Finger Play For Babies – How it Helps in Baby’s Motor Development and Top Finger Play Songs

7 min read

Written by Aparna Hari

Aparna Hari

finger play for babies

Have you noticed how little babies love to gaze at their own fingers? If they are bored and you have nothing to entertain them with, you can just wiggle your fingers in front of their eyes, and they will shift all their focus to the fingers. Babies love fingers and that’s why finger play is very crucial for a baby’s development. In this article, we will learn all about the importance of finger play for babies.

Coming up with games to entertain a baby can seem simple and straightforward, but it is tougher than it looks. Since their attention span is very small, you need interesting ways to encourage them. When you have some great finger-play ideas, you can turn any cranky situation into a calm and fun time.

In This Article

What is Finger Play?

Finger play is the use of hands and fingers along with songs or words. It is a teaching method used with babies, toddlers and young children who are still developing their fine motor skills. While babies enjoy songs and stories, they pay more attention and grasp better when you add some actions to them. In finger play, you will combine actions using hands and fingers that correspond to the songs or words spoken. It can be rhymes, counting numbers, or just showing actions.

Finger puppets are an excellent way in which parents can incorporate finger play and associated learnings for babies. You can make storytelling an interesting activity with finger puppets, especially when you are traveling with your baby or waiting at the pediatrician for your baby’s checkup. These puppets can be made at home too. As your baby sees you moving fingers with the finger puppets, they will get interested in putting them on their fingers and moving them around and imitate you. This will improve their finger dexterity and fine motor skills.

Why is Finger Play Important For Babies?

Finger Play Important For Babies

Finger play is a multi-sensory approach to learning – they see the actions, mimic the actions, and sing along. It helps in getting all their focus and attention to what they are doing, thus helping them learn faster.

The aim of finger play is to encourage babies to associate the words they are hearing or speaking with the actions their fingers are making. The combination can be a very powerful tool for teaching young minds new concepts and words. They will learn faster and remember better.

Finger play is vital for babies because it can help in the development of

  • Language skills (new words as well as effective communication)
  • Brain function
  • Creativity and Imagination
  • Understanding capability
  • Social skills

[Read : Speech And Language Development Milestones]

When to Introduce Finger Play For Babies?

You can introduce finger play to your babies when they are around 8 to 10 months old. This is the time when they start to clap and will be able to put their fingers to use. Before this, you can simply sing all the finger play songs and rhymes to them with actions. This will help them see and understand and learn. As babies grow, they will graduate from the clapping stage to putting their individual fingers to better use such as bending and pointing with individual fingers. Remember that it will take a couple of more years before your baby can fully master various intricate moves of finger play. Don’t rush your baby and don’t be in a hurry to teach them everything at once. You can sing and play with your baby and let them practice so that they can gradually learn how to master the techniques.

Top 5 Developmental Benefits of Finger Play For Babies

Developmental Benefits of Finger Play For Babies

What is so great about playing with their fingers you may ask. But for a baby who is just learning about their bodies and slowly gaining control of it and their actions, playing with fingers is a big milestone.

Finger play has the following benefits to offer babies.

1. Assists in Motor Development

When your baby uses their hands and bodies to move and show actions for the songs and rhymes, they are using their muscles in different ways. This helps in making their bones, joints, and muscles stronger. Motor development at the right age is essential for babies to develop physically.

2. Cognitive Development

Babies learn to communicate better when they add actions to their words. Many babies can’t speak words clearly until they are two years old. When they learn to show actions by using their fingers, they can effectively communicate without using words. Their brain will think of ways to communicate what they want to with the use of actions when they can’t use the right words. This improves cognitive development.

3. Fine Motor Skills

Apart from helping babies learn and retain information, finger play also helps in fine motor skills development. When babies bend and flex their fingers, move them and make shapes with them to enact the rhymes or songs, they are working the small muscles. It will improve their fingers’ dexterity and improve strength.

[Read : Baby’s Fine Motor Skill Development]

4. Improves Listening Skills

When rhymes or stories are accompanied by actions, it draws a baby’s entire focus. This helps them listen better. The more they focus and listen, the better their listening skills will get. Good listening skills are very important for their overall development, learning as well as communication.

