In many cultures finger games have been enjoyed by parents and young children for centuries. They can be enjoyed in nursery as well as at home. Finger games are a lot of fun for circle time. As a practitioner, I used them a lot and was sometimes surprised how seriously children took the lyrics. Once during a favourite finger game:
Up the tall white candlestick crept little Mousie Brown,
Right to the top, but he couldn’t get down.
So he called to his grandma,
But grandma was in town.
So he curled himself into a ball
And ro-o-o-lled himself down.
One child’s chin began to quiver as she called ‘Grandma! Grandma!’ feeling Mousie’s distress quite personally!
Two- and three-year-olds have an impulse to experiment with words. When they create nonsense words like iggy-giggy, this is often labelled silliness. But this urge represents an important phase in language development, and we should provide constructive outlets for it. Rhythmic poetry offers one such outlet. I have had whole groups of twos and threes joining the refrain on
What does the train say, jiggle joggle, jiggle joggle,
What does the train say, jiggle joggle jee?
Will the little baby go riding with the locomo?
Lokey mokey pokey stokey smokey chokey chee!
Finger games and poems evolve into circle games engaging the whole body, like ‘I’m a little teapot short and stout’ or ‘Ring a ring o’ roses.’ Children love these. Nigerian friends introduced me to singing games from their culture, which I used in the setting as well. There are good collections of nursery rhymes and finger games to be had, as well as the Mother Goose type we all know by heart. One of my favourites is This Little Puffin, Nursery Songs and Rhymes compiled by Elizabeth Matterson (Penguin Books Ltd, 1969).
Singing and chanting games with large-motor action are a lot of fun and support children’s sense of rhythm. They strengthen friendship among the children, as well as fine-tuning their audio skills. Since circle time is intense and focused, carers need to be sensitive to children’s responses. Keep the session brief, and wind down if you feel the children getting restless. You want circle time to be something children anticipate with pleasure!