Proper (and fun!) handwashing for children

In the vulnerable places where Food for the Hungry works, handwashing is a lifesaving technique. Diarrhea and pneumonia, two of the leading causes of child deaths worldwide, can be drastically reduced just by proper handwashing.

Isn’t it wonderful that such a simple act can have such an impact?

Knowing the impact of handwashing, I wasn’t surprised to see a poster showing how to wash hands in the Food for the Hungry office of Horno Ckasa, Bolivia. I was surprised at the creative method our Bolivian staff are teaching children to wash their hands. It’s a fun way to remember how to get your hands really clean, and it’s perfect for children!

The poster is in Spanish, so I’ll translate below.


1. Lather (espuma)

Lather up your hands until they’re nice and foamy.

2. Mountain (montañita)

Form mountain peaks by interlacing your fingers. Rub back and forth. This step allows the lather to get into the crevices where dirt hides.

3. Turtle (tortuguita)

Place the palm of one hand on the back of the other hand, interlacing your fingers.  This step ensures that the lather spreads to both sides of your hands.

4. Motorcycle  (motito)

Grab each finger, one at a time, with the opposite hand. As if you were throttling a motorcycle, twist the hand around the finger. Each finger gets the cleaning attention it needs.

5. Birdie (pajarito)

After rinsing, if there’s not a clean towel nearby, shake your hands dry in the air.

Another reason I like using this method with my kids: When they are focused on each step in the process, they slow down and spend at least the 20 seconds they need to get really clean!

Don’t miss the principle listed at the bottom of the poster: Life is sacred (La vida es sagrada). For Food for the Hungry, handwashing isn’t only a way to prevent disease. It’s an opportunity to illustrate every day that human life is sacred, and so we are called to take care of our bodies!

About Wendy McMahan

Wendy McMahan is grateful for her front row seat in watching God “reconcile all things to Himself.” (Colossians 1:20) She still can’t believe that she gets to participate in His story every day. Wendy and her husband are proud parents to two daughters and have been foster parents to children of all ages. Wendy serves as Director of Church Engagement at Food for the Hungry. She hosts the Poverty Unlocked podcast.

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