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Try these 5 finger plays for fairy tales to make stories come to life!

Finger plays for fairy tales make story time interactive as kids see the tales “come to life.” Use these four, or make up your own!

My little one’s attention drifted from the story in my lap to sticking his fingers in my ears, nose, and hooking one surprisingly strong pointer finger into my mouth and pulling hard! OUCH! Reading time had devolved into some strange kind of wack-a-mole game as I tried to keep his fingers from unintentionally hurting me!

Then it hit me. He is playing with his hands! I knew what I needed to do next…

Have you ever had reading time fall apart on you like this?

A lot of parents abandon read-aloud time because kids are just so curious they often can’t sit still! Especially if your child is highly kinesthetic (movement oriented), they will want to move their bodies way more than turn their listening ears on!

What is finger play and why do it?

Finger plays are simple hand movements geared to fit a particular song or story. Like the Itsy-Bitsy Spider! You can make them up yourself, or borrow from popular and well-known finger plays that kids may already know and love.

Why do it? Because finger plays engage the sensory part of the brain! Kids can learn and enjoy finger play even before they are verbal. Plus there are tons of benefits:

Attention getting:

For kids who are “movers and shakers,” a physical activity like finger play gives them a healthy way to move without disrupting the story or other kids.

Comprehension builder:

So many new concepts are taught through story and song. Whether you’re counting on your fingers, or drawing shapes in the air, or even learning about emotions by drawing a smile over your mouth, finger play helps kids learn new things!

Activate imagination:

Kids create images in their minds as they create a “spider” with their hands. Or when they “hop” like a speckled frog.

Develops the brain:

Finger play helps kids memorize a song or story, and memorization is good for the brain.

Since children can pick up the actions without having to say or understand the words, fingerplay is a way for children of all ages, cultures, and abilities to enjoy a group activity.

So, the next time you’re sitting with your child trying to read their favorite fairy tale… try these finger plays before reading, so your little one has something to DO while you read the story.

4 fairy tale finger plays to make stories come to life

Goldilocks and the 3 Bears

When Goldilocks went to the house of the bears.
Oh what did her blue eyes see, (put fingers around eyes)
A bowl that was big,(arms out stretched)
A bowl that was small, (bring arms in slightly)
A bowl that was tiny and that’s not all, (bring hands together for tiny) 
She counted them 1,2,3.
Repeat with chairs, beds, and bears.

Last lines:
A bear that was big.
A bear that was small.
A bear that was tiny and that was all.
She ran away 1,2,3 (growl with “bear claw” hands)

Three Billy Goats Gruff

Trip Trap Trip Trap
Billy goats three (hold up 3 fingers)
Over the bridge
Go the brothers three (walk fingers over arm)
When the Troll jumps out (make monster hands with curled fingers)
They bravely say (hold up 3 fingers again)
“We’re Billy Goats Gruff!”
And the Troll runs away! (Troll hands run away)

The Gingerbread Man

Gingerbread, gingerbread, gingerbread Man (stand up two fingers on your arm)
Got up out of the pan and ran (run fingers along your arm)
When everyone chase him, he shouted with glee (put cupped hand around your mouth)
“I’m the Gingerbread Man, you can’t catch me! (giggle)
Gingerbread, gingerbread, gingerbread Man (stand up two fingers on your arm)
Down the road he ran and ran (run fingers along arm)
But when he came to the fox, you see–
The fox ate him right up–Yummy! (“chomp” your other hand over your Gingerbread Man hand)

Tom Thumb

Tom Thumb was a tiny lad (give a thumbs up to show size)
But BIG adventures Tom Thumb had. (stretch hands out wide)
A cow, a giant, and a fish
tried to make him their dinner dish. (snap thumb and fingers together like a “bite”)
So he told the King at dinner one night, (put a crown on your head)
Before going home to kiss his mother goodnight. (kiss the back of your hand).

The Bremen Town Musicians

Four animal friends walked to town (walk fingers across arm)

To sing and play and drum, pum-pum! (use imagination drumsticks in air)

They met some robbers on the way (hand to mouth in alarm)

And with their music and their noise (two hands to mouth like shouting)

They scared them far away! (run fingers down arm)


These finger plays for fairy tales make the stories come to life

When I stopped our story time to have a little interactive play with my son, it made all the difference in holding his attention throughout the read aloud time. His eyes watched me demonstrate the moves. And he tried to copy me as best he could! Story time resumed with him happily playing with his fingers–and listening too!

I hope you enjoyed those 4 fairy tale finger plays – they will make your storytelling interactive and the tales will “come to life” for your little ones. You can use mine given here, or make up your own finger plays for any story you read or tell.

Now… which fairy tale will YOU read to your kids!? I have some suggestions… and a FREE sample for you too:

Download a FREE copy of The Bremen Town Musicians!

Illustration by Ana Sanfelippo

If you’d like a FREE copy of The Bremen Town Musicians story, which I retold in my book Toddler Story Treasury, just enter your name and email in the form below.

The PDF version of the story will open up in a new browser window for you to enjoy with your little ones!

Love this story? You can order your copy of Toddler Story Treasury and read all 30 classic tales, sweetly retold with no scary stuff! This book is perfect for sharing the joys of familiar stories that have spanned generations. It makes a wonderful gift for any baby shower, new mom, or little toddler in your life.

Every story is retold in gentle language for the youngest readers in a “just right” story length of only 2-3 pages. That way parents can always squeeze in “just one more story” before bedtime or any time!

Get your copy of Toddler Story Treasury on Amazon or where ever books are sold.