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Words at Play: Fingerplays


Published November 12, 2015 at 10:31 a.m.

Chants, Fingerplays & Stories
  • Chants, Fingerplays & Stories
A fingerplay is a nursery rhyme that uses hand movements coordinated with words. One of my favorite fingerplays is called "Putting the Baby to Bed." Here's how it goes:

It's time to put the baby to bed (in this fingerplay the baby is the right index finger)
First we put the baby into the bed (the pointer finger is placed in the palm of the left hand)
We cover the baby up (pointer finger is wrapped up by the left hand)
We rock the baby (both hands rock back and forth)
We kiss the baby (index finger gets a kiss)
And then we say "Baby, go to sleep!"

After a few moments, the index finger baby jumps out of bed and and I say, "Oh no, the baby is up, what do you think the baby wants?" The children suggest various things the baby might want — food, a song, a pacifier, a blanket or a bottle. We give the baby a bottle and try to put he baby back to sleep again. I usually have the finger baby get up four times before falling asleep.

Most of the things the baby wants are easy to mime. Once in a while I get a curve ball. Recently a little girl said that the baby wanted to nurse. I did what made sense at the moment. I put the finger baby on my chest for a quick drink. The girl seemed satisfied and I moved on with a sense of relief.

It's amazing how quickly the finger "becomes" a baby. Last month I taught this fingerplay at a training in Rutland. When I put the baby into the bed, the underside of the finger rests on the palm of my hand. One participant said, "Never put a baby to sleep on its belly, always on the back." Now my finger baby sleeps on its back.

I know a preschool teacher who has created her own version of "Putting the Baby to Bed." After she says, "Baby, go to sleep," she describes the parents of the baby sneaking out of the room and closing the door softly behind them. Just when they are walking down the stairs, the baby wakes up. I like her version because it's so realistic.

I get fingerplays, songs and rhymes from a variety of sources. Sometimes I learn directly from another person but the Internet is also a good resource. I found "Putting the Baby to Bed" in the book Chants, Fingerplays & Stories by Bev Bos and Michael Leeman. I recommend it for finding new fingerplays and songs.

This article was originally published in Seven Days' monthly parenting magazine, Kids VT.