The CDC recommends washing your hands with warm, soapy water for a minimum of 20 seconds at a time. Here are their full instructions:
Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.
Now, as parents of small children know, getting a child to wash their hands at all can be tricky. A good tactic to employ: teaching children hand-washing songs that provide them a concrete duration for scrubbing up. Whether it’s “Happy Birthday,” “Mary Had a Little Lamb”, or more on-the-nose tunes, such songs offer a practical way to ensure a child is washing their hands properly. Here then are seven hand-washing songs to help kids.
Mary Had A Little Lamb
A classic! Mary had a lamb! It’s fleece was white as snow! Oh Mary, you little scamp. The first verse of the song (from “Mary had a little lamb” to “the lamb was sure to go”) lasts roughly 20 seconds — the minimum CDC-recommended hand washing length. Singing the second verse gets the hands washed at double the minimum recommended time. Plus, it’s a lovely tune that kids likely already know.
If You’re Happy And You Know It
Everybody knows the sing-song tune of “If You’re Happy And You Know It.” It’s a stone-cold classic, a bop, a jam. As you don’t want to make a kid smack their hands frantically when scrubbing up, just change the lyrics from “clap your hands” to “wash your hands.” So easy! Plus, the song is extremely short and the lyrics are easy to remember. Just sing “If you’re happy and you know it, wash your hands. If you’re happy and you know it, wash your hands. If you’re happy and you know it and you really want to show it if you’re happy and you know it wash your hands,” twice, and, voila!, the CDC-recommended 20-seconds has passed. Easy stuff.
While the melody to “Frére Jacques” is quite simple, the extremely French words are not. However, there’s a Frére Jacques hand sanitizing remake, developed by French doctors, that’s much easier to remember. To the tune of the original, sing: “Scrub your palms, between the fingers, Wash the back, wash the back/Twirl the tips around/Scrub them upside down/Thumb attack! Thumb attack!” Not only a catchy tune, the song teaches correct hand-washing technique.
Why “Happy Birthday”? For the simple reason that most kids already know the words. Just one slow run through — or two faster run-throughs — ensures the 20 seconds will be hit.
Row, Row, Row Your Boat
With a few strategic edits, the seminal nursery rhyme classic “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” becomes “Wash, Wash, Wash Your Hands”, as is shown in this Pampers video. Much like the Frére Jacques reboot, Wash, Wash gives kids clear instructions on how to wash their hands effectively (between the fingers, on top, the palms, etc) and they only have to sing it once through to hit the 20-second mark. And, yeah, it still slaps.
The Alphabet Song
A classic that’s baked into nearly every single child’s head, the alphabet song comes in at a solid 20-30 seconds (depending on pacing) and works as a lovely timing tool.
The Germs Song
Want something a bit more educational? Try The Germs Song from Kiboomers, which gets into the nitty gritty of the gross results of invisible bacteria. “Germs can cause a runny nose/Germs from coughs and colds and flus/Don’t spread germs at home and school/Wash your hands, that’s what you do!” The song, a full 90 seconds, goes well beyond the CDC requirements, but that means that you can pick any verse and sing for about 20 seconds while your child scrubs up.
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