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Piano Games

Learning Piano Fingers Number is Fun for Kids!

piano fingers number

Do you have a child that wants to learn how to play piano? If so, you know that they are going to need to learn the piano fingers number on their hands for playing notes. Piano fingering can be quite frustrating for kids as it is difficult to develop the finger coordination and finger independence that they need. In addition when the hands are at the piano keyboard, the finger numbers go in opposite directions. This can be confusing even for older beginners. In this blog post, we will talk about ways in which parents and teachers can teach piano finger numbers in fun ways so that children are more likely to remember them! Let’s get kids ready for piano lessons!

Piano Fingers Number

You have five fingers! So you will count from one to five on each hand beginning with your thumb. The thumb is number one, index finger is two, middle finger is three, ring finger is four, and pinky finger is five.

finger numbers

Mirror Images

When you put your hands together you can practice wiggling your thumbs, wiggling pointer, and so on. You can play a little piano game imitating what you want the student to do. With your hands together and wiggling finger one (your thumb) ask, “Where is finger number one?” and have the student copy you by wiggling the thumb and they will say “Here is finger number one.”

Kids love playing this game! Make sure to keep a steady rhythm as you speak and make sure the student copies with a steady rhythm too! You can try to trick them by wiggling the same finger more than once, or skipping the fingers And you can also let them be the teacher and ask you where a finger number is. They will need to check to make sure you wiggle the correct finger!

Finger Number Direction

You will notice that when you open your hands up to play the piano the finger number for each finger is a mirror image (they go in opposite directions).

Because children are taught to read from left to right, this really confuses them because the Left Hand finger numbers don’t read from left to right. The left hand fingering moves right to left.

Remembering the left hand finger numbers move right to left becomes increasingly important when kids are ready to play in a five finger position (using all five fingers with each finger placed over one piano key).

How do you know which fingers to use when playing piano?

When you learn to read music, the finger numbers are often written into the music. If they are not, the piano teacher will generally write the finger numbers into the music score. Most piano teachers don’t like music filled with finger numbers because they want to teach piano students how to read the music notes and music that is filled with finger numbers is considered a crutch.

However, for young beginners, learning to read finger numbers is very important, so it is wonderful to use some pre-reading materials to teach this! Helping kids identify the Right Hand, Left Hand, and finger numbers move in contrary motion takes a lot of time to understand when beginning piano students are playing the piano.

It’s also important to bridge new ideas with things kids already know, so using songs with actions, like “Where is Thumbkin,” is helpful.

Here is a video showing how early beginners can play with only one piano finger.

Five Finger Position

Beginning piano books introduce a few songs that do not need to play all five fingers. The younger the student, the more important this kind of music is. I believe most piano teachers look for more of this music for very young kids because music books pretty move quickly into note reading.

Toddlers and preschoolers are usually not ready to play in five finger positions as their hands are smaller and they need to develop a relaxed arm, stronger fingers, and finger independence.

So when I first teach toddlers and preschoolers, I allow them to play with the fingers they are most comfortable with and we practice strengthening the ones they don’t like to use.

Eventually, with enough games, fun activities, and rote music, they will develop their five finger position. Just keep in mind that a three or four year old, it could take several years for this to happen and that is okay!

Piano Fingering

Here is a downloadable pdf piano finger chart. Feel free to print this and use this at the piano with your student as a kind of cheat sheet. Kids will eventually memorize the finger numbers for the correct piano hand position for each of the major five finger hand positions.

Piano Keys Letters for Beginners

Click here to get this free PDF!

Pre-reading Songs for Piano Lessons

Pre-reading songs provide notes off the music staff. I use pre-reading music with all beginners so we can learn how to read rhythms, piano fingering, hand position and fix any bad habits that might develop.

With pre-reading music notes with stems pointing up will be right hand notes, and notes with stems pointing down will be left hand notes. Sometimes I will circle groups of right hand or left hand notes into little bubbles. Kids can practice these bubbles by themselves and then when they are good at each bubble they can practice playing the song.

Practicing these little bubbles helps them develop muscle memory (their fingers know where to go) and allows them to play tiny parts of the song without being overwhelmed.

Rote Music for Piano Lessons

Providing rote music (music that is played by imitation and not note reading) allows students to learn many concepts like finger numbers and keyboard geography (where the notes are located on the piano) without the requirement of note reading.

Although some newer piano methods encourage rote music so students can learn to identify patterns, and play bigger sounding music all over the piano without reading notes, it may be hard to find a piano teacher who actually encourages this kind of creativity and learning.

keyboard and finger numbers

Hand Positions and White Keys

The first note most students learn is middle C. And the first five notes most kids learn is a five note C Major scale. Middle C is easy to identify because it is just to the left of two black keys. The right hand thumb plays on Middle C, pointer finger is a step higher on D, middle finger is a step higher on E, ring finger is a step higher on F and pinky finger is a step higher on G.

C Major piano fingers

Hand Positions and Black Keys

There are groups of two black keys and groups of three black keys. Many little beginner songs can be played on just two notes or three notes. The most important thing to remember is that the black keys are easy for kids to identify. So I start preschoolers on the black keys and not the white keys for the first several lessons.

We can begin learning about the music alphabet at the same time as playing on the black keys, but general guidelines for many piano primers focus on black keys first.

Use Finger Names Instead of Piano Finger Numbers to Begin

Toddlers and Preschoolers may have a difficult time with finger numbers because they may not even understand the basic names of the fingers yet. So learning finger names is a really important foundation to lay.

Playing games that ask kids to find middle fingers, pinky, thumbs, ring fingers and so on are a fun way to help kids learn piano fingerings.

Use Ordinal Numbers to Identify Fingers

Ordinal numbers for finger numbers are first, second, third, fourth, and fifth fingers. Making sure students understand that the thumb is finger one and is also the first finger is important. Five Busy Honey bees (video below) is an example of a song that uses ordinal numbers.

What is fingerplay?

piano fingers numbers

Finger play is moving arms, hands and fingers to short rhymes, stories, or songs. Kids learn many finger plays, like the Itsy Bitsy Spider, when they are very young. Finger plays help develop gross motors skills (like arm and hand movements) and fine motor skills (more detailed finger movement).

What about Fingerplay in Piano Lessons?

Toddlers and preschoolers enjoy fingerplay as a part of their piano lessons. Finger play activities help kids make the correlation between something they already know and the piano. These fingerplays are also helpful in providing the repetition kids ages 3-8 need.

“Open Shut Them”

“Here is Beehive”

Get your free piano finger number activity

“Itsy Bitsy Spider”

“One Little Finger”

“Where is Thumbkin”

“Baby Shark”

“Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”

“Five Busy Bumble Bees”

“Baby Bumble Bee”

“I Built a Little Snowman”

Fun Finger Number Piano Games

There are piano learning games that make piano playing a little more fun for kids. These games can be used as an extension of piano lessons or they may be played at home with parents or by the child on their own!

Piano Activity: Fidget Spinner Finger Builder

Play Doh and the Hokey Pokey

Sneaky Mouse Game

Five FIngers Game

five fingers game

Five Fingers piano game will leave beginning students wanting more… more piano lessons!
Students have several ways to play this Five Fingers Piano Game.  The most exciting variation has students rolling the dice as fast as they can to be the first to cover all their hands.  They can also race against the clock.  Or multiple players may take turns to see who can be the first to go out.  Fun and easy game to add to a piano lesson.  Kids learn/reinforce Right Hand, Left Hand, Finger Numbers, Counting, and Counting on dice.

The First Fingers for Young Students

In this video a new student is learning a song with left hand fingers 2 and 3. Notice how the first knuckle joints collapse. The student starts to notice at the end of the clip and you will see an attempt to correct this.

