Activities for children: This is the way we wash our hands

In October 1939, the Northern Whig newspaper encouraged evacuee children to stay active and sing "this is the way we wash our hands". Good advice in 2020.

With many more children staying at home, parents, guardians, and carers may look for some ideas to keep them entertained. Some organisations have provided educational resources and even activities to help make sense of these times. In 1939, many of the same attitudes prevailed.

From the outbreak of World War Two, many children began to leave cities across the United Kingdom. In Belfast, young people left the city bound for more rural areas of Ulster. As they arrived at homes throughout the six counties, there was a need to keep these city children entertained and educated.

Children at Wash Hand Basins

Imperial War Museum Photo: D 464 (Part of the Ministry of Information Second World War Official Collection). Boys and girls wash their hands in the rows of sinks at the Park Lane Municipal Day Nursery, Tottenham, London. These basins are just the right height for these young children.

The Northern Whig newspaper began a column entitled “The Wendy Hut” and on 30th October 1939, they printed the following. Not only will this provide a physical activity for young people but also will help spread the important message of hand-washing. The following article comes from “The Wendy Hut” in the Northern Whig.

Here we go 'round the mulberry bush

Hut folk calling. Clan! Things going well with you? That’s fine. You should see the jolly letters we are receiving nowadays from children at home and children away from home. One of the best came from an older girl who has taken under her wing a number of small folk sent away that they may be in safety. She says she is keen to give the children plenty of exercise and to keep them active and has hit on a good game.

“Here we go ’round the mulberry bush” is quite well known. All children sing it while they march round and round an imaginary bush – or a real one of some kind if there’s one handy. First, of course, you run ’round singing “here we go ’round the mulberry bush, the mulberry bush, the mulberry bush. Here we go ’round the mulberry bush on a cold and frosty morning”.

Children evacuating Belfast

Belfast Telegraph / NMNI Photo Children evacuating Belfast, Co. Antrim from a railway station in the aftermath of the Belfast Blitz in April 1941. Copyright: Belfast Telegraph.

Second verse you substitute; “this is the way we wash our hands, wash our hands, wash our hands. This is the way we wash our hands on a cold and frosty morning” and you pretend to wash your hands while running. Third verse, substitute “dry our hands” each time for “wash our hands” and pretend to dry them. Fourth verse, substitute “clap our hands” each time for “dry our hands” and clap them vigorously as you run ’round. Fifth verse, substitute “warm our hands” each time for “clap our hands” and pretend to warm them while running.

Some of the tinies blow their fingers, some tuck them under their arms. It doesn’t matter what you do as long as you make the action suit the words. I expect you will find lots more verses to keep the little folk to it. If you can’t play the game out of doors, perhaps the grown-ups won’t mind a little noise inside sometimes.

If any of you older boys and girls have ideas you think might amuse your fellow Clan members, please let us know. Cheerio. Don’t forget the smile!