Spanish hand clapping games are a fun language learning activity for children.

Traditional Spanish hand clapping games combine language, movement, rhythm and culture. There are many juegos de manos (juegos de palmas, juegos de palmadas) with fun songs and actions, and children learn a lot of Spanish as they play. I think Spanish hand clapping games are a great activity for language learners of any age.

Spanish hand clapping games are wonderful for acquiring accurate pronunciation and absorbing the deep structure of the language. They take practice, which guarantees repetition.  Because kids memorize the rhymes, once they learn them, they can produce quantities of language with vocabulary and grammar they could not produce spontaneously. As they sing and play, they internalize the words and structures.

Below you will find 10 traditional Spanish hand clapping games. I have listed them in approximate order of difficulty. The first few are easy, and I teach them to preschoolers.  The last few are more difficult, but elementary students can learn them with a little practice.

You can download a printable version of the words to these Spanish hand clapping games here and see videos of them below.

If you like rhythm and clapping games, be sure to check out these Spanish verses for the Dum, Dum Dada clapping song and this syllable clapping activity with pictures.  These Spanish choosing rhymes also have great rhythm and are a fun way to start games and practice pronunciation.

Easy Spanish Hand Clapping Games

The first two Spanish hand clapping games are each based on a single word. They are both excellent Spanish pronunciation practice. The games break the word into syllables and then put it together again. Both rhymes reinforce the short, clear vowel sounds of Spanish. These are the first hand-clapping games I teach preschoolers.

Chocolate

Chocolate
Choco, choco, la, la
Choco, choco, te, te
Choco, la, choco, te
Cho-co-la-te

Here is a video of kids playing chocolate. These are traditional hand motions, but any simple pattern will work.

Below you can see another video of Chocolate.

In this video two girls step in time to the rhythm with their feet! I have done this with kids and they love it.

Mariposa

Mariposa uses the same pattern to break the word apart and then put the syllables together. This is a good rhyme to practice pronouncing the single Spanish r correctly. It is a quick flap of the tongue against the front of the palate, similar to the tt in the English word little.

Mariposa
Mari, mari, po, po
Mari, mari, sa, sa
Mari, po, mari, sa
Ma-ri-po-sa

Por aquí pasó un caballo

Por aquí pasó un caballo is a traditional Spanish hand clapping game that begins with a silly rhyme about a horse with his legs on backwards and ends by counting to 16.

The rhythm of this game ensures that children will stress the correct syllables. For example, as they say the rhyme, children will naturally stress the final syllable of the preterite verb pasó and the future verb diré. This is essential to correct Spanish pronunciation.

Por aquí pasó un caballo,
con las patas al revés,
si me dices cuántas tiene,
te diré que 16,
1, 2, 3, 4,
5,6,7,8,
9,10,11,12
13,14,15,16.

Marinero que se fue a la mar

Another simple juego de manos is Marinero que se fue a la mar y mar y mar. There is an English version that children may know called A Sailor went to Sea, Sea, Sea. This is the most common Spanish version of the hand clapping game:

Marinero que se fue a la mar y mar y mar,
para ver que podía ver y ver y ver.
Y lo único que pudo ver y ver y ver,
fue el fondo de la mar y mar y mar y mar.

Like many traditional Spanish hand clapping games, the words and actions of Marinero que se fue a la mar vary slightly from country to country. Here is one version, but you can see lots of others on YouTube.

The actions in the video above reinforce the meaning of the verb ver (to see). When you sing ver y ver y ver, touch your hand to your forehead as if you are sheltering your eyes from the sun in order to see. This link is to a video of a very little girl and her mom who also play Marinero que se fue a la mar that way.

A Version for Spanish Learners

This link is to the children’s song El marinero fue al mar.  The first verse is a version of the Spanish hand clapping game, although the tune and words are slightly different than the one my kids know.

Although this is not the version we sing in my family, I like it for Spanish language learners. The word mar is most commonly masculine, although it can be feminine as in the other versions. This version uses mar as a masculine noun, eliminates the extra syllable y, and uses the word profundo (deep). Associating profundo with mar children visualize and remember the word. These are the words to the first verse.

El marinero fue al mar, mar, mar,
a ver que podía ver, ver, ver.
Pero lo único que pudo ver, ver, ver,
fue el fondo del profundo mar, mar, mar.

Debajo del puente

The traditional rhyme Debajo del puente has several versions. It is a hand clapping game and is also used as a jump-rope rhyme. The hand clapping game ends with kids freezing in place and trying not to laugh or move. As the words indicate, the first one who moves gets a pinch. Kids love this game, but be sure they know that the pinch should not be hard!

You will want to be sure children understand what the rhyme means. One simple way to do this is by drawing a picture of a snake under a bridge brushing his teeth. You can also teach the rhyme with gestures. Use your hands to make a bridge, a slithering snake, and brush your teeth. Nod your head yes for verdad que sí and shake your head no for verdad que no.

This is one common version of the Spanish hand clapping game Debajo del puente. Any simple hand-clapping pattern will do, such as: clap, right to right, clap, left to left, clap, both hands. You can hear this Spanish game by clicking on the audio link.