Pointer Finger

Finger 2 is the easiest finger for kids to play on the piano. Songs like Itsy Bitsy Spider, Hot Cross Buns, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Charlie Chipmunk, I Love Coffee, and so many more can be played with only the pointer finger.

Lesson plans that teach a student to play an entire song in one lesson make kids feel so accomplished! They can leave their very first piano lesson with a song they can share with their family and friends.

Middle Finger

Finger 3 is not as strong as the pointer finger, so I generally have the student put their thumb behind the first knuckle joint to the finger stays curved and doesn’t collapse (like in the video above).

The middle finger can play all the same songs that pointer finger can play, so it is good to go back and play those songs again using the middle finger.

Ring Finger

The ring finger is the most difficult finger for young children to use. This is normal because of how the tendons for the ring and pinky finger are connected in the hand.

Fingers rarely move in isolation and so this generally works itself out as kids begin playing songs, playing games, and building finger strength.

I like to add in the ring finger to pointer and middle finger after those fingers are playing songs well. Ring finger is difficult so I look for ways to minimize it’s use while actually allowing it to play.

Conclusion

In conclusion, I want to encourage you! Learning the piano fingers number takes time. It’s okay to write some finger numbers into your sheet music. It’s okay to let kids learn to play piano using piano fingering. And just know… note reading will also come along in the journey as young students get older.

Let’s meet young students where they can shine! Where they can feel good about making music and sharing their musical talent with friends and family. Play games, use finger plays, learn some rote music, learn some easy piano songs with pre-reading song sheets.

And if you’d like to get my favorite FIRST piano game I play with every new student, be sure to join the Music Time Kid community below! I know you will have so much fun playing this game and you’ll be surprised how much learning can be taught with just one game! Enjoy!

Get My First Preschool Piano Game for free!

Do you want your child to learn preschool piano?

This is the first game I play with every one of my students. Now you can play at home!

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    Itsy Bitsy Spider Piano Activities & Games

    The highly imaginative Itsy Bitsy Spider Piano Song lends itself to many different piano activities and games. Because kids learn this nursery rhyme as toddlers, they know it already and are eager to play a song on the piano that they know! Interested in learning this as your first piano song? I will show you some of the ways I teach this nursery rhyme to young beginners!

    So many preschool and beginner piano music books progress in a manner in which there is very little opportunity for repetition. I often hear teachers of preschool piano students wonder what they should do when a child doesn’t grasp a concept in the lesson because they worry about moving forward in the book. This is where easy piano activities and games are important. Music concepts can be taught over and over again in different ways until the students understand.

    Itsy Bitsy Spider Song

    Itsy Bitsy Spider (actually I learned this as Eency Weency Spider and yes! there is another version Incy Wincy Spider) is one of the first nursery rhymes young children learn. They love the finger play! Actions include climbing higher, then water coming down the water spout, making a big sun, and then climbing up and up and up again! How fun!

    Itsy Bitsy Spider (free download)

    The itsy bitsy spider went up the water spout
    Down came the rain and washed the spider out
    Out came the sun and dried up all the rain
    And the itsy bitsy spider went up the spout again

    First Piano Lessons

    Beginning piano students want to play music they already know. Sometimes those songs are a little more difficult than the first songs they would sight read in a piano music book. But, with a little practice, most kids easily learn songs they already know because their ear will guide them and they have a strong desire to learn.

    Beginners benefit from playing easy piano songs of familiar music because they can be successful without even reading a note. Plus piano lessons can focus on foundational piano skills before note reading is introduced.

    Toddlers and preschoolers are eager to explore the piano and young children must have plenty of movement activities and piano games ( I have a lot of piano games for beginners in my SHOP) to reinforce musical concepts. They need lots of repetition!

