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.
Clapping Hands sketch courtesy of sycen