Learning the finger numbers is one of the essential basics that even parents with no musical background can help their kids with. Many method books start off by introducing the finger numbers and presenting the student with little tunes on the black keys they can read by applying the correct fingers with the appropriate hand.
Younger students have two sources of potential confusion when confronted with finger numbers. First, they find it tricky to remember who is who, and next, they still experience their hands as a whole unit they are not used to breaking down to five separate fingers. Some help at home would be great for these students and would boost their confidence.
Generally, the activity tips listed here should be fun and enjoyable for the parent and child. There is no point in turning these little games into unpleasant drills; on the contrary, they can be an opportunity for bonding and warmth in the family.
Before sorting out the finger numbers though, most of the younger kids will need help in reinforcing the distinction between their right and left hands. Singing the hokey pokey song (with the movements, of course) is one way, another way would be making the kids aware of what hand they use for drawing/writing, holding a fork and combing their hair, etc. A round of Twister is great for sorting out left and right too.
Sitting at the piano I find it helpful to refer to the hands as the upstairs right and the downstairs left hand. Upstairs being the hand that plays the higher notes and downstairs, the hand playing the lower notes. This will also come in handy when reading the music, because the right hand is noted above the left hand.
The finger numbers for piano playing are not the same as the finger numbers for guitar, violin and cello, so if you have already had to learn one system of finger numbers, make sure it is clear that the piano fingering is different.
The thumb in both hands is number one, index finger two, and so forth. (In guitar and string instruments the index finger is number one). Saying "Tommy thumb is number one" helps to remember what side of the hand to start counting from.
Here are a few little activates you can do at home to help remember the finger numbers quickly, without having to think and hesitate:
- Ask the child to connect both wrists and finger tips, with a hollow space between the hands as if holding a ball or a little feathery chicken. Call out a number from one to five and get the child to tap the finger tips without squashing the imaginary chicken. Here both hands are tapping the same fingers, which makes it easier and also helps train the rounded hand position needed for playing the piano.
- Find rubber bands in 5 different colors and lay them out in a row. Next, call out: put the red rubber band on finger number 3, or, blue rubber band on finger number 1. Later, you can combine the finger numbers with the right and left sides and also mention which hand the finger is on. When all the fingers have bands on them, continue the same way by taking them off one after the other.
- "Simon Says": Simon could tell you to put the 2nd finger of your right hand on your nose or, put finger number 4 of your left hand on your head, etc.
If you have any more ideas for how parents can help their kids learn the finger numbers and the right\ left navigation please leave a comment below.
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