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10 Hand-Washing Songs For Kids To Actually Get Their Little Paws Clean

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Teaching your kids to wash their hands properly can be one of those unexpected parenting challenges that you feel like you might never overcome. Will they ever learn to actually use the soap? Luckily teaching them some hand-washing songs can at least make sure your kids keep their hands somewhere near the vicinity of the sink for as long as it takes to get germ-free.

Dr. Jennifer Trachtenberg, a pediatrician and spokesdoctor for the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), says that proper hand-washing technique dictates washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. "It's the mechanical motion that cleans the hands," she says, including that parents should instruct kids to "wash both sides front and back, in-between fingers, and under nails."

I know my kids aren't always washing up as well as they should be, and the struggle to get them to wash longer than the 0.085 seconds they actually want to take scrubbing is real. To ensure that kids are washing their hands for the appropriate amount of time, Dr. Jen recommends parents teach kids to sing a song that is approximately the same length of time that they should be washing — at least 20 seconds. The 10 songs below all fit the bill.

1. The "Happy Birthday" Song

Most every kid knows the lyrics to the "Happy Birthday" song, and singing this song twice through takes about the same amount of time as it does to properly wash your hands. If your kids are anything like mine, they might try to sing the song as fast as they possibly can. If they do, try telling them to sing the song a third time for good measure.

2. "Happy Handwashing Song" by The CDC

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) knows a thing or two about the need for proper hand-washing. They note that frequent hand-washing can help prevent the spread of germs and is the best way to protect your family from getting sick. The CDC's "Happy Handwashing Song" is set to the familiar tune of "Happy Birthday," so it is easy for kids to pick up on.

3. "Wash, Wash, Wash Your Hands" by Wash Tunes

If your kid knows how to sing "Row, Row, Row Your Boat," the tune of this hand-washing song will be familiar to them and they'll probably catch on quick. The intro to the video even includes a few words of encouragement telling kids they are "a hand-washing rock star" before the song begins. At the very least, the song should get them to pump the soap into their hands.

4. "Wash Your Hands Song" by The Singing Walrus

The "Wash Your Hands Song" by the Singing Walrus is a great option for kids first learning how to wash their hands. Although the song itself clocks in at more than three minutes long, it does a great job of explaining the steps of hand-washing for kids, including scrubbing, rinsing, and drying. If your kids don't quite understand why their germy hands need to be scrubbed clean, this song can help them learn by way of its repetitive tune.

5. "The Handwashing Song" by Jbrary

Children's librarians Dana and Lindsey, the masterminds behind the kids story time YouTube channel Jbrary, created this hand-washing song to the tune of the classic nursery rhyme "Frere Jacques" to show proper hand-washing technique. Complete with hand motions, this song teaches kids to scrub the tops and bottoms of their hands, as well as in between their fingers — something my own kids still haven't quite mastered despite my desperate pleas and constant reminders.

6. "The Hands In The Sink" by Wash Tunes

Set to the tune of "The Wheels on the Bus," the video for this song about hand-washing for kids instructs them to keep washing until they're finished singing. The ending even reinforces the idea of when your kids should be washing their hands by reminding them that they should wash their hands after using the restroom with the lyric, "We wash our hands so they're nice and clean, after we go to the potty."

7. "The ABC Song"

The classic alphabet song is one that most kids learn as toddlers, so it's fairly easy for them to remember how to sing it while they're washing their hands. If your kids try to rush through singing their ABCs at the sink, remind them that singing it fast means they'll have to sing it two or three times. If they sing it slow, just once through should clock in at about 20 seconds.

8. "A 20 Second Scrub-A-Dub" by Kim Lytton

Created by Kim Lytton and produced by New Mexico State University, this hand-washing song includes instructions for kids on how to wash between their fingers and is the perfect length for proper hand-washing. The lyrics "First the water, then the soap" are an absolute life-saver for parents whose kids (raising my own hand here) flat out refuse to use soap. The song literally tells them to use the soap, so they can't claim they "forgot" again.

9. "Wash Your Hands" by Doc McStuffins

Leave it to Doc McStuffins and her crew of stuffed animal pals to create an adorable song about hand-washing. This video from the Disney Junior show has the whole gang singing and dancing to their hand-washing song several times through, but just one round of the tune clocks in at just about 20 seconds, so it's perfect for your kids to gauge how long it takes to wash before their hands are actually clean.

10. "Big Kid, Big Kid, You're A Star" by Wash Tunes

Set to the tune of "Twinkle, Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star," this hand-washing song is the perfect length for kids to wash their hands to. The song also includes all of the steps to hand-washing like scrubbing, rinsing, and drying. The adorable child's voice in the intro of the video even reminds your kid, "Don't forget the soap!" in a cheery, singsong voice before the actual song begins.

If you think you’re showing symptoms of coronavirus, which include fever, shortness of breath, and cough, call your doctor before going to get tested. If you’re anxious about the virus’s spread in your community, visit the CDC for up-to-date information and resources, or seek out mental health support. You can find all of Romper’s parents + coronavirus coverage here, and Bustle’s constantly updated, general “what to know about coronavirus” here.

Expert:

Dr. Jennifer Trachtenberg, pediatrician and assistant clinical professor of pediatrics at The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai