‘Sing Frere Jacques to get children to wash their hands properly’

Children can be encouraged to wash their hands properly to the tune of Frere Jacques, researchers have said.

The popular French nursery rhyme – known in English as Brother John – can be used to help stop the spread of bugs in a fun way, they said.

The team, from the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario in Ottawa, Canada, and the Montessori School in Ottawa, developed the new washing song after realising nothing similar was available.

They tested it out on children to check they understood it and it was fun.

For the song, children follow six steps to the tune of Frere Jacques.

In step one, children replace “Are you sleeping?” with “Scrub your palms”.

In step two, “Are you sleeping?” is replaced with “Between the fingers”.

In step three, children replace “Brother John, Brother John”, with “Wash the back (one hand), wash the back (other hand)”.

And in step four, the words “Morning bells are ringing” are changed to “Twirl the tips (one hand) around (other hand)”.

For step five, the words “Morning bells are ringing” are replaced with “Scrub them upside down”.

In step six, “Ding, ding, dong; ding, ding, dong” is changed to “Thumb attack (one thumb), thumb attack (other thumb).”

Writing in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), the researchers said: “Using songs, in particular musical mnemonics based on popular nursery rhymes, may help children learn the process of hand hygiene techniques by making it more fun, thereby increasing attention and the development of memory and motor co-ordination.

“We showed that a musical mnemonic developed for pre-school and school-aged children can teach the World Health Organisation hand hygiene technique effectively, potentially reducing infection transmission, with a duration of approximately 20 seconds.”

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