As parents, we treasure each development of our baby’s life — their first smile, first words, and first steps. One such major milestone development is clapping hands, which is used by babies to express their fondness. We eagerly wait for this achievement since it makes interaction with the baby more fun.
Clapping, like other physical development milestones, may indicate healthy development of motor skills and coordination. So, when do babies start clapping? This post tells you all about babies clapping their hands.
When Do Babies Start Clapping?
Babies can usually clap hands from nine months, the age when babies begin to imitate gestures, including hand gestures, made by others (1). It is okay if a nine-month-old does not clap. They may gradually develop the skill and clap by their first birthday.
Why Do Babies Clap Hands?
Babies may clap due to reasons related to their physical and cognitive development milestones. The following are some of the likely reasons why babies clap hands.
1. Development of motor skills
The first year of a baby’s life involves several growth and development milestones that include skills related to hand movement (2). Picking and holding objects, passing objects from one hand to another, and waving and pointing with hands are some of the key achievements during this phase (3). Clapping hands is part of the natural progression of a baby’s gross and fine motor skills.
2. Perception of achievement
We often clap our hands to encourage the baby when they do certain activities. Babies are keen observers and can understand cause and effect through repeated observation. The little one may eventually figure out that clapping hands is a form of reward or signal of achievement. Therefore, babies may clap hands for themselves when they feel they have achieved something or feel excited after doing something.
3. Means of communication
Clapping is a baby’s way of communication. Initially, they clap hands to imitate their caregivers, but as they grow older, they understand that clapping can be used to express their feelings and to convey their messages. Babies may clap hands in front of parents or caregivers to gain attention, express their joy, or even answer questions.
4. Attempt of experimentation
Babies discover the world and even parts of their bodies through experimentation. A baby may perform an action to see the reaction it elicits from parents/caretakers or the sensation it induces. Clapping hands could be a baby’s way of figuring out what happens if both the hands meet. Some babies may get fascinated with the sensation of the hands touching each other.
Activities To Encourage Your Babies To Clap Hands
Your babies tend to copy you, so they will try to do the activities you repeat in front of them. You may try the following activities to encourage your baby to clap.
1. Playing games
Playing is always fun and more exciting when there is a combination of songs with activities. This will develop the verbal skills, fine motor skills, and cognitive skills of your baby.
You can play the following games.
- Pat-A-Cake, Pat-A-Cake, Baker’s Man
- Little Piggy
- A Sailor Went To Sea
- Down Down Baby
- Miss Susie
- Pretty Little Dutch Girl
- Pease Porridge Hot
- If You’re Happy And You Know It
- Hokey Pokey
- Miss Mary Mack
2. Clapping combined with rhymes
Take your baby’s hands in your hands and gently show them the motion of clapping. Do it slowly. Laugh and appreciate them when the hands join to clap.
Play any nursery rhyme or any song you like to set the demonstration in rhythm for your baby. Repetition of this activity will help the baby understand the gesture better.
3. Clapping with different speeds
Babies like unexpected events and varieties. Providing variation in clapping speeds will help to get their attention and develop their interest.
4. Giving high fives
It will teach your baby that slapping palms together has a meaning. Babies enjoy when you “high five” with them frequently.
Clap for your baby for their little achievements, like when they get building blocks in shape, join the puzzle parts correctly, or pick the right things when told. You can also clap for your baby when they finish their meals or feedings.
What If The Baby Isn’t Clapping?
A baby may achieve developmental milestones at a slightly different age than his/her peers. Also, there could be variations in abilities across babies of the same age. Therefore, do not panic if your baby does not clap. They might gradually pick up clapping by 12 months of age.
If your one-year-old does not imitate clapping or other gestures, does not point to things, or seems to lose skills gradually, then speak to a pediatrician. The doctor will assess various developmental milestones of the baby to determine any delays.
Milestones To Expect After The Baby Learns To Clap
After your baby masters the art of clapping, there are several milestones that follow by the age of 18 months (4).
- Standing up without support
- Start taking their first steps
- Say their first words, such as “Mama” and “Dada”
- Follow your simple directions, like “find the ball” or “point your nose”
- Shake their heads to answer your questions in “yes” or “no”
It makes us happy when we see our baby enjoying and expressing their joy to us. Looking at the baby’s cute chubby little hands clap right on cue, gives us a feeling of achievement. Every baby develops on a different timescale. Let them explore their skills and develop clapping in their own way.
2. Fine motor skills: birth to 2 years; Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU
3. Milestone Moments; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
4. Important Milestones: Your Child By Eighteen Months; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention