Our 7 month old daughter is starting to play with toys that play music. Some of them play pieces of songs, often sung with children's voices. They are cool, but after a while the repeating riffs get stuck in our minds. My wife and I found each other singing those songs while doing household chores or preparing breakfast in the morning. It's becoming annoying (and a bit embarrassing) very fast, although we aren't worried about losing our mind (yet).

Is there any known way to clear music riffs from our minds?

  • 8
    I don't think this is specific to parenting. Tunes can get stuck in your head from anything, from TV commercials to a random stranger humming as you pass by. Additionally, this is extremely harmless.
    – jpmc26
    Commented Dec 27, 2016 at 22:44
  • 4
    Well, there's a website dedicated for this: unhearit.com . Your mileage may vary though!
    – Andrew T.
    Commented Dec 28, 2016 at 1:54
  • 2
    My friend recommended Don't Stop Me Now by Queen. It is a great replacement earworm, assuming you like the song. Commented Dec 28, 2016 at 4:52
  • 1
    excellent replacement suggestion : google.fr/search?q=muppet+manamana : it indeed should work fine for many people in that situation Commented Dec 28, 2016 at 15:33
  • Don't get rid of it! Have fun with it! Sing the songs with your little one when it comes to your head. Make it goofy. Your children will love it, and it will turn out to be a bonding experience.
    – Jeff.Clark
    Commented Dec 28, 2016 at 18:35

8 Answers 8


These are called "ear worms". One method to prevent them is to chew gum.


Can't get that song out of your head? Chewing gum could turn off annoying ‘earworms' according to new research from the University of Reading.

The study found that people who chewed gum after hearing catchy songs thought less often about the song than in a control condition. Chewing gum also reduced the amount they ‘heard' the song by one third.

Previous research has found that mouthing something to yourself, or even just moving your jaw around, interferes both with short-term memory¹ and imagining sounds². This study, however, is the first to examine what effect chewing gum has on earworms.

  • 5
    Wow, this was a solution I never would have expected -- and a researched solution, no less!
    – Acire
    Commented Dec 28, 2016 at 1:34
  • 1
    Wait, chewing gum hurts short term memory? Then what about all that's been said about it improving concentration? Does that no longer matter?
    – Weckar E.
    Commented Dec 28, 2016 at 9:48
  • @WeckarE. Surely concentration and memory aren't necessarily the same. I can pay a huge amount of concentration listening to a scientist talk about advanced particle physics, but I'm not sure I'd recall any of it afterwards!
    – Dan
    Commented Dec 28, 2016 at 17:29
  • I just mean that the actual benefits may be therefore not in line with expectations.
    – Weckar E.
    Commented Dec 29, 2016 at 8:18

Not sure this is the answer you want to hear. I learned to not hear those toys along with zoning out repetitive kids sounds that meant everything was fine. It took time. I have also used other songs to stop the 'earworms' from repeating over and over. So if you can't get "This Little Light of Mine" out of your head, try singing "Row, Row, Row your Boat" or a commercial jingle. The Mina Mina song (A Muppet song) cures me everytime, but sometimes it creates its own earworm.

  • 1
    Singing the Happy Birthday song three times works for me every time.
    – Bugs
    Commented Dec 27, 2016 at 20:24
  • Interestingly, the song "I have a bad case of diarrhea." cures all of them and makes you stop singing even itself because your brain doesn't like thinking about diarrhea. Commented Dec 28, 2016 at 12:31
  • 3
    "Old MacDonald" to the tune of "Amazing Grace", or the other way around, works really well for me. It's weird enough that you really have to force the little music player in your brain to make it work. Cleans out whatever is stuck in there, but doesn't get stuck itself.
    – Deolater
    Commented Dec 28, 2016 at 14:30

Embrace it

or, in the words of a song you will soon know if you don't already...

♫ let it go, let it go ♫

Don't try to unhear or get the song out of your head. Instead, accept the fact that it is stuck there and be OK with that. It's a reminder of your daughter that you will carry with you forever, and is an experience shared by most parents. It's not embarassing—it's cool!

Not only is knowing the words to children's songs a badge of honor for parents, it's actually a very useful tool:

  • A known song is an invaluable tool for defusing an upset toddler, and it works best if you both know the words.
  • Songs are useful tools as part of a nap or bed time routine, so long as its calm. Familiar songs work better than songs a child has never heard.
  • It is also a great bonding experience with your child. (My daughter, almost 3 years old, and I frequently break into song while playing or in the car)
  • Changing the words slightly can result in all sorts of creative ideas and experiences for your child's developing mind (For example, I told my daughter that the Grinch was coming to town, and she made up a new variation of "Santa Claus is Coming to Town")

Don't worry: it gets much better when you start singing catchy songs from children's movies.

