Parental Tips

Happy Clappers: The Surprising Benefits of Hand Clap Games for Kids—and Adults!

Hand clapping games have been around for centuries. And it’s not surprising: they need no equipment, can be played anywhere, and are super easy to learn and follow. But did you know that hand games for kids actually have many benefits? It’s true, clapping games for kids are good for everything from boosting hand-eye coordination to enhancing memory skills and even developing self-confidence.

Want to learn more? We’ve got everything you need to know below!


What are Hand Clapping Games?

hand games

Dmytro Zinkevych/

Hand clapping games involve clapping the hands along to a rhythm, song, or nursery rhyme and can be played with a partner or in a group. These games are generally non-competitive and cooperative and often involve a pattern of clapping. A common pattern is for a player to clap their own hands, then both hands of their partner, then to clap one hand of their partner’s (typically across the body, ie, the player will clap their partner’s right hand with their own right hand). A hand clapping game may also incorporate other activities, such as players slapping their thighs, freezing, or touching the ground.

Hand clap games have been played by children around the world for hundreds of years, and they continue to be enjoyed today. Even very young kids, usually from around two years old, can play simple handclap games. Indeed, with their focus on simple fun, these games are still seen as an inherent part of the childhood experience.

The Benefits of Hand Clapping Songs and Games

hand clapping games

Picture Life/

We know how much fun hand games are for kids, but are there any benefits to playing them? The answer is a resounding yes! Here are the top reasons to encourage your older baby or young child to have a go with some clapping games:

  • Helps develop bilateral coordination
  • Great for enhancing fine motor skills
  • Builds social skills and self-confidence
  • Increases the ability to pay attention to detail
  • Aids memory
  • Enhances rhythm and timing
  • May help with emotional regulation
  • The fun factor—clapping games can provide hours of screen-free entertainment

That’s a pretty impressive list of benefits, right? Now let’s take a look at some great hand clapping games that your child is sure to love. Learning and playing these games with your little one is a great way to bond, and spend some quality time together, too.

11 Hand Clapping Games for Kids

Patty Cake

The Patty Cake game has been played by children for generations, dating back at least as far as the 1600s. Of all the hand clapping songs, this one is probably the most well-known. The game can be enjoyed by two or more players.

To play, kids sit opposite each other and rhythmically clap their own and their partner’s hands in the standard criss-cross fashion, as they sing:

Patty cake, patty cake, baker’s man,

Bake me a cake as fast as you can.

Pat it and roll it and mark it with B,

Then put it in the oven for baby and me!

Miss Mary Mack

This popular clapping game is known the world over and features easy-to-learn rhymes, a great rhythm to clap to, and other fun elements. Kids will love letting their imaginations run wild as they chant the catchy lyrics—and when they get to the end of the song, they can keep the game going by coming up with as many new lines as they can!

Miss Mary Mac, Mac, Mac

All dressed in black, black, black,

With silver buttons, buttons, buttons, 

All down her back, back, back.

She asked her mother, mother, mother

For fifty cents, cents, cents

To see the elephants, elephants, elephants, 

Jump over the fence, fence, fence.

They jumped so high, high, high

They reached the sky, sky, sky,

They never came back, back, back

‘Til the fourth of July, July, July.

Double Double

A tongue-twisting clap game with words that get harder to say as the speed builds up, kids will find Double Double a riot. The hands are rotated for each clap with this one, making the game a little more challenging than some of the others on this list. It’s a great way to amp up the energy levels, though, and for building hand-eye coordination.

Double double this this

Double double that that

Double this

Double that

Double double this that.

Lemonade (Crunchy Ice)

When it comes to clapping songs for kids, Lemonade (Crunchy Ice) is always a winner! As the lyrics instruct, as well as clapping, kids have to turn around, and touch the ground at certain parts of the chant—and at the end, they need to freeze. The final line, about kicking your boyfriend out of town, is optional.

Lemonade, crunchy ice,

Sip it once, sip it twice,

Lemonade, crunchy ice,

Made it once, made it twice,

Turn around, touch the ground,

Kick your boyfriend out of town!

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A Sailor Went to Sea

Children love the repetitive nature of the rhymes in this chant, and it’s one of the easiest to pick up on this list—handclaps are used in a simple, standard pattern throughout, and it can be played in a pair or a group.

It’s also one of the oldest hand clap rhymes, starting life as the nursery rhyme, My Father Went to Sea. Have a go at this one with your little one—you may be surprised at just how quickly they pick it up.

A sailor went to sea, sea, sea,

To see what he could see, see, see,

But all that he could see, see, see,

Was the bottom of the deep blue sea, sea, sea.

There are lots more verses to add on once they get the hang of it, like these:

A sailor went to sea, sea, sea,

To see what he could see, see, see,

But all that he could see, see, see,

Was a baby shark in the deep blue sea.

A sailor went to sea, sea, sea,

To see what he could see, see, see,

But all that he could see, see, see,

Was an octopus in the deep blue sea.

