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Learning new words with songs and fingerplay

Songs and fingerplays (hand gestures and movements) are great ways to teach your child speech sounds, words, and gestures. They work well because:

  • they’re fun
  • everyone can be included
  • children can learn to copy
  • the actions and gestures can help teach the meaning of words
  • the rhythm and rhyme help your child remember the sounds, words, and actions
  • they repeat themselves, helping your child learn listening skills and new words and phrases

How do songs and fingerplays help my child learn new words?

When teaching your child songs and fingerplays, your child will:

  • at first likely pay attention or listen carefully
  • next rock, clap, and dance to the music
  • then use a few of the actions or gestures in the song
  • soon make vowel sounds or try to hum the tune
  • sometimes babble and practice some sounds
  • soon sing a few of the words
  • then sing a few of the phrases
  • someday sing the whole song

Remember to connect the sounds, words, and actions in songs with everyday activities and events. For example, sing and talk about “Old MacDonald’ Farm” when you see real or toy farm animals in books, videos, and real life.

Change a song to make up your own song to link with your child’s daily activities. For example, to the tune of “Row, row, row your boat”, sing: 

“Brush brush brush your teeth gently down the stream, merrily merrily merrily merrily, life is but a dream!”

“Wash wash wash your hands gently down the stream…”

“Comb comb comb your hair, gently down the stream…”

For more information, contact your community speech-language pathologist.​​

Where to go get help

For more information about how speech-language pathologists and audiologists can help, contact:

  • Your doctor, public health nurse, or other health provider
  • Your local health centre

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