Beats on the Body Game

Looking for a fun, hands-on way to teach kids how to break words into syllables?! In this activity, children tap their hand, then elbow and shoulder as they break a word into parts – an important skill that helps them get ready for reading later.

The game is particularly effective because children are using different parts of their brain to say the syllables and move their body at the same time.

Let’s use {elephant} as an example. Breaking the word into parts would look like this:

Since {elephant} has three syllables, it’s called a {shoulder word} because the last body part that’s tapped is the shoulder.

The word {cat} has only one syllable so children would just tap the top of their hand. It’s a {hand word}.

The word {mushroom} has two syllables so kids would first tap their hand and then their elbow. Can you guess what it’s called?! You’ve got it. It’s an {elbow word}!

Now, if you’re like me, your mind may blank when you’re trying to think of words to use. So I created a free printable of 30 word cards for you. Just print them out, cut them into pieces and place them in a pile face down.

Hands-on way to practice breaking words into syllables. Includes a free printable! {Playdough to Plato}

Turn the cards over one at a time and show them to your child. Ask her to read the word or look at the picture and then help her tap it out on her hand, elbow and shoulder. The first time through, you may need to tap alongside her but, with practice, she will become more comfortable doing it on her own.

When she’s ready, have your child sort the words on the mat included in your printable packet like this:

Hands-on way to practice breaking words into syllables. Includes a free printable! {Playdough to Plato}

Grab Your Download

Ready to play “Beats on the Body”? Download your free copy of the activity pack {including easy to follow instructions} here and then hop over and snag our free cookie jar syllable sort too!

Free Cookie Jar Syllables

Our members get MORE!


  1. Kirstylee

    Thanks for this idea! Separating words into syllables is a very important pre-reading skill. Thanks for offering the printable.

    • Malia

      Yay! I’m excited to hear that the printable is helpful, Kirsty!

    • Malia

      Thank you for sharing, Deb!!

  2. Kristin

    Hi! I teach preschool music and have found myself inspired by your game! I would love to use the concept in a song – would that be ok with you?

    • Malia Hollowell

      Hi Kristin! Using this concept in a song sounds fun!! I’d love to check it out when it’s finished.

  3. Jamie Grubb

    I desperately want this resource for my pre-k kiddos but for some reason I cannot get it to print! Downloads and saves but then won’t print; any suggestions? Thank you!


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Hi, I’m Malia.

I LOVE helping Pre-K, Kindergarten and First Grade teachers save time, stay inspired and give EVERY student bigger results. I’m so glad you’re here!