Question: What types of finger exercises or warm ups do you recommend for very small piano students?
Did you know that many children enter kindergarten having never held a pencil correctly or used pair of scissors? A great deal of time in the first year of school is spent developing fine motor skills. If you have a 5 year old piano student, your demands on their fine motor skills are even greater than in a school setting. And while some students have more advanced finger dexterity, others struggle. Regardless of their abilities, young piano students benefit greatly from exercises designed to zero in on fine motor skill development.
Building strength and dexterity in young piano students can be a really enjoyable part of their lesson! Finger warm-ups are a good way to begin the lesson as they can be done while you chat about their day at school and ease them into the piano lesson frame of mind.
Check out our Top 5 Piano Finger Warm Ups below and have some fun developing your piano students’ fine motor control.
1. Icky Sticky Thumb
Spread imaginary glue on your piano student’s thumb. Your student’s job is to then rub off the “glue” using the pad of each of their other fingers in turn starting with the 2 finger. Have your student use a circular motion when rubbing the thumb. I say “icky sticky thumb” while they rub 3 circles in time with the rhythm of the words. Do hands separately until they are good at it and then hands together.
2. Stretchy Spider
Have your student place their hand on a table top with their wrist resting on the surface and their fingers nicely curved. This is the “spider”. He needs to stretch each of his legs. Have your student reach one finger at a time starting with their thumb and reaching in an upward motion while keeping their other fingertips touching the table top and without allowing their knuckles to collapse. You can hold something for the spider legs to reach up to touch, giving them something to aim for.
Once your student has mastered this, this you can give the spider specific exercises for his legs. Write out finger numbers in random order and have the spider’s legs lift accordingly (ie. 1-3-5-2-4).
3. Silly Poems
Use silly poems like the one below to give your students cues as to what to do with their fingers. These also strengthen memory skills if you have your student recite the poem along with you and they help to connect your young piano students with a sense of pulse as they listen to rhythm of the words.
4. Don’t Wake Mr. Pointer!
With their hand in C position, have your piano student press down all 5 keys at once. One at a time each finger lifts to tap their key 3 times while the rest of the fingers remain depressed. Mr. Pointer (their 2 finger) is sleeping so he doesn’t tap! The other fingers need to tap softly so as to not wake him up.
5. Gimme a Pop!
Have your student lay their hand palm up on a flat surface. Their fingers have become sunbathers… and they’re hot! The thumb has nice cool soda pop for each finger. One by one they lift up to meet the thumb who is delivering their refreshments. The fingers meet over their open palm and touch briefly finger pad to finger pad before returning to a flat hand position. The other “sunbathers” are allowed to lift up slightly if necessary. My piano kids love it when I make sound effects each time the fingers touch the thumb like “Glug glug glug… ahhh!” (as though one was enjoying a nice cold drink).
Piano Finger Warm-Ups Are Important
By helping your piano students to focus in on individual finger movements you are not only strengthening their finger muscles and coordination, but also the brain-to-finger connection. They’ll not only be much more adept pianists… but they’ll be the ones in their class at school who hold their pencil correctly and have beautiful printing too! (Score one more for piano teachers! :))
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