Monday, October 6, 2014

Finger Strength Achieved Through FUN!

My barely 5-yo daughter is thrilled to be a Green Turtle student and play songs on the piano like her older siblings.  Unlike her brothers who took Let's Play Music years ago, she has tiny, weak (darling!) little fingers.  Today I share some ideas for strengthening little fingers with ideas you can do both with and without the keyboard.

The Wisdom of Let's Play Music
I am relieved that my daughter has had a year of ear-training, note-reading, vocal-training and harp-playing before being required to demonstrate dexterity and finger strength.  Her mind and ear were ready for Red and Blue level theory and exercises, and she soaked them up.  It would have been a frustrating waste of time, effort and motivation if she'd been sitting at a piano all year, wishing her fingers could keep up with the amazing pace of her mind!  Fingers develop at a slow pace, even for kids with sharp minds, and Let's Play Music planned for it.

Strengthening At the Piano
I can't say enough good things about the drills assigned by LPM teachers.  If your kiddo has weak fingers, never skimp on bubble holding and tapping, individual finger-playing, and kit-kat key pressing!   

This video shows exactly what bubble-hands could look like:

I also have my daughter play the kit-kat song with 2 fingers for the group of 2 (pressing them 4 times before moving on) and 3 fingers on the group of 3.  Our goal is to do it with those nice rounded fingers.

Strengthening Without A Piano
I can't keep her at the piano all day, but luckily there are scores of playful ways to strengthen fingers when we're on-the-go.  The dollar store likely has everything you need for games that will strengthen overall grip/flexion, improve individual finger strength, and improve individual finger control and independent movement.

Sponges: Make a game of filling containers (perhaps during bath time) with water by squeezing a soggy sponge into the container.  Squeezing strengthens wrist muscles and finger flexors.

Bulb Syringe: Maybe you have one of these bulbs left over from when your student was a newborn!? Let her enjoy filling and squeezing the bulb with water at bath time. Ask her to try squeezing with different fingers (only thumb and finger 2? only thumb and finger 3?) Of course every activity is more fun if you fill the bulbs with paint and make it a craft.

Spray bottles: Make cool designs on the sidewalk by squirting water on the cement.  If squeezing seems easy, try using fewer fingers on the trigger! If you've got good weather, fill spray bottles and squeeze bottles with home-made sidewalk spray paint.

Play-doh: We play "mushy pushy."  My daughter holds a ball of dough in her hand and when I say a finger number (or roll a die), she squishes only that finger deep into the dough. There are plenty of play-doh games online to keep your kiddo entertained and squeezing for hours.

Stress-balls: We made our own stress ball by putting flour in a balloon.  Just to be silly, we sing the "flat little red balloon" song instead of "great big red balloon" while squishing it and strengthening fingers.

Finger Exerciser: $6 is a pretty cheap price to pay for a GYM MEMBERSHIP for your fingers. That's what you get when you buy a finger exerciser (available on Amazon.) You can work the whole grip, or each finger individually.

Clothespins: Pick up small items using a clothespin as tongs, or clip clothespins around the edge of your Green Turtles songbook.  Look online for dozens of clothespin educational games  or super-cute animal crafts with opening mouths made from clothespins.  Try opening with different combinations of fingers!

Tennis Ball Puppet: Make a puppet by cutting a mouth slit in a tennis ball.  It takes a strong grip to squeeze his mouth open (and you can hide small objects in there!) Draw eyes with marker or glue on some googley eyes.

I Love You:  Teach your child the classic handsign for "I Love You" and flash it to each other every day!  The ASL (American Sign Language) alphabet and counting numbers also require finger strength and control to shape little hands.  Ask math questions and make a game of only answering with fingers.

I hope these ideas help you and your little one strengthen fingers without getting too frustrated in these early weeks at the piano.  In no time at all her hands will be stronger and she'll be playing chords and intervals with confidence AND be able to remember those hand positions for life.

-Gina Weibel, M.S.
Let's Play Music Teacher


  1. These are great ideas! Thanks, Gina!!

  2. Gina, Gina, Gina! Your ideas are ALWAYS welcome and delightful! Thanks for sharing!