Hand-Clapping Songs Improve Child's Cognitive Skills

Many childhood songs incorporate hand clapping. Now, there's research to prove that those simple sing-a-longs help a child's motor and cognitive development.

The firsthand study, conducted by researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU), in Israel, reveals the impact these activities have on a child's development.

When comparing early-age elementary students who are exposed to hand-clapping songs to those who aren't exposed to these activities, the differences were striking.

"We found that children in the first, second and third grades who sing these songs demonstrate skills absent in children who don't take part in similar activities," explains Dr. Idit Sulkin.

The research states that hand-clapping songs are an integral part of development.

Dr. Warren Brodsky, a music psychologist who supervised Sulkin's doctoral dissertation, said these findings confirm that when a child does not have exposure to these types of activities, he or she is more vulnerable to develop dyslexia and dyscalculia.

"There's no doubt such activities train the brain and influence development in other areas," said Brodsky.

During this study, Sulkin visited several first, second and third grade classrooms for 10 weeks. She placed some classes in music appreciation programs, or hand-clapping song training. While another group remained in environments without musical stimuli.

"Within a very short period of time the children who, until then, hadn't taken part in such activities caught up in their cognitive abilities to those who did," she said.

However, the advancements only occurred for children in hand-clapping classes.

Through Sulkin's self-observation, she realized that early-age children are attracted to hand-clapping-like songs.

"The hand-clapping songs appear naturally in children's lives around the age of seven, and disappear around the age of 10. In this narrow window, 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," said Sulkin.

And while the firsthand study was limited to children, Sulkin also questioned adults to see the effect music and hand-clapping exposure has on them. She realized that adults also see positive effects from hand-clapping.

Sulkin noted that even though many adults may feel silly about these exercises, "they report feeling more alert and in a better mood" once having performed them.

Associate News Editor