After watching baby clapping while kneeling earlier this week, I realized that Arya had been clapping for a while without mommy or me realizing her new development.
So I decided to understand the answer to: when do babies clap?
Clapping requires coordination and gross motor skills that time to develop in young babies.
All babies learn to clap as part of their normal development, but clapping is considered a complex behavior because of its reliance on coordination and rhythm. Babies have to be physically capable of clapping before they can learn to mimic clapping of adults.
The most definitive academic research regarding when babies first begin to clap comes from a 1981 article in Developmental Psychology. Two researchers from the University of Chicago – Kenneth Kaye and Janet Marcus – conducted a six month experiment on infants’ ability to imitate various behavior. While the results showed that babies were able to imitate touching their own ear at a median age of 7 months, clapping took much longer.
Babies first clapped at a median age of 11 months with a consistent imitation of four consecutive claps occurred at a median age of 12 months. It took six trials for babies to first imitate one clap and eight trials for babies to first imitate four consecutive claps. Other research showed a similar developmental timeline.
There is reason to believe that the median age for babies to begin clapping is earlier than 11 months. Because of the rigor required in the academic study (a precise definition of clapping and specific time limits on each session), babies were likely to begin clapping before meeting the technical definition of clapping according to the study. The study also relied on measuring mimicking behavior. Babies were only counted as clapping if they clapped in response to an adult clapping. Babies who were capable of clapping, but simply did not mimic the behavior were thus not counted.
Arya first started clapping sporadically a few months ago. During the first month she wasn’t always able to connect her two hands. But over the past several weeks she’s been clapping whenever she is especially happy. She particularly enjoys clapping when she sees other people clapping around her.