    Printable Sheet Music with Alphabet Letters

    sample of itsy bitsy spider piano song with alphabet letters

    I prefer young students play music with music alphabet letters at their first lessons. This allows me to teach the keyboard geography and basic rhythms before getting to the notes on the music staff. Because Itsy Bitsy Spider is a familiar nursery rhyme, I do not provide notes for rhythm in this piano music. I will let them play the rhythm by ear.

    Here is one example of sheet music that has no notes. This easy piano music only has music alphabet letters and the student will play and sing along (and the rhythm is usually spot on!).

    Printable Sheet Music with Notes that have Alphabet Letters

    Another easy piano sheet music I like to use will have notes (so yes, students can see the rhythm) but you can write the music alphabet letters next to the note. This version also has finger numbers for kids who can play with all five fingers. If they are not ready for that, just cross them out.

    What sheet music I give a student really depends on the age of the child and if they have played any other songs already. So it depends if I give them the printable easy piano sheet music with notes or only letters.

    Printable Sheet Music with Notes on the Staff

    The piano sheet music above is what I will use to provide the staff with regular notes. I will give this music to a student who is currently learning to read music notes on the staff. However, it is harder than a song like Hot Cross Buns. The fingering is included but can be changed. If a student knows where to place their hands on the piano and which finger is placed on each note, they will be very successful.

    Some teachers criticize the use of finger numbers, but I am a firm believer that kids need this kind of instruction for a couple reasons.

    First, learning the finger numbers can be tricky. We read from left to right, but the fingering for the left hand goes right to left. The hands are a mirror, so the fingering in the left hand is often difficult for beginners.

    Secondly, kids need some easy wins. If everything is about moving forward and always making progress, kids can get discouraged. They need to have lots of successes and feel good about learning piano, so writing fingering in songs is not a crutch. It is educational and motivational.

    Incy Wincy Spider

    The incy wincy spider went up the water spout
    Down came the rain and washed the spider out
    Out came the sun and dried up all the rain
    And the incy wincy spider went up the spout again

    Piano Games for Itsy Bitsy Spider

    I am always on the look out for fun games for kids. Games that can teach keyboard geography, rhythms, note values, music alphabet, and the like. Math is strongly linked to music, so I also teach patterns, counting, adding, etc.

    I believe kids learn best through games. Sometimes they don’t even realize they are learning! So when you combine easy sheet music with fun games it is easy to teach many many concepts at a time!

    The games I created in the Itsy Bitsy Spider Piano Games & Activities Book include:

    Music Alphabet Path Game – This game provides a forward moving alphabet, but the path moves right to left. This is intentional to provide opportunities for kids to track going the opposite direction of reading.

    Tic-Tac-Toe Game – This game provides an opportunity for kids to build a relationship with the teacher.
    Pattern Cards – You can also use the cards to make patterns and sequences which is an important math skill for Kindergarten.

    Music Alphabet Memory Game – Alphabet letters can be matched to the corresponding piano keyboard cards for a memory style game. Alphabet cards can also be used separately to teach the music alphabet forwards and backwards as well as teaching skipping.

    Music Activities for Itsy Bitsy Spider

    Movement Activities for Itsy Bitsy Spider

    1. Move fingers, hands and arms to the nursery rhyme.
    2. Puppets or stuffed animals can be bounced to the nursery rhyme.
    3. Students can practice moving with their whole body!
    4. Tapping! Kids can tap on their lap or bounce a stuffed animal to the steady beat as the song is sung. (See this blog post or this video for more ideas on teaching a steady beat)
    5. Most instruments like shaker eggs, hand bells, tambourines, drums can be played to the beat or rhythm while singing the nursery rhyme. (See this blog post or video about short and long rhythm)

    Piano Activities for Itsy Bitsy Spider

    1. Learn to play the song Itsy Bitsy Spider
    2. Make up your own Spider Composition
    3. Tap your finger along with the nursery rhyme
    4. Play with rhythms – short and long sounds of Itsy Bitsy Spider

    Preschool Learning Activities for Itsy Bitsy Spider

    Learning activities for beginners may include worksheets (shown below) that help develop fine motor skills, math skills, music alphabet skills, coloring, and more.

