Playing pat-a-cake and applauding your little one's performance of new tasks may seem to be a natural part of parenting, but clapping is actually a skill that holds a lot of significance in early childhood development. Clapping can be used to communicate, help improve cognitive skills and boost coordination in young children. So bring out those clapping songs and games, and give yourself a hand for helping your child's development.
Pat-a-cake is a classic game for good reason. Clapping games improve your baby's fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination, so that by the time she is 9 months old, she will have the ability to bring her hands together for a clap. Sometime between 9 and 12 months of age, she learns that clapping is a way to show she is happy or excited, and it becomes a new form of communication for her, according to Parenting.com. Just by watching you sing songs like "If You're Happy and You Know It" or applaud her new abilities, she understands that clapping is something people do when they are having fun.
Rhythm and Music
Children move to music and rhythm from a very early age by bouncing, swaying and clapping to the beats they hear. Rhythm and repetition is usually pleasing to young children, so they enjoy nursery rhymes and songs that have a rhythmic beat. Toddlers especially enjoy songs with clapping because putting motions to a song or rhyme helps them remember the order, according to The Creativity Institute. By the time your child is 3 years old, she should be able to listen and repeat a rhythm that you clap out. As she gets older, encourage her to make up her own rhythms or to find the beat as you listen to songs together. Sing songs that include clapping like "B-I-N-G-O," or adapt the chorus of Queen's "We Will Rock You" about something relevant to your child, such as "We love, we love, apples!"
Clapping involves interlimb coordination because it involves moving both sides of the body with a steady rhythm. When children learn to clap, they are using the corpus callosum, which is a structure in the brain that connects the two sides of the brain and helps each side communicate with the other, according to an article in the journal "Early Childhood Research and Practice." As this part of the brain develops, children become better at performing movements that require both sides of the body to move in conjunction. Around the age of 4 years old, most children have developed the ability to fully control and synchronize the movements of both hands. Playing clapping games at an early age can help strengthen this development, leading to strong connections between both sides of the brain.
A study conducted by researchers from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev found that young children who were exposed to hand-clapping songs and rhymes demonstrated different skills as first-, second- and third-graders, according to PsychCentral. The children who did not participate in hand-clapping activities lacked some important developmental skills and were more likely to develop dyslexia. The researchers found that hand-clapping actually trained the brain and led to better development in many areas. Around 7 years old, children naturally become interested in clapping rhymes, such as "Miss Mary Mack" or "A Sailor Went to Sea," and performing them with their peers enhances both their cognitive and social-emotional needs.