Clapping games have been a favorite pastime of children for generations. They are found in all cultures. Learning them has been something passed on from one child to another. This has usually happened on playgrounds, but now some children are also watching videos on YouTube (like this one of two girls playing "Slide" and "Miss Mary Mack"). Some games are played by just two players, and others can be played by as many people as you can bring together. They usually have rhyming lyrics, like "Down Down Baby", but sometimes it is just all about the rhythm, like "Cups".
Besides being just plain fun, clapping games have other benefits. Research has found that participating in clapping games can lead to better social integration within groups as well as improvement in motor and cognitive skills. For younger children, the clapping can help develop basic motor skills, while in adults clapping games can relieve tension and stress.
Some popular music has brought in the influence of hand clapping games. Here are a few examples:
Rhythmic hand clapping as structure for a musical work is not limited to just popular music. Steve Reich wrote "Clapping Music" (performed here by Steve Reich and Wolfram Winkel) in 1972. The library even has the score for "Clapping Music" if you'd like to see how it is notated.
Fun Clapping, opens a new window (List of clapping games with words and instructions)
Clapping Games, opens a new window (British Library article)
Around the World in 5 Kids' Games, opens a new window (New York Times article)
Hand-Clapping Improves Motor and Cognitive Skills, Research Shows, opens a new window (Science Daily Article)
Why You Should Teach Your Child Clapping Games, opens a new window (blog entry by an occupational therapist)