn’t.  This is another thing that is great about finger plays.  Many of them are teaching the same concept.  We could get to 1200 times and use almost that many different fingerplays! 

      When an adult sits down with a child / children with finger puppets, the children immediately give you their attention.  Introduce the song and puppets.  Know that you will do it more than once.  Then allow opportunity for the children to work with them. It's also wonderful to have the 4 year olds perform the plays for the 2 yr olds.  What self-esteem and confidence building! That also works on the ability to speak in front of others (a skill often not mentioned in standards but very useful in life.)

     Research has been done (and has proven) the myriad benefits of finger plays.  This link, 
Discovering the Educational Benefits of Finger Plays, has additional information on the topic.  Mary Jo Huff has always been a favorite of mine in the art of storytelling and use of finger plays.  You can also visit Music with Mar. and see our line of finger puppets and songs.  Take children to shows / classes where finger plays are used.  Bring some of these tools into your home / classrooms.  And, remember, the first tool we all learn to use is our own fingers.  They don't need to have little puppets on them to engage a child.  The connection with you is beneficial in itself.  

1 comment:

  1. I've been looking for classroom enrichment tools and had completely forgotten finger puppets!


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