Clapping hands games seem to be very common across cultures with countless variations. Their prevalence suggests that they play an important part in a normal child’s development. To find out more I’ve been searching YouTube for examples of different clapping games and clapping behaviour. It has proven an absolute treasure trove.
In the previous article on clapping, And they all went to heaven in a little row boat , research suggests it developed from 2 1/2 onwards. However there are plenty of examples of infants playing the clapping hand game pat-a-cake or If You’re Happy and You Know It.
By comparing different videos we can see the necessary coordination skills developing in a child. In this clip, an infant is struggling to master the basics of clapping, getting both hands in same place. In this second clip, a more developed infant can has mastered the coordination but the action seems to be mimicry of the adult without any intent to produce sound. Further along the development process the child gains more control and is starting to understand the behaviour in context of a clapping hand game.
As the child develops the ability to clap and rhythmic skills develop in tandem. By pre-school or kinder garden age, clapping hands games have developed to quite complex cooperative activities involving singing and different types of clapping. This trend continues through junior school and into pre-teens with the speed and length of the games growing with age. They can even become group activities.
As an aside, I think all the children featured in these clapping games are girls. These games along with playground activities played by predominately by girls such as skipping and hopscotch are good cerebellum training activities. They are also played at age when girls tend to be academically more advanced than boys at the same age. Whether this is connected or not is hard if not impossible to tell but its an interesting coincidence.
Once in puberty , hand clapping games loose their interest as children discover other activities to keep themselves occupied but hand clapping games do have some carry over into adult behaviour. This Hand Clapping Montage shows that they still have an attraction to adults. Clapping also plays an important part in music creation as well as way of showing appreciation. This choir integrates clapping beautifully into their performance. Finally, no discussion of music and clapping can be complete without mention of Beck’s Clap Hands. Its more about percussion than clapping but its a joy to behold