    Here is another fun finger builder activity to help develop curvy fingers. I am not a huge fan of too many worksheets at a time because I believe children learn best by moving and playing games.

    Eency Weency Spider (free download)

    The incy wincy spider went up the water spout
    Down came the rain and washed the spider out
    Out came the sun and dried up all the rain
    And the incy wincy spider went up the spout again

    Plastic Spider Rings

    Plastic rings are fun for kids and I like to use them to play finger number games. How fun is it to play music with pointer finger wearing a little spider ring!

    Some links may contain affiliate links which means if you click through the link and make a purchase I may make a small commision at no extra cost to you. Thank you for supporting my blog.

    Kids love these colorful rings! Use them to identify finger numbers or make patterns!

    Little Miss Muffet Lyrics

    Little Miss Muffet
    Sat on a tuffet,
    Eating her curds and whey;
    Along came a spider,
    Who sat down beside her
    And frightened Miss Muffet away

    Another spider nursery rhyme! Use this nursery rhyme to have kids create another original song they compose on their own!

    Conclusion

    I hope you have found some of the ideas I have on this blog post useful. I started this blog to help parents and teachers introduce music to young children. I’m convinced parents can teach their own young beginner many musical skills with a little help. And I know many teachers value the ideas of other teachers who have years of experience.

    Leave me a comment below what you found helpful or useful in this post. And share any ideas you may have for a future post!

    The resources I am creating are great for a beginner. You can purchase this Itsy Bitsy Spider Game & Activity Book on my website here.

    Sneaky Mouse Piano Game

    If you’re looking for a fun activity you can play with your preschooler, that will leave your future piano teacher thanking you over and over, then this piano game is for you!

    Children love to play games, so I want to show you a piano game that you can use to help prepare your young child for piano lessons.  Whether your child is already taking preschool piano lessons or you are hoping they will study the piano in the future, this activity will help develop the fine motor skills that children need for piano lessons.

    Fine motor skills are not only important for learning to play the piano but they are also important for school readiness.  Kids use fine motor skills to color, write, and do other activities that help them succeed in school. So you will find that this game is even helpful in preparing your child for Kindergarten.

    One thing you will need besides the Sneaky Mouse Cards is the Last Mouse Lost Game Board and instructions which can be purchased from Amazon (affiliate link).

    Last Mouse Lost Game Board

    I often find tangible board games adapt into preschool piano games because preschoolers learn really well with tangible 3-D products. Kids as young as 18 months love love love to push these silicone bubbles. Due to copyright, I do not republish the instructions of this game, but I do give you instructions on how I modify the game. I also have a youtube video that gives more details that I will share here.

    (NOTE: I may have affiliate links on this page and that means if you make a purchase when you click through my link I may make a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you for supporting my blog!)

    Most piano games are flat… meaning they are printed games like tic tac toe, bingo, candy land, and go fish style card games.  But actually having a game board… the cheese… makes this game really really fun, and very beneficial in teaching so many things little piano students need to work on…. Finger numbers, finger strength, finger coordination, and knowing Right and Left Hands.   Plus it’s a strategy game, not a game of chance.

    Strategy begins all over when someone draws the card that says “Turn over the cheese”.  You actually turn the cheese board over and resume play!

    My five year old grandson asks to play this game every time he comes over!

    piano game

    Benefits of playing Sneaky Mouse Piano Game

    • work on Right Hand and Left Hand
    • learn finger numbers for playing the piano
    • build finger independence
    • strengthen the fingers
    • engages the mind because it is a strategy game

    Sneaky Mouse Card Game

    This piano game is available in my shop!

    Get My First Preschool Piano Game for free!

    Do you want your child to learn preschool piano?

    This is the first game I play with every one of my students. Now you can play at home!

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