Parent-Child Activity: Learning Through Play

Parent educator demonstrating Clap, Tap, Rap activity in our Healthy & Fair Start.

August 4, 2021

Repeating Sounds and Motion

This is a fun, simple activity to do with kids ages one to five years old. Children learn to notice and copy patterns in speech and motion, and practice waiting their turn. You don't need any supplies and you can do it anywhere, making it a great distraction for road trips, trips to the grocery story, or waiting at a doctor’s office or restaurant

With this activity you’ll work with your child on listening, repeating and motor skills. As your child begins to notice and copy patterns and repeat sounds in a specific order, they gain ordering and sequencing skills. Watch the video to see how our parent educators work with families on this activity.

  1. Begin by choosing a word and making an accompanying hand motion. For example, say “clap” and clap your hands once each time you say the word. Clap – Clap – Clap.
  2. Then offer your child a chance to repeat the pattern.
  3. Put together two words and motions. For example: Clap – Clap – Clap, then Tap – Tap – Tap.
  4. Have your child repeat the series after you.

Get creative by having your child come up with words, putting rhyming words together, and thinking of silly hand motions.

Watch the Clap, Tap, Rap Activity in Action

Here are some ideas for you to try:

Say... Motion...
Clap. Clap hands together
Tap Tap your lap with both hands or tap your feet
Flap Fold your arms in like a chicken
Shine Open and close your fingers
Beep Move hand like honking a horn
See Put hands in front of eyes and open/close
Talk Put hand in front of mouth and open/close
Listen Cap hands over ears on and off
Quiet (say quietly) Put both hands close to the ground

Benefits to Early Learning and Relationship Building

This activity can be done nonverbally by only using different hand motions and having your child repeat these motions and incorporate their own. Alternatively, it can be played with only sounds likes animal noises.

For older children try a series of rhyming words or opposite words (up-up-up / down-down-down then big-big-big / small-small-small, etc). Repeat one word and hand motion then pause for the child to provide a rhyming or opposite word and hand motion.

Research shows that the “serve and return” interactions like the Clap, Tap, Rap activity have many benefits to early childhood development as well as parental relationships.1 Back-and-forth interactions between parent and child help build neural pathways in your child’s brain, preparing them for success in learning and development.

Empowering Parents in Their Child’s Development

Activities like this one are part of our Healthy and Fair Start program. Our parent educators facilitate interactions between the parent and child, promoting learning and early development, as well as the health and safety of the child.

Kids (and parents) get a lot out of this simple activity!

  1. Motor: Hand motions require children to coordinate using the small muscles in their fingers, hands and wrists.
  2. Language: Games that require children to listen and repeat sounds develop auditory discrimination, a skill that will help your child learn to read.
  3. Social-emotional: Children practice listening and waiting for their turn. Self-control and collaboration are important school readiness skills.

If you’re interested in improving your relationship with your children, our team can connect you with one of our trained parent educators. Send us a message or fill out a service request form.

1 National Scientific Council on the Developing Child (2004). Young Children Develop in an Environment of Relationships: Working Paper No. 1. Retrieved from


This activity encourages bonding and language development.

Create structure in your home and a more nurturing environment.

We provide coaching and support to parents of young children.


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