Edit specifically for children's toys: Take out the batteries; problem solved.

Without any scientific evidence to back this up, I'd say children are better off sometimes when you remove the batteries. Some modern toys seem to play with themselves a little too much, and kids just stare at them. I think the point of these kinds of toys is to encourage exploration and see the cause-effect of actions. If the toy goes overboard with this, it's not only annoying but also probably not useful to your child either.

  • 2
    I concur with this :) Have fun with it. Sing the songs with your little one when it comes to your head. Make it goofy. Your children will love it, and it will turn out to be a bonding experience.
    – Jeff.Clark
    Commented Dec 28, 2016 at 18:34
  • I think this is applicable to children's music in general (Frozen soundtrack, Santa Claus is Coming...), but not necessarily to the horrible repeating jingles regurgitated from electronic toys. ("Pieces of songs", from the question.)
    – mattdm
    Commented Dec 29, 2016 at 17:57
  • @mattdm fair enough. I made an edit specifically for certain children's toys. Commented Dec 29, 2016 at 18:29
  • Yeah, +1 for "batteries out".
    – mattdm
    Commented Dec 30, 2016 at 15:22

Play a song you like two or three times in a row.

That will get your song stuck in your head. You still have a song stuck in your head, but at least it won't be the Barney song or whatever.


You might consider getting rid of those toys. Your daughter is 7 months old, and won't be attached to any of them in a meaningful way. Replace them with more hands-on, less electronic options, and enjoy the (relative) peace. And ask your relatives and friends, nicely, to avoid gifts of this sort in the future. There's no particular educational or developmental advantage in these toys. To encourage a love of music, play actual songs with more complex and longer structure, which will be less annoying.


Make up your own different words. If it persists beyond the time where that is amusing, start making up different words (specific to the situation at hand) whenever it’s stuck in your head.

A cure is to put on classical music, something that does not have a single simple melody but is complex. Something that you can’t figure iut how to hum even when you “know” it!


The researchers found partial support for the theory that earworms occur as a result of the Zeigarnik Effect, in which our minds get stuck on incomplete mental processes. This theory suggests that our brains can get "hung up," when we hear an incomplete song that we do not know well. Because our mind can’t “put the song away” and finish it, it gets stuck like a needle on a record, or as in "Groundhog Day," playing the same unfinished snippet on nonstop repeat. People who were more musically talented were more prone to develop earworms.

Here is an “evidence-informed” experimental treatment technique to help:

Identify the song playing in your head.

Search the Internet and find a complete version of the song.

Play it and listen to it. Spend that three minutes focused on it. Don’t do something else while it plays and limit yourself to half your attention; you might doom yourself to making it your permanent lifetime mental soundtrack.

After the song is finished, immediately engage in a cognitively-engrossing activity.


A technically difficult solution, and maybe impossible in your specific case, but possible in other people's:

Add more songs to these toys. If you know your way around electronics, you may be able to disassemble the toy (if it doesn't have a more convenient interface), tap into the microcontroller and modify the stored songs to something else. If the toy is popular enough, you may be able to find pinouts diagrams online. If not, but you're determined to do it anyway, try electronics enthusiast forums − it might be a fun challenge for savvy folks to help you figure this out!

  • 1
    I think you are over complicating the issue. It isn't just music that is repetitive. Children can hum or bang or clap or a hundred other things that parents over time learn to tune out because those sounds mean that everything is okay. QUIET is far more suspect.
    – WRX
    Commented Dec 28, 2016 at 16:20
  • This is generally untenable with actual children's toys — even for someone who "knows their way around electronics". They're made to be cheap to manufacture, not to be easily hacked. "Tap into the microcontroller" is a thing people do in movies.
    – mattdm
    Commented Dec 29, 2016 at 19:37
  • I know my way around electronics and microcontrollers. Even if I had the exact part numbers, I still wouldn't have their source code. This would imply that I'm either disassembling the firmware that exists on the micro, or I'm rewriting my own (assuming they've left long enough leads that I can get a physical connection to the right pins in the first place). I mean, you lost me at "disassemble". I have young children that I pour most of my energy into, I don't need a make-work project that is more easily dealt with by simply taking the batteries out or giving the toy away. Commented Jan 9, 2019 at 18:39

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