Audio of Spanish hand clapping game – Debajo del puente

Debajo del puente
había una serpiente,
lavándose los dientes
con agua caliente.
¿Verdad que sí?
Tilín, tilín,
¿Verdad que no?
Tolón tolón,
Si te mueves o te ríes,
te daré un pellizcón.

This is another version:

Debajo de un puente,
había una serpiente
Lavándose los dientes
con agua caliente
Si dice que sí,
chi qui, chi qui chi,
Si dice que no,
do bo, do bo do
Si te ríes o te mueves,
te daré un pellizcón.

Spanish Hand Clapping Games with Vowels

Several Spanish hand clapping games play with the sounds of the vowels. If you are practicing letters and vowels, be sure to combine these hand clapping games with other Spanish vowel songs for kids.

Las vocales

This is one of several Spanish hand clapping games that teaches children the vowel sounds.  The pattern in this rhyme makes it easy to learn. Kids say each vowel, and then use it in nonsense syllables. The next line of the rhyme uses the vowel again in the last word. There are many versions of this rhyme, so I have included two common variations of the last line.

Las vocales
Con la A A, ba-da-ba-da-ba
Yo tengo una muñeca hecha de cristal
Con le E E, be-de-be-de-be
Yo tengo una muñeca hecha de papel
Con la I I, bi-di-bi-di-bi
Yo tengo una muñeca hecha de marfil
Con la O O, bo-do-bo-do-bo
Yo tengo una muñeca hecha de cartón
Con la U U, bu-du-bu-du-bu
Yo tengo una muñeca hecha como tú (hecha de bambú)

Frankenstein y Morticia

This rhyme also has the vowels and, as usual, there are several ways to play. You can see it in the video below, and another much slower version here.

Frankenstein y Morticia
se casaron por la iglesia
y tuvieron una hija.
La llamaron Asesina.
Asesina fue a la escuela.
Le enseñaron las vocales
a..e..i..o..u..
El burrito sabe más que tú.

More Spanish Hand Clapping Games

Rema, rema, remador

This song is about rowing a boat to find a lost love. It is also a hand-clapping game. I like it because it has common vocabulary such as, mar, río and día. In addition, children learn the useful phrase se me perdió.

Rema rema, remador, por el río y por el mar;
por el mar y por el río, mientras suena este cantar.
A la China llegaré y si quieres al Japón
que estoy buscando un tesoro que un día se me perdió.
Un día se me perdió y lo tengo que encontrar:
rema rema, remador, por el río y por el mar.
Por el río y por el mar, rema rema, remador,
que me tengo que casar y estoy buscando a mi amor.

En la calle 24

This is one of the best know Spanish hand clapping games in Mexico. I can remember my kids playing it when they were little, and the children I work with still do it the same way. Like other clapping games, it plays with syllables. You can see it in the video below.

En la ca-lle-lle…
veinticua-tro-tro…
ha habi-do-do …
un asesina-to-to,
una vie-ja-ja…
mató a un ga-to-to…
con la pun-ta-ta…
del zapa-to-to…
pobre vie-ja-ja…
pobre ga-to-to…
pobre pun-ta-ta…
del zapa-to-to.

Estaba la Catalina

Estaba la Catalina is a traditional song and hand clapping game that tells the story of a woman who is waiting for her husband to come home from war. She asks another soldier if he has seen her husband, and responds to what he says. It turns out to that she is talking to her husband.

The song has more language than the other hand clapping games in this list, and the content definitely reflects cultural attitudes from the past (taking daughters to a convent and giving sons to the country as soldiers). However, if you have time to deal with the content, it has the advantage of being a conversation that children can act out.

As a hand clapping game, kids use a basic clapping pattern. You can see teenagers playing here (part of the song). You can hear a clear version of the song Estaba La Catalina here. These are the words:

Estaba la Catalina
sentada bajo un laurel
Sintiendo la frescura
de las aguas al caer.
De pronto pasó un soldado
y lo hizo detener.
– Deténgase mi soldado
que una pregunta le voy a hacer.
– ¿Usted no ha visto a mi marido
en la guerra alguna vez?
– Yo no he visto a su marido,
ni tampoco sé quién es.
– Mi marido es alto y rubio
y buen mozo como usted.
Y en la punta de la espada
lleva escrito San Andrés.
– Por los datos que me ha dado
su marido muerto es
y me ha dejado dicho
que me case con usted.
– Eso sí que no lo hago,
eso sí que no lo haré,
siete años lo he esperado
y otros siete esperaré.
-Si a los catorce no vuelve
a un convento yo me iré,
y a mis dos hijas mujeres
conmigo las llevaré,
y a mis dos hijos varones
a la patria los daré.
Calla, calla, Catalina.
Calla, calla de una vez,
que estás hablando con tu marido
que no has podido reconocer.
Y así termina esta historia
De la infeliz mujer
Que estaba hablando con su marido
Que no ha podido reconocer.

Spanish hand clapping games are an excellent way to combine movement, rhythm, and language learning. Because they take practice, there is plenty of built-in repetition. Spanish hand clapping games are useful and fun for language learners of any age!

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