We fumbled, we recovered, we fumbled again. And we all laughed together—connection and imperfection at its best.
The first time that children and I sang while clapping a hand rhythm, we were really focused, intent on the task. This playful way of being with kids can help integrate mindful experiences anywhere.
A Versatile, Adaptable Way to Focus
Hand rhythms require sustained, focused concentration. We truly do have to pay attention. The minute we overthink it, we lose that flow — but that’s okay because we just begin again. Making mistakes, experiencing the joy of being wrong, can transform us. When synchronicity happens, we feel grounded and at ease, if only until the next mistake!
Hand rhythms are so versatile. If I start clapping when kids are mentally exhausted, it often restores wakefulness. Rhythm can be a helpful segue to settle high-energy kids before moving into a quieter lesson. And rhythms are a practice of mindful movement, a game that stands on its own.
Clapping patterns are very adaptable. The same sequence can be slowed down, simplified, or taught in parts. They can be explored in rounds or gradually made increasingly difficult. Partner clapping is a fun, natural next step. Change the lyrics to be more relevant to the age group, population, season, or moment.
Developing Community and Cognitive Skills
Once students learn hand rhythms, they’ll use them spontaneously. Children sit around clapping together and teaching others who do not know them. Seeing this inspires me, especially in our media-saturated society. So many games are competitive, but hand clapping encourages cooperative effort and unification.
In addition to fun and focus, rhythmic games have a positive effect on cognition. Research shows that they increase hand eye coordination, body awareness, proprioception, memory, and reasoning skills.
Hand rhythms are not just for kids. Adults have great fun with them too. If it’s challenging for you to play with kids, these patterns might help you connect with more ease. The reward is great: there’s something about playful presence that lights up a kid’s face and heart.
Cindy Edwards is creator of Harmonious Kids and a Certified Instructor from Mindful Schools. A speaker and writer, she leads mindfulness classes, camps, workshops, and training for kids of all ages as well as adults. Contact her for more information about mindfulness through play.
Mindful Schools transforms school communities from the inside out. Founded in 2007, Mindful Schools’ graduates have impacted over 750,000 children worldwide. Learn more about our online course offerings Mindfulness Fundamentals and Mindful Educator Essentials .