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.
I started teaching my oldest child how to thoroughly wash his hands when he was still crawling. However, all it took was one bad stomach bug to be passed around our house for me to re-visit and revamp the lesson on proper hand washing technique.
The Importance of Hand Washing
When I first entered nursing school the team of teachers took the entire body of students entering nursing school and began teaching us beginner nursing skills.
Many are skills you would expect to be taught in nursing school. Like how to manually check a blood pressure and a pulse. However, the very first skill that they taught us, and made us perform in front of them for a pass or fail grade, was hand washing.
Knowing how to wash your hands properly is so important that every single nursing student was individually observed washing and drying their hands by an instructor.
Why is Hand Washing Important
Washing your hands is the best way to help prevent spreading germs and bacteria. Children are especially prone to touching a lot of things and then wiping their face with their dirty hands.
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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 full 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 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 hand washing 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!
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 hand washing 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.
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 hand washing 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 hand washing 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 finger nails!
Children need to learn how to wet their hands, apply soap, scrub, rinse, and dry properly.
Steps for washing hands for Kids
Turn on the water
Dampen hands with water
Apply soap to the hands.
Rub soap all over hands, including between fingers and under finger nails, 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.
Rinse your hands being sure to get of all of the soap.
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)
Dry hands on the paper towel
Turn off the water, using the paper towel
Open the bathroom door, using the paper towel
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 a 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 hand washing.
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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