Kids get into all kinds of dirt and grime. Teaching them to wash their hands properly and thoroughly is crucial to keeping them, as well as their friends and family, healthy. Limit the spread of illnesses around schools and sports teams by first making hand washing fun and then making it easy to remember. Before long, your child will be fighting diseases on his own with a little soap and water.
Just like all healthy habits, hand washing is a skill that needs to be learned. Because hand washing needs to happen so often, you won’t always be available to supervise. Activities help children understand the importance of complete washing, since they can’t see the germs or generally the results of the job. Activities also aid them while they are washing solo.
When To Start
You have been washing your kids’ hands, with wipes, in the tub or under running water since they were infants. You should introduce activities for hand washing around ages 3 or 4, when kids start heading to the bathroom on their own. You can talk about these topics at home or at preschool or day care to teach these recently independent kids how to care for themselves.
All you really need to teach hand-washing techniques are a bar of soap, some running water and a clean towel. Other items will help you reinforce the power of invisible germs and the importance of clearing them away. Any crazy, icky-looking character, either printed from the computer or created from fabric, can give your little ones a face for their germs. Let them know that germs don’t look exactly like this, but they are equally nasty. Have the character “talk” with the kids and use him in a poster in your bathroom with pictures of proper washing, showing the germ being washed away.
While you are starting hand-washing activities, teach your kids about germs and getting sick. You can use glitter, baby powder or other sticky, transmissible materials to show how germs can move from one hand to another. Also show the kids how washing their hands whisks away these visible “germs.”
You need to give your child a tool to bring into any bathroom he enters. Teach him a 20-second song or poem to quietly recite as he washes his hands. Describe for him each step from lathering to drying and have him recite the simple rhyme or poem to keep each one in mind. You can even just tell him to wash each finger and each side of his palm to ensure he has washed thoroughly.