by Meredith Kurz and Jessica Delfino
We all know to wash our hands all the time, right? Wrong! You’d think during a pandemic that we’d all have figured it out by now, but here we are, over a year into a full-blown pandemic and infection rates are still sky high.
Now more than ever, there’s a need to encourage the habit of handwashing.
Aly Sunshine, founder of Funkytown Playground, a music and movement program designed for kids, offers up a solution: a simple-yet-compelling song and animated video to explain when and how to wash hands using language children will understand and enjoy.
The song, “Keep Your Hands Clean” was created pre-COVID, after an especially nasty flu season. Co-written by Aly’s previous bandmate, “Johnny Wheels” who is now an essential worker in a hospital, this catchy tune and animated adventure walks us through the whens and whys of handwashing: When do you wash your hands? How do you wash your hands? (Hint: There is a proper way to do this!) These questions are answered in Funkytown Playground’s easy to remember melody. The song’s accompanying animated video, created by DUST (@BitterestBuggy on Instagram), features animals, children from all around the globe (shown washing their hands) and live video footage. The song was recently updated and remixed by producer and frequent collaborator Steve Jabas.
We recently caught up with Aly Sunshine, a singer, songwriter, the founder of Funkytown Playground and an NYC Board of Education vendor, who loves working with children and teaching yoga and movement along with her music. She’s also an aunt to four children, and recently co-wrote the track “Let’s Be One” for Bakithi Kumalo’s album “What You Hear Is What You See” (highlighted in Rolling Stone India).
Rockmommy: What inspired you to write this handwashing song?
Aly Sunshine: There was a really bad flu season and kids kept being out of school, and Johnny and I saw a handwashing poster in the school bathroom but it was so boring and not fun. So we decided to write a song that would be educational and fun. Also, I don’t know if I was ever properly taught how to wash my hands. There are a lot of things we just have to figure out later for ourselves!
Rockmommy: As a teacher, why do you think it’s important for kids to wash their hands?
Aly Sunshine: So germs don’t get passed and to keep things sanitary!
Rockmommy: Doesn’t everyone already know to wash their hands?
Aly Sunshine: They do! But there is a right and a wrong way to do it. My song explores best practices so that you aren’t just wasting time and water. Plus, a little reminder never hurt anybody.
Rockmommy: Do you find that all parents and teachers encourage kids to wash their hands when coming in and out of your classes?
Aly Sunshine: Not all of them, but I think people mostly do it after they eat. In my song, I mention that it’s also great to wash hands before and after using the bathroom, after you clean up a boo boo, after touching an animal, before you eat, as well as after you eat, after playing with friends and really any time they feel like it! I also remind them to please use a cloth to turn the water off, and to sneeze into their sleeves, things that aren’t necessarily immediately intuitive.
Rockmommy: How are kids reacting to this song? What about parents?
Aly Sunshine: Kids love it! They love the video. They dance and sing to it while they’re washing their hands at the end of my class. Parents too, they think it’s super cute. They love the characters and think that it’s catchy, and they love that it entertains their kids while they’re washing their hands.
Rockmommy: Can you tell us your favorite line in the song and why?
Aly Sunshine: Probably, “You won’t get in trouble for the big pile of bubbles in the sink; you’ll even get some time to think,” because I want kids to have fun. It makes washing your hands playful as well as educational. It gives them something to think about; how suds and foam make it a fun thing instead of it being a boring activity.
Rockmommy: What’s coming up?
Aly Sunshine: I just did a “Hooray For Fall” video which can be seen on my YouTube channel — it’s a video shot with a drone, and has lyrics displayed, and the video features pretty fall colors, trees and pumpkins. It’s about carving jack-o-lanterns and fall activities. It’s very interactive. I get kids to howl like the wind, look out the window and see the branches, do the yoga tree pose and more. People have been giving me really good feedback about it.
Watch the handwashing video here to learn more about how Funkytown Playground is making handwashing a more pleasant experience for all.
Meredith Kurz and Jessica Delfino are contributing writers for Rockmommy.