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Suzuki Info
Kids' Activities
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The Back Room

by Karen Zethmayr

Have Some Tea!

violin/viola left hand position and finger independence
game for preschoolers

The cards here are about 1" square. Bottle caps are even better if you don't mind making room for them. Then it's a "tea party" game. The numbers are 1-4, and we have three of each here. We used three cards for each finger number, but very small children might do better with a shorter game: two cards per finger, or even one.

child playing dexterity game

Mom puts first finger on top of a "1" card. On a rug, the card will tip, just as in Pick Up Sticks. The thumb slides underneath.

If a child has trouble at first with "finger on top, thumb on the bottom," lower the bar at first for that detail. Yay for using the right finger for the right number, and the dexterity of using only one finger and the thumb for the task. Time enough for "finger on top" as skill grows.

Except for the south paws, most kids reach with the right hand. Gently remind them to use the violin hand. Another tack is simply to say, "your bow hand did that just great. Now do the same with your violin hand."

Gaby holds the 2 card with the second finger. Mom at first helped her to rotate the wrist (elbow comes down and toward the tummy) so she can see the number. This step will be hard if the thumb starts on top of the card. Mom can help by turning the card over so that rotating the wrist brings the number into view. (With bottle caps, this problem doesn't crop up.)

child playing dexterity game

To make sure they remember this rotation step, make a big deal out of saying "yup, it's a 2," or "hmmm, I think it's a 2." Let them put their own creative spin on the verbiage; when their hands are part of the act, dexterity will improve. The freebie is that showmanship has its place in music.

Now Gaby has the 4 card. She's still at the first stages of learning to hold the violin, but note what a great left hand shape she's making.

To pass the card to the next person, she turns her hand to look like a duck. I could have said "rotate your wrist the other way,"

child playing dexterity game

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but ducks are more fun. The card travels from hand to hand around the circle, each player taking the card "like a duck" and then rotating the wrist to check out the number. The last person puts the card face down on the floor.

The next person's turn begins with picking up the card.

For young children, seeing the face up numbers dwindle in quantity helps their staying power, because it defines the time limit of the game. They need that light at the end of the tunnel, even if it's a fun tunnel.

child playing dexterity game

child playing dexterity game

To my delight, no one has yet demanded to know "who won." At preschool and primary grade level, kids simply enjoy the social skills of taking turns and being in the game. How refreshing! The longer it takes them to wonder who won, the less I worry.


If you would like to receive notification as new Suzuki resources are added to this site, you can send an email to Your email will not be sold, shared, traded, or used for any other purpose than that which you requested. As it turns out, I have been adding a topic in a parent letter about once a month for my own Suzuki families.

Other Suzuki resources Grandma's Kite:
Pencil exercises, set one for bow hold
Pencil exercises, set two for bow hold
One Little Elephant (left finger strength and flexibility)
Left hand number card "pick up" game
"Home built" violins and ways to use them in group sessions
Reading readiness game "Who Ran Away?"

Reading readiness game "Rhythm Flash "
"Reading Readiness in Music

Supplementary Music and Midis

Twinkle Rag – a twinkle variation with a new twist on half of the rhythm in Variations A and D. Same four sixteenth notes in a ragtime setting

Daisy Daisy uses a three four twist on "Mississippi without the hot dog." The whole accompaniment is open D and G. The song and bass line can be played as a violin / 'cello duet or on the piano.

For more information on the Monroe Street Fine Arts Center Suzuki program, see Monroe Street Fine Arts Center,, 2526 Monroe Street, Madison, WI, 608-232-1510, or email

For more information on Middleton School of Performing Arts, see

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