5. Early Mathematical Skills

When you teach your baby to count, you use your fingers. We use fingers to show the number and count or for simple addition and subtractions. Using finger play while learning basic mathematics makes it an easier and more effective method of learning. With finger play, babies learn to use their fingers effectively from a very young age. This in turn will help them learn and develop mathematical skills. It is always easier to count or calculate using fingers.

Popular Finger Play Songs

For generations, songs and music have been important teaching tools many teachers and parents use, to teach a baby many things. You can always use actions with rhymes or songs and encourage babies to have more fun than just repeating the song verbally.

If you are not sure how or which songs are perfect for finger play, here is a list of five songs that you can use for your baby.

1. Itsy Bitsy Spider

Itsy Bitsy Spider is a nursery rhyme about the adventure of a spider. The spider tries to go up the waterspout and gets washed by the rain. The spider waits until the sun dries up the rain and attempts to go up the spout again.

Here you can use the index finger and thumb on both hands to show the movement of the spider. You can spread your palms and fingers wide to show the sun and rain coming down. Your baby will have to put in a lot of effort and focus to learn the action of the spider. Babies will take time but will love this challenge.

2. Baby Bumblebee

The song is about a baby bringing a bumble bee to their mother and how the bumble stings and the baby squish it and cleans up the mess later. Though it may not sound very kid-friendly due to squishing a bumble bee that need not be caught in the first place, it helps babies master many hand movements. The scope for finger play in this song is to teach babies to use all fingers together. It can be just what they need when they are yet to master some fine motor skills or learn to use their fingers individually. The actions do not require them to use their fingers separately like other songs, so this can be suitable if you want a finger play idea with low dexterity.

3. Pat-a-Cake

This is a nursery rhyme about going to the baker and asking him to bake a cake. It is a simple, small, and easy-to-learn rhyme. Your baby will learn to pat their hands, which is an important step to clapping. They have to use the index finger to draw the letter, which will help them learn to fold all fingers but one. Babies will start doing this by using the other hand to bend the fingers and keep them that way. With time, they will learn to bend their fingers without extra assistance.

4. Wheels on the Bus

A very interactive rhyme that is sure to make your baby sing and do many actions. The rhyme is about a bus going around the town, the rhyme goes on to describe every part of the bus with the sounds it makes. Babies will love and remember the sounds easily.

In this rhyme, babies will have to point out their finger and move it around in circles to show how the wheels go round and round. Through the rhyme, your little one will have to use their fingers and hands to show how the horn goes beep or wipers go swish. This finger play rhyme helps in improving their hand-eye coordination, cross-body movements, and focus. They learn to use both hands in symmetry, which is very important to do other activities as they grow up.

[Read : Wheels on the Bus Rhyme For Babies]

5. Five Little Monkeys

A fun rhyme that helps babies learn to count in reverse. In this rhyme, five little monkeys are jumping on the bed and falling off it one by one and hurting themselves. So, apart from learning about how dangerous it is to jump on the bed, babies learn to count in reverse too.

In this rhyme, through finger play, babies learn counting. They learn how to show numbers using their fingers. You can also use the same rhyme and count down from 10 using all 10 fingers.

Finger play is an important part of a baby’s development. It helps in developing more than just fine motor skills. It helps in overall cognitive development and learning. Comfortable folding and flexing of fingers without extra effort is an important developmental milestone for a baby.


1. Can Finger Play Games Help in Developing Baby’s Skills?

Yes, finger play is an important tool for developing a baby’s various skills. Engaging them in games using finger play can not only engage them but can also teach them important concepts and skills effectively.

2. Is Finger Play Only For Babies?

Finger play can be used at any age for babies. Starting them young will help them develop the skills and understand the concept faster. You can use more complex finger movements for older children who can already do basic finger movements.

3. How Can Babies Play Using Their Fingers?

You can use actions for songs and rhymes or use hand puppets to narrate stories. You can even encourage them to do finger painting, or make holes in some edible dough.

Aparna Hari,MBA in Marketing,P.G. Diploma in Human Resource Management from IGNOU Bachelor of Sciences (Home Science) from Nagarjuna University

Her experience in impactful writing combined with her background in Home Sciences makes Aparna the perfect candidate for content writing in the pregnancy and parenting niche.Read more.

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