It is very popular to teach children to sing the ABC’s to help them complete a successful hand washing, but my preference as a preschool teacher and director was to teach songs about hand washing so that children don’t space out while singing the song but instead focus on the task of washing hands it properly. It is ideal to start this with babies so that by the time they are preschoolers, the hand washing act is an ingrained habit. 

We might want a foam pump soap that isn’t too hard for tiny hands and a faucet extender like this: 

But first, we have to get to the sink. When children resist hand washing, like resisting toy clean up or potty trips, phrases or songs that sound the transition first can be extremely helpful. While I have songs below to sing while washing hands, I have also used the two rhymes below to simply help us transition from one activity and into hand washing. 

Focusing on when we regularly and consistently wash our hands is key to lifelong hygiene. We wash our hands when we come and go, before we eat and after we use the restroom, at minimum. Lets start with the transitional rhymes (to the tune of the old Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush.) 

“When we come and when we go, the germs don’t come with us, oh no!”  

  • On arrival to school or daycare
  • When leaving school or daycare
  • When arriving home from anywhere
  • When arriving to a friend’s home
  • When leaving a friends home
  • When arriving home from a store or restaurant
  • When leaving a store or restaurant, if possible. 

Even if your child is still in diapers, get into the habit of washing hands after a diaper change, not just you, but your child. In my potty learning courses we talk about hand washing as part of potty learning, and working on standing Montessori-style diaper changes that happen in the bathroom- and then a hand wash! 

“Before I eat and after I pee, I scrub to wash the germs off me” 

These little rhymes can be used in themselves just as a transition into the songs below or sung 5 times (for 5 fingers) to equal the 20 seconds we need for a proper hand washing. 

Below is the ideal hand washing song, detailed instructions that follow The World Health Organization instructions for hand washing, written by a doctor and a child and to the tune of Fréres Jaques (brother John). This song must be sung twice in a row for the proper hand washing time. 

Scrub your palms,

Between the fingers,

Wash the back,

Wash the back.

Twirl the tips around,

Scrub them upside down, (squish words together to fit them to tune) 

Thumb attack,

Thumb attack.

I also love hand washing songs that are not in English because I have taught preschool where we used to have a school with multiple world languages exposure- and children who are just getting use to a new language often find that there are new silly sounds that are fun to sing- My family fell in love with these:

Handen Wassen (watch cute video) is from The Netherlands

Just the chorus is needed “Before you eat, and after you pee, wash your hands, wash your hands” (remember that the w sound will be more like an English v). The chorus of this song is exactly the length of a good hand scrub!

“Voor het eten en na het plassen gaan we handen wassen, handen wassen

Wrijf je handen tegen elkaar, nog even wat zeep en dan ben je klaar handen wassen, handen wassen”  

“Before you eat, and after you pee, wash your hands, wash your hands. Rub your hands together, get some soap, then wash your hands, wash your hands.” 


Je Lave Les Mains (Listen here) 

Bien mouiller les mains (1 2 3).  …Wet hands well

Puis les savonner (1 2 3)… then the soap

Et puis les frotter (1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10) + (1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10)…then rub them

Et puis rincer (1 2 3 4 5) …and then rinse

Enfin essuyer sèche !… Finally wipe dry

Wash, Wash, Wash Your Hands
(To the tune of Row, Row, Row Your Boat):

(another good option if you use the “here and there” to model where to scrub.) 

Wash, wash
Wash your hands
Wash them nice and clean.
Scrub them here (with hand motion scrubbing together)
Scrub them there (with hand motion scrubbing tops of hands)
And scrub them in between (with hand motion scrubbing between fingers).

Wash, wash, wash, your hands
Play our handy game
Rub and scrub, scrub and rub
Germs go down the drain HEY!
Wash, wash, wash, your hands
Play our handy game
Rub and scrub, scrub and rub
Germs go down the drain HEY!

And hand sanitizer? 

  • Should only be used when hands are not visibly soiled. Sanitizer will not be enough to cover all the surfaces of the particles. 
  • Should be used by children 2 years of age and older only. We don’t want it ingested.
  • Should have 60-95% alcohol.
  • Very close supervision of children should be provided.
  • Hand washing is more effective and so sanitizer should be a short term an out-and-about emergency-type thing until you can find a sink. 

Maybe you will make up your own family hand washing song of 20 seconds or more on how the little germs are hiding in the wrinkly caves….