For Brainpower & Focus, Try Clapping

Mom was right.

The older I get the more I recognize the wisdom my mother applied in parenting. For example, she believed that traditional games held their value. We played croquet in the back yard—-a lawn game that went out of fashion soon after the Victorian era. We played Battleship using only graph paper and pencils. And we played all kinds of clapping games, from Pat a Cake to silly counting rhymes.

Turns out I owe my mother thanks for more than my straight hair and tendency to burn immediately upon exposure to the sun. I owe her thanks for those games, particularly the hand-clapping ones.

New research finds hand-clapping rhymes and songs are directly linked to cognitive skills.

Dr. Idit Sulkin, of the Ben-Gurion University Music Science Lab, found that young children who naturally play hand-clapping games are better spellers, have neater handwriting and better overall writing skills.

Intrigued, she conducted further research. For ten weeks she engaged groups of children, ages 6 to 10, in a program of either music appreciation or hand-clapping. Very quickly the children’s cognitive abilities improved, but only those taking part in hand-clapping songs.

She also interviewed teachers and joined in when children sang in their classrooms. She was trying to understand why they tend to enjoy hand-clapping songs until a certain age, when other activities such as sports become dominant. Dr. Sulkin observed, these activities serve as a developmental platform to enhance children’s needs — emotional, sociological, physiological and cognitive. It’s a transition stage that leads them to the next phases of growing up.”

Interestingly, Dr. Sulkin also found that hand-clapping songs also benefit adults. When adults engage in these games from childhood they report feeling less tense and their mood improves. They also become more focused and alert.

Clapping and singing, clapping and chanting—-this is found across all cultures in religious ceremonies, solemn rituals, joyous celebrations and to accompany storytellers.  The experience of calling and clapping may speak to something deeper in us.  Maybe we all should play a round of Miss Suzy or Cee Cee My Playmate at the start of every political debate, business meeting or extended family get-together.

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Clapping Hands sketch courtesy of  sycen

About Laura Grace Weldon

Laura Grace Weldon is a writer and editor, perhaps due to an English professor's scathing denunciation of her writing as "curious verbiage." She's the author of "Free Range Learning," a handbook of natural learning and "Tending," a poetry collection. (lauragraceweldon.com) She's working on her next book, "Subversive Cooking" (subversivecooking.com). She lives on Bit of Earth Farm where she is a barely useful farm wench. Although she has deadlines to meet she often wanders from the computer to preach hope, snort with laughter, cook subversively, talk to chickens and cows, discuss life’s deeper meaning with her surprisingly tolerant offspring, sing to bees, hide in books, walk dogs, concoct tinctures, watch foreign films, and make messy art.
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5 Responses to For Brainpower & Focus, Try Clapping

  1. hi from blogher! love the concept of you blog. i also think music appreciation is necessary for kids to grow cognitively. we’ll be enrolling our 10 month old into a baby music class later this fall!

    • Laura Weldon says:

      Yup, music is a biggie for the brain and the soul too. With four kids we’ve always done a lot of the sing-around-the-house, go to concerts in the park, make up silly lyrics, listen to everything from opera to rap sort of music appreciation. Ava is beautiful, by the way.

  2. Pingback: Motherly Musings | From Skilled Hands

  3. Mimi says:

    I need to start playing more hand games with my 7 yr old! LOL

    ~Mimi from the Round Up

  4. I loved cee cee oh playmate, and all of those games – I need to teach these to my kids! I know my older boy would love them. Good for all of us :).

    Peryl (from MLRU)

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