Remember those clapping games we used to play as kids? Between the silly (or nonsense) lyrics and the fast-paced sequence of claps, taps, snaps, and crosses, clapping games provided hours of entertainment. It might seem like just fun and games, but there's actually more to it than that. Clapping games can be beneficial to children's development.
Dr. Idit Sulkin has conducted research on the topic of children's hand-clapping games, noting:
"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.” (source)
Clapping games are a great way to incorporate rhythm and movement into your choir rehearsals while reinforcing gross motor skills, rhythmic concepts (such as steady beat and subdivision), coordination skills, and the concept of sequencing (source). If you're working with a younger group, try modifying the clapping sequence to fit their ability level (scroll down to the bottom of this article for a few helpful tips).
Try using clapping games as:
1. A gathering activity before rehearsal as children arrive
2. A movement break or quick change-of-pace activity during rehearsal
3. To (unbeknownst to them) prepare or reinforce a rhythmic concept from one of your anthems
Ready to play? Here are sixteen clapping games to introduce to your choir:
These clapping games reinforce rhythmic concepts through the use of rhythmic speech (words spoken in a particular rhythm) and performing a hand-clapping sequence with a partner.
Double This, Double That
Also known as "Double Ice, Double Cream," among other variations, this is a fun partner game for younger and older elementary children. Watch a video demonstration.
After the intro, name a category and (in time) say as many things as you can that fit the category without repeating something you or your partner said. See a video example here. Music would make a great category! (rhythm, anthem, hymn, melody, harmony, meter, etc.)
These clapping games reinforce coordination skills as children sing (often silly songs) and perform rhythmic clapping sequences.
A Sailor Went to Sea Sea Sea
This traditional children's song features a simple hand-clapping sequence to do with a partner interspersed with cumulative movements that go along with each verse (see, chop, knee, snap, jump). See these video examples for a few variation ideas.
A fun hand-clapping sequence to go along with the familiar children's song! See a demonstration here.
Bobo Ski Watten
I mentioned this song in this post, but thought I'd include it again here because of the clapping component. Each verse has a sung section and a spoken section and an opportunity to add a variation (face, eyes, elbows, knees, lips, etc.) to incorporate the next time through. Watch an animated demonstration (from The Singing Classroom).
Miss Mary Mack
A great partner activity, this silly song and action-packed clapping sequence is fun for one and all. Here is a video example.
Similar to Miss Mary Mack (some of the same lyrics, in fact), this more traditional (and accessible) clapping game makes a fun gathering activity or change-of-pace during rehearsals. Watch here.
Four White Horses
This one may take a little practice, but such a fun activity for a group of four people (older elementary or youth choir). This video shows the song and clap sequence a few times (including once in slow motion).
Bim Bum Bitty
A great change-of-pace activity for elementary and middle school choirs! Three words and a snap-clap sequence that can be done with a group of any size. Try it in a faster tempo as your group gets to know it better! See a video example here.
A fun (slightly more advanced) hand-clapping game to do with a partner (also used in Bobo Ski Watten - see above). This one accompanies the "I'm a Pepper" song from the 1977 Dr. Pepper commercial. Watch a video demonstration of the clapping sequence here.
Say, Say, Oh Playmate
This short song has a simple, but fast-moving hand clapping sequence to do with a partner. Here is a quick demonstration. A great gathering activity!
Quack Diddly Oso
This is the hand-clapping version of Duck-Duck-Goose. Participants sit in a circle and "pass the clap" around (using the steady beat of the tune), eliminating one person each round. See a video example here. Alternatively, try playing this with a partner!
These clapping games reinforce rhythm and coordination skills through rhythmic speech, song, and body movement.
This traditional song has fun movements that correspond to each verse: long-legged, short-legged, one-legged, etc. See the movements in action in this video.
Boom, Snap, Clap
Mentioned previously in this post, this game, this game works well with pairs. Try having half your group sing a familiar song (duple meter with 4-bar phrases) and half accompanying with the boom, snap, clap sequence. See a video demonstration here.
Clapping, patting, stepping, and partner-changing make this a fun movement activity for older elementary choirs! Watch a group of 3rd graders singing and doing the movement in this video.
Down, Down, Baby
This clapping game (from Sesame Street!) includes clapping, stomping, and wiggling and can be done with several children standing in a circle. I love this video.
Looking for more ideas?