Finger plays use rhythm and body movement to accompany songs or chants. This supports babies and children with sound recognition, vocabulary, communication skills, coordination and problem-solving. Use fun actions and rhymes to support language skills.

Why do it?

Finger plays can:

  • help toddlers build word skills
  • help them learn to imitate
  • help them match words with actions
  • be a time of fun and sharing.

How to do it

Here are two action rhymes to share with tamariki. Say or sing the words as you follow the movement instructions in the brackets. 

Little, bigger, biggest

A little ball (make a ball with finger and thumb).

A bigger ball (make a ball with two hands).

And a great big ball (make a ball with arms).

Now help me count them — 1, 2, 3! (Repeat gestures for each size.)

Row your boat

Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream.

Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream.

(Sit on the floor with your child, holding their hands and rocking backward and forward.)

Using more te reo Māori

Te reo Māori English
Talk, communicate
To imitate or mimic
Hand actions
Me pēnei Do it like this...
Homai tō ringa Give me your hand
He pōro iti A little ball
He pōro nui A big ball
He pōro nunui A great big ball
Tahi, rua, toru One, two, three
Ō ringaringa ki runga Arms up
Hope! Hands on your hips
He pai ki ā koe tēnei waiata? Do you like this song?
E noho ki te whāriki Sit here on the carpet
E peke Jump