Hand washing for Kids: Making it Fun and Easy

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Washing your hands is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of germs. Which means you are less likely to get sick!

Hand washing for children is a lesson that they need to be taught. They are never too young to start learning how to wash their hands.

I’m sure your house is a little bit like my house in terms of kids bringing an illness home from school. First, one child gets it. Then any siblings get it. Lastly, you and your partner might be unfortunate enough to get it as well. 

The Importance of Hand Washing

Hand washing is one of the most important things you can do to prevent the spread of illness and infection. The spread of plague and disease was greater before hand washing became common practice.

You touch a lot of things as part of your daily life. You may work on a computer, use a cell phone, handle money, use keys… the list goes on. Every single one of those items can be a carrier of germs.  

We then tend to frequently touch our faces without even realizing it. We may touch our eyes, nose, or mouth. All of which can allow germs to enter our body.

Why is Hand Washing Important

Washing your hands is the best way to help prevent spreading germs and bacteria.

The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) reports that we can reduce the incidence of colds in people by approximately 20%, just by teaching proper handwashing.

Children are especially prone to touching a lot of objects. They love to press elevator buttons, look at money, touch handrails, etc. They pretty much touch anything within their reach.

After touching all of those objects, they often wipe their faces with their dirty hands. 

Some children bite their nails or suck their thumbs. Which is another method for germs to enter their bodies.

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Why Hand Washing over Hand Sanitizer

Hand sanitizer is easy to access or carry around with you. It also might be easier to get children to use hand sanitizer over a thorough hand washing. 

Using hand sanitizer instead of performing a thorough hand washing can be okay in some cases. However, using waterless hand hygiene has proven to not be as effective as a proper hand washing is. 

Hand sanitizer has shown that it is not as effective when hands are visibly dirty or oily. It is not as effective on certain strains of bacteria. Additionally, in a few studies, it has shown to not be as effective as water and soap at removing toxins, such as pesticides and heavy metals. 

When should kids use hand sanitizer?

Hand sanitizer should be used in place of handwashing if there isn’t soap and water easily accessible.

Other times that children should use hand sanitizer include: after riding on public transportation, after touching buttons or handrails in a public place, and whenever entering the car from being somewhere public. It’s good practice to sanitize children’s hands when they enter the car from school pick-up.

These are two of our favorite hand sanitizers this one or this one.

Are your kids getting sick? Teach them how to wash their hands with these ideas. Includes fun activities to learn about germs plus songs to sing while washing hands. Follow these steps for a thorough hand washing lesson!

When Do Hands Need to Be Washed

Below is a list of when children should wash their hands. 

  • Before, during, and after preparing food.
  • Before and after eating.
  • Once inside from outside play time.
  • After using the toilet. 
  • After blowing their nose, coughing, or sneezing. 
  • Following touching an animal. 
  • After touching garbage. 
  • After playing with toys. 

In addition to the above, I have asked my children to wash their hands frequently in school. My older children attend Montessori school, which means they manipulate lessons with their hands throughout the day. These lessons are shared between classmates. I have advised both of my children that they should wash their hands, or at the very least use a waterless sanitizer, after each lesson. 

How to make handwashing fun for children

To get children excited about washing their hands it’s best to make it fun!. 

Maybe you like to sing in the shower or dance while you spend two minutes brushing your teeth! It’s not just kids that like having fun while taking care of our personal hygiene needs!

Sing Songs

We all know “The Clean Up Song” and now with the Amazon Echo so many households can be heard saying “Alexa, play ‘The Clean Up Song’” to help make cleaning up fun for the kids.

Hands needs to be washed for at least 20 seconds to be thoroughly clean. To help children wash their hands for a full 20 seconds they can sing a song. 

Popular songs to use for handwashing include singing “If You’re Happy & You Know It” twice or singing “Happy Birthday” twice. 

Buy them their own personal scented hand soap

Many commercial soaps that you’ll find at schools, in stores, and at restaurants are full of toxic chemicals. Many of which can be endocrine disruptors, irritants, or even carcinogenic. 

I love to buy these mini liquid Castile Soaps. They’re easy to toss in a purse or school bag and they’re made with clean ingredients. 

Plus, once you have the tiny travel bottle you can purchase a larger bottle, like this, and use it to refill your little ones. 

My kids love both the lavender and peppermint. Personally, I’m a fan of the almond. However, the tea tree one would also provide beneficial properties.

In this post, you can read about how lavender, peppermint, and tea tree oil all have beneficial germ-fighting properties. 

How to teach kids to wash their hands

Many children and even some adults, have a difficult time believing that germs are on our skin even if we can’t see them. 

There are a few fun ways to show children how germs can easily get on their hands and be difficult to remove without the use of soap and water. 

Use A Fun product

My favorite product to use is glo-germ. Glo-germ comes in a kit, like this. The lotion can be applied to the children’s hands. Then using the black light from the kit, you can show them the germs on their hands. 

After they see that their hands have microscopic germs on them they can practice their handwashing skills. 

When they have finished washing and drying their hands you can use the black light, again, to check how thoroughly they washed their hands. 

Watch Germs Grow on Food

Another way to teach children about the importance of washing hands is by conducting an experiment on apples, like the one Noirin from Playdough to Plato did with her children.

In this experiment, her children were able to visually observe how germs from dirty hands versus hands not thoroughly cleaned versus thoroughly clean hands grow differently. 

Proper handwashing for kids

Hand hygiene is more than just rubbing your hands together with soap and then rinsing. In fact, many germs are hiding out on your hands outside of your palms. 

Germs can be found on top of your hands, in between your fingers, and especially underneath your fingernails! 

Children need to learn how to wet their hands, apply soap, scrub, rinse, and dry properly. 

Steps for washing hands for Kids 

Step 1 

Turn on the water

Step 2

Dampen hands with water

Step 3

Apply soap to the hands.

Step 4 

Rub soap all over hands, including between fingers and under fingernails, for a minimum of 20 seconds. Have the child sing the Happy Birthday song twice to be sure they are scrubbing for a full 20 seconds. 

Step 5

Rinse your hands being sure to get off all of the soap.

Step 6

Get paper towel. (note: if paper towel dispenser requires handling, such as pushing on a handle to get paper towels to move down, then this should be done as a first step)

Step 7

Dry hands on the paper towel

Step 8

Turn off the water, using the paper towel

Step 9

Open the bathroom door, using the paper towel

Step 10

Throw away the paper towel 

Practice hand washing with your children

As with any skill, thorough hand washing needs to be taught and practiced. It is especially important that this skill is learned before a child enters an age where they will be attending school or play periods without a parent present.

Many common childhood illnesses can be prevented with a strong healthy immune system and proper hand washing technique for kids.

Once children understand the concept of germs and learn the correct steps to follow. They are more likely to engage in handwashing.

I want to know!

Do your children enjoy washing their hands or is can it feel like a battle sometimes? If you have tried these tips, let me know how it went!

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Brooke has been helping families as a board-certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, since 2007. Prior to that, she spent 4+ years working as a Registered Nurse in both pediatric and postpartum nursing. Brooke holds a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and a Master of Science in Nursing. Additionally, she is dual-licensed in her state as both an APRN and RN.

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