Apples on a Stick

Mainly found in the US and UK, Apples on a Stick is another popular clapping game that’s been around for years. Please note, though, that the rhymes in this one are a little… interesting, and you may feel are inappropriate for kids. Feel free to adapt as necessary!

What makes this clapping game extra interesting is that players keep their eyes closed for the last verse—which is also great for helping very young kids with their numbers.

Apple on a stick makes me sick,

Makes my heart beat two-forty-six,

Not because you’re dirty, not because you’re clean,

Just because you kissed a boy behind a magazine.

Girls, girls, wanna have some fun,

Here comes Susie with her hoop skirt on,

He can wibble, he can wobble, he can even do the splits, 

But I bet you ten bucks that he can’t do this.

Close your eyes and count to ten,

If you muck it up you’re not my best friend.

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10,

You didn’t muck it up so you’re my best friend.

Down Down Baby

The Down Down Baby handclap game is a challenge, but it’s one your child will enjoy getting to grips with and mastering! As you’ll see from the video, it involves a fairly complex sequence of clapping, handshakes, finger-snapping, and knee-slapping. It may take a little while to get the hang of, but your child will have fun playing this with friends at home, while away on long car journeys, or in the school playground. Why not try learning this one together? Hand clap games are great for adults, as well as kids, and can be surprisingly effective at lowering stress levels.

Down, down baby,

Down, down, baby,

Down, down the rollercoaster,

Sweet, sweet baby, I’ll never let you go.

Shimmy, shimmy, cocoa pop,

Shimmy, shimmy, pow,

Shimmy, shimmy, cocoa pop,

Shimmy, shimmy, pow!

I like coffee, I like tea,

I like another boy and he likes me.

Up and down and side to side,

All around and shake it little ride,

P O P spells POP!

Four White Horses

This handclapping game derives from a Caribbean folk song and two or more sets of partners are needed to play. Kids form a square, with partners standing opposite each other, and clap on the beat. It’s great for promoting teamwork and cooperation skills, and is lots of fun, too.

Four white horses on the river,

Hey, hey, hey, up tomorrow,

Up tomorrow is a rainy day,

Come and join our shadow play.

Shadow play is a ripe banana, 

Four white horses on the river,

Hey, hey, hey, up tomorrow,

Up tomorrow is a rainy day.

Shame, Shame, Shame

Particularly popular in schoolyards in the 1990s, this handclap game is very simple to pick up. Various versions exist in different areas, but the main features of the game are universal. Two players start facing each other with their hands held together, with the game progressing into an easy pattern of alternating above and below claps.

Shame, shame, shame,

I don’t want to go to Mexico no more, more, more,

There’s a big fat policeman at the door, door, door,

He grabbed me by the collar,

Made me pay a dollar,

I don’t want to go to Mexico no more, more, more,



This is one of the fastest and most challenging games on the list, so it’s likely to be suitable for slightly older kids. Children sit around a table, and the game involves hitting the table with the palms of the hands in a pattern and pausing, as well as a pattern of clapping. Kids are likely to like playing this one outdoors at a picnic table.

There are no words to Sevens, but you can take a look at the video to learn how to play.

Nobody Likes Me

All kids find the Nobody Likes Me rhyme hilarious! If you’re looking for a song that’s perfect for your child to make up their own handclapping sequence, this one is just right. You kids will have endless laughs coming up with some creative clapping to the famously gross lyrics.

Nobody likes me, everybody hates me,

Think I’m gonna eat worms,

Fat ones, skinny ones,

Oochy, goochy goo ones,

See how they wiggle and squirm.

Bite their heads off, suck their juice out,

Throw their skins away.

You should see how well I thrive

On worms three times a day!

Handclapping Games are Great for Kids—and Adults!

clapping games


Handclapping games may form a part of most childhoods, but who knew just how beneficial they are? As well as being a great way to develop hand-eye coordination and motor skills, they promote teamwork and cooperation, boost self-confidence, and even help to regulate mood. That’s a lot of good stuff for some seemingly simple clapping games. Not to mention that they can provide hours of screen-free entertainment. Have we convinced you? Why not give one of the clapping games above a go with your little one, and see how they react?

We’d love to know your favorite childhood handclapping games. Do any appear on the list above? Drop us a line in the comments box below!


How do you play handclapping games?

Most handclapping games involve a rhythmic pattern of clapping to the beat of a song, nursery rhyme, or chant. Some games incorporate simple patterns of clapping, while others are more complex, or use additional actions such as touching the ground or a handshake.

What is the handclapping game from the 90s?

One of the most popular handclapping games in the 1990s was Shame, Shame, Shame. You can find details of this game above.

What is the hand clapping game with two people?

Most hand clapping games can be played with two people, such as Patty Cake, A Sailor Went to Sea, and Down Down Baby.

The picture on the front page: SeventyFour/

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