Piano Finger Olympics for Kids
We often play Piano Finger Olympics for Kids. This is a collection of impromptu finger dexterity games they love, probably because it is real and not theoretical. I’m a firm believer that kids need to experience fingering in the abstract before they use it on a given song. Children vary wildly. One six year-old may use his fingers as a group easily. Another child may need a lot of help. This is almost always due to the stage of development of the corpus callosum, the group of ganglia that link the two brain hemispheres. Insisting that very young kids control which finger they use may result in resistance and disaster. Even simple motions such as making the five fingers play in a row seem almost unattainable at first. If you say, “Let‘s work on fingering,” you might get resistance. If you say, “Let’s play THE FINGER OLYMPICS GAME,” you’ll get a curious, enthusiastic contestant.
Your first attempt should be to create games that involve the first three fingers of the right hand, thumb, index and middle finger. It's like the child’s game CAT’S CRADLE or any other childhood dexterity display. The child should play a game that organizes the first three fingers, as a place to start.
1 2 3 , 2 3 4 , 3 4 5 , 4 5 6 , etc.
Try 1 2 3, 1 2 3 until the child has taken enough time to get their brain around this basic move. Then move the three numbers to any three consecutive white keys, as long as they use the first three fingers in order. Try going down: 3 2 1, 3 2 1. Then move that shape (three descending keys with the appropriate fingers) around the piano.
Try playing four ascending keys in a row: 1234, 2345, 3456, etc. Then try four descending keys, 4321, etc.
Younger kids may not get this easily. Turn the thumb under after the third finger: 123,456. (Yes, it's the beginnings of a piano scale, but don't tell them!) This one takes some patience, and if you see that it is becoming a chore, stop and do something easier. This is a game, not a task. You are trying to stretch their minds just a little bit. You can't conquer fingering in a single day. Take the time to have the child experiment with fingering in the abstract sense. You will notice a far faster start when you do actually get to fingering. Kids love to wiggle their fingers. There’s no reason a piano can’t be a grand finger wiggling machine.