10 Hand-Clapping Games For Kids And Adults, Plus How To Play

10 Classic Hand-Clapping Games To Teach Your Kids (And Relive Yourself)

March 5, 2021 Updated May 29, 2021

Happy father and daughter playing a clapping game in a park
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If there’s one thing to miss about elementary school, it’s the hand-clapping games. Why were they were so amusing? Maybe part of it was feeling like you were in a secret society. Hand-clapping games are often passed down from generation to generation, usually with some minor tweaks. That means that you can pass them onto your child, too (if you think they’re ready to learn). Hand clapping games are also a welcomed break from screens and can teach your child a bit about coordination.

The only problem is, you may be a bit rusty. On the plus side, muscle memory kicks in when you get hand-clapping games started. However, they can still require a little bit of practice on your end. Here are nine incredible hand-clapping games to practice with your little ones this weekend. 

Hand Clapping Games

  1. Patty Cake. Patty Cake — also known as Pat-A-Cake — is one of the easiest hand-clapping games to start. It doesn’t require too many coordinated movements and is great for toddlers. Just be aware, the jingle will be in your head all day. (Forget it? No problem. It’s “Patty cake, patty cake, baker’s man. Bake me a cake as fast as you can. Pat it and prick it and mark it with ‘B,’ Put it in the oven for baby and me.”) You can change the letter marked to personalize the song for your child.
  2. Miss Mary Mack. All dressed in black, with silver buttons all down her back. This was one of the most popular hand-clapping games back in the ’80s and ’90s, and it’s still a blast. You start with your hands crossed around your chest, move them to your thighs, clap your hands together, and then clap the hands of your partner in rhythm. Part of the fun is remembering the entire rhyme.
  3. Miss Suzie. If Miss Mary Mack is too dull for you, we recommend the always-entertaining Miss Suzie. Miss Suzie is an irresistible hand-clapping game for kids as it allows them to get very, very close to saying a curse word. You might even remember all of the lyrics, which start as, “Miss Suzie had a steamboat. The steamboat had a bell. Miss Suzie went to heaven. The steamboat went to ‘Hello, operator! Please give me number nine. If you disconnect me, I’ll kick you from…’ behind the refrigerator, there was a piece of glass Miss Suzie sat upon it, and it went right up her…” You get the point. 
  4. Miss Susie. Too racy? Don’t fret; a tamer version exists. You might remember this version with the more mellow lines of “Miss Susie called the doctor. Miss Susie called the nurse. Miss Susie called the lady with the alligator purse.”
  5. Sevens. When you’re ready to advance your hand-clapping games, move Sevens to the top of your list. It’s a bit more serious and focuses a lot on rhythm. Tip No. 1: Make sure to focus on your partner as you complete each motion. Also, there’s no song or jingle for this one. You start by hitting the table seven times. Then, repeat. The next move is two rounds of hit, clap, hit, clap, hit, clap, hit. After that, it’s hit, clap, click, hit, clap, click, hit for two rounds. The final maneuver before repeating is to hit, cross your hands over, and hit, hit, clap, click, clap, hit. It seems complicated, so seeing it in person may also help. Just know that you can easily master Sevens if you put time into it.
  6. Long-Legged Sailor. If Sevens is too much, Long-Legged Sailor could be a better fit. The rhyme goes as follows: “Have you ever, ever, ever in your long-legged life, met a long-legged sailor, and his long-legged wife? No, I’ve never, never, never, in my long-legged life, seen a long-legged sailor, and his long-legged wife.” During the long-legged sailor section, arms go from clapping to reaching out to your sides. The other section includes claps and pats with your partner.
  7. A Sailor Went to Sea. If you’re not great at remembering rhymes, here’s a fairly easy one with simple claps. As you sing, start by clapping your own hands. Then, clap your right hand with your partner’s, followed by clapping your own and then clapping left. The only significant change is at the end — in the line “the bottom of the deep blue sea, sea, sea,” you’ll clap both hands with your partner during the last three words.
  8. Lemonade, Crunchy Ice. When you’ve got a gaggle of kids to entertain, Lemonade Crunchy Ice is the hand-clapping game for you. After the phrase “lemonade, crunchy ice, beat it once, beat it twice,” kids will clap three times. But this game has an element that the others don’t. After the jingle, children need to turn around, touch the ground, and then freeze in place. The first child to move after the freeze is out. Even in a small group, the rhyme is enjoyable to say. “Sip it once. Sip it twice. Lemonade, crunchy ice. Made it once, made it twice. Turn around, touch the ground. Kick your boyfriend out of town!”
  9. Double, Double. As you recite the double rhyme, turn your hands back and forth whenever you say “double.” When you say “this” and “that” your palms should face away from you. This can get pretty complicated, especially if you speed it up, so make sure you’re focused. Double, Double. Double, double, this, this. Double, double, that, that. Double this, double that. Double, double, this, that.”
  10. Rockin’ Robin. This rhyme comes from a popular 50s song by Bobby Day called “Rockin’ Robin.” However, over time children have made it one of the silliest tunes. Two to four people can play it, but it can work with an odd number of players too. Here’s some of the rhyme: “He rocks in the treetop all day long, hoppin’ and a-boppin’ and a-singin’ his song. All the little birds-singin’ in the street, love to hear the robin go tweet, tweet, tweet. Rockin’ Robin, tweet tweedalee. Rockin’ robin. Tweet, tweet tweedalee. Batman, Robin, flying through the air, Batman lost his underwear. Batman said, “I don’t care. My mom’s gonna buy me a new pack pair. Rockin’ Robin, tweet tweet tweedalee…”

Benefits of Hand Clapping Games

Hand games aren’t just loads of fun, but there are actually mental health benefits to learning them. In young children especially, it’s a great way to teach them how to spell and can improve handwriting and writing skills. It’s also a great stress reliever and mood booster. Hand games can even help kids learn to be more focused and alert.