Clap Your Hands – Finger Rhymes

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Clap Your Hands: Finger Rhymes By Sarah Hayes, Illustrated by Toni Goffe, book reviewPoetry is a wonderful way to introduce young children to the idea of rhyme and rhythm. Poems can also incorporate counting and alphabet themes that help children to learn numbers and letters. Read aloud, children can be encouraged to join in as soon as they become familiar with the words. That’s something they are likely to do surprisingly quickly.

If you are looking for a collection of short rhymes, Clap Your Hands – Finger Rhymes by Sarah Hayes and Toni Goffe is an anthology of both modern and traditional rhymes, some to be read aloud and some that can be sung. Along with each rhyme comes a series of colorful illustrations that demonstrate actions using the fingers that children can do whilst the rhymes are read or sung. Some involve counting, forwards or backwards, whereas others require using fingers and thumbs to make a circle or a triangle, for example, or to imitate ‘incey wincey spider’ climbing up the water spout. Here’s an example of the kind of rhyme you will find in this book:

‘Five fat peas in a pea-pod pressed.
One grew, two grew, so did all the rest.
They grew and grew and did not stop,
Until one day the pod went POP!’

We meet monkey-devouring alligators and witches snapping up pumpkins to make a pie, but even though the pumpkins are personified as little boys and girls sitting on a wall, I never find that children feel threatened by these scary characters that turn up in rhymes and stories. They perhaps enjoy the contrast with the more comforting ideas of baking cakes or cuddling rabbits.

As well as counting forwards and backwards, there are one or two rhymes that could be used to introduce addition and subtraction to young children. (I currently teach a boy approaching his fourth birthday who can count backwards from one hundred and tell me that five plus two equals seven, so don’t underestimate pre-school children!) As you read ‘Ten galloping horses came through the town, Five were white and five were brown’, you can ask the child to put up five fingers on one hand then five on the other and count that they make ten altogether. A few pages later, in ‘Chook, Chook…’, we meet Mrs Hen; she has ten chickens, four of which are yellow, four are brown, and two are speckled red. So we can deduce that four plus four plus two make ten.

Not all the poems have to be such serious hard work, of course. One simply asks if you would like a cookie, a piece of pie, or a candy stick; another tells us about a turtle who lived in a box and swam in a puddle. The children in the illustrations almost always have beaming smiles, and we see blue-spotted white horses, stripy bees and cats, and stern policemen bowing to each other as they meet in a lane. There is plenty for a young child who is being read to to look at here.

If you want ideas for rhymes and songs, especially those involving numbers, this is an excellent book to use. Unfortunately it seems to be a little hard to get hold of now; I borrowed a paperback edition from the library, but there is a hardback edition available on Amazon Marketplace. Definitely recommended to enjoy with toddlers up to five-year-olds.

Clap Your Hands – Finger Rhymes by Sarah Hayes and Toni Goffe
Lothrop Lee and Shepard, Hardback, 29 pages

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Clap Your Hands - Finger Rhymes
by Sarah Hayes and Toni Goffe

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Written by frangliz
frangliz

I have a degree in Fine Art but never actually worked in that field. After almost two years in Paris, I moved to Cairo and spent many years there teaching English language and literature in schools. I came back to the UK in 1999 and now work with young children. I also tutor students of all ages in French, English or Maths. I enjoy writing reviews in my spare time; another hobby of mine is photography. I have two sons who are now grown up, both working in IT.

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