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“Have you wash your hands?”
“Your finger is still blue, Sammy. Wash it again, please”
“Don’t touch the food. Wash your hands first!”
“For the love of God, Billy! Stop licking your dirty fingers!”
A mom’s struggle to teach hygiene to kids is real, folks. Getting kids to wash their hands is like asking them to stop touching their favorite food, you just have to remind them ALL. THE. TIME.
I still have to ask my 5-year-old son to wash his hands literally every 10 minutes, because apparently, he and germs are best friends.
There are two things that contributed to the difficulties to get kids to maintain hygiene:
1. They love to get dirty. It affords them to the creativity it encourages, and part of their learning experience.
2. They don’t know about bacteria and its effects on our health. Frankly, we can’t see the germs, either. In kids’ simple way of thinking, why must we worried about things that can’t be seen?
To make us more anxious, now a virus outbreak is happening around the world. As coronavirus has spread rapidly and becomes a pandemic, teaching our kids to properly wash their hands has never been more important.
Why Teaching Our Kids How To Properly Wash Hands is Important?
CDC stated a couple of findings to highlight the importance of washing hands in kids:
- Handwashing with soap could protect about 1 out of every 3 young children who get sick with diarrhea and almost 1 out of 5 young children with respiratory infections like pneumonia
- Although people around the world clean their hands with water, very few use soap to wash their hands. Washing hands with soap remove germs much more effectively.
- Handwashing education and access to soap in schools can help improve attendance
- Good handwashing early in life may help improve child development in some settings
- Estimated global rates of handwashing after using the toilet are only 19%
Hand washing is a habit that starts at home. To get kids to wash their hands by asking and reminding them to actually having the initiative takes time. And sometimes, a little bit of creative ideas.
Here are 6 activities that you can do to help teaching kids to wash hands as part of their routine in a fun way. Please note that these activities are geared toward younger children. So if you have older kids (say 8 years and up) you might have to come with different strategies.
Read A Book About Hand Washing
1. Germs Are Not for Sharing // A great board book for toddlers to learn about basic hygiene. Rather than focus on what germs are, this book teaches the basics of how to not spreading them.
2. Cutie Sue Fights the Germs: An Adorable Children’s Book About Health and Personal Hygiene // The book is simple but gets to the point, with rhyming narratives to teach children to maintain cleanliness and prevent spreading colds.
3. Wash Your Hands! // This book tells a story about the little princess who loves getting her hands dirty and hates washing them. In the end, it teaches the kids the importance of washing hands.
4. The Tale of Georgie Grub // A funny rhyming tale about Georgie Grub who is a soap dodger. He ends up in serious trouble. It’s easy to read and encourages children to maintain personal hygiene.
Put A Washing Instruction On the Soap Label
Young children are visual and kinetic learners. This means that they learn best by seeing and doing, rather than just hearing your instructions.
WHO recommended five easy steps of teaching kids how to properly wash their hands. The steps include: wet, lather, scrub, rinse and dry. A creative way to teach kids the step-by-step instruction is by putting them on places that can be easily seen, like posters or soap labels.
It’s a great reminder that will catch their attention and make sure they don’t skip any important step. On the plus side, we don’t have to keep telling them what to do, the poster will do that for you.
I made my own soap label with a picture of a virus on it (because right now my son is obsessed with anything about coronavirus lol). It has simple step-by-step instructions based on the WHO recommendations. I will share it with you for FREE if you’d like to have one. The label is 3×4 inches which should fit on any 16 oz soap bottle.
You can get the label inside a downloadable DIY kit at the end of this post
Simply just print it on a sticker paper and put it on a clean soap bottle. You may have to remove the existing label from the old bottle first. Tell your kids that the bottle is made exclusively for them. A little bit of effort can add more fun by providing the children with appealing visuals, so they are more excited when it’s time to wash hands!
The Glitter Germs Game
This fun simple game teaches young kids to understand how easily germs can spread and leave traces around you. It will be messy, yes, but glitter can be a great example to visualize germs and bacterias to toddlers.
What you need:
- Soap and water
Put a little bit of glitter inside a bowl and tell your child to rub their hands with glitter. Then let them touch objects or other people around them with their hands. Take a look at the traces of the glitter on the surfaces. Explain that this is how easily germs can be spread when we don’t wash our hands. Proceed to wash their hands with soap to show them how the glitter germs disappear afterward.
Singing a Song While Washing Hands
WHO recommends at least 20 seconds to rub your hands in soap before rinsing off with water. Unfortunately often kids (especially younger ones) forgot to wash their hands for that long. Singing a song can be a helpful trick to help them measure if they have been scrubbing long enough.
Extension Alliance for Better Child Care provides a few great examples of handwashing songs during the 20 seconds rubbing period.
Wash, Wash, Wash Your Hands
(Sing to the tune of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat”)
Wash, wash, wash your hands,
Play our handy game.
Rub and scrub and scrub and rub
Germs go down the drain
(repeat 1 more time)
Good and Clean
(Sing to the tune of “Happy Birthday”)
Wash my hands so good and clean
Wash my fingers and in between
Watch the germs all go away
Now they’re clean, I’ll go and play
(repeat 1 more time)
This Is the Way We Wash Our Hands
(Sing to the tune of “Here We Go ‘Round the Mulberry Bush”)
This is the way we wash our hands, wash our hands, wash our hands,
This is the way we wash our hands, every single day.
This is the way we scrub our fingers, scrub our fingers, scrub our fingers,
This is the way we scrub our fingers, every single day.
This is the way we rinse our hands, rinse our hands, rinse our hands,
This is the way we rinse our hands, rinse those germs away!
Make A Handwashing Chart
Turn handwashing into a fun activity by creating a handwashing chart for children! I made this fun handwashing chart, which you can also download for FREE, to track their handwashing routine.
You can get the PDF file inside a downloadable DIY kit at the end of this post.
My goal is to encourage my son to wash his hands and hopefully turn it into a habit. Each time he correctly follows the steps of proper handwashing, he will receive a sticker that he can put on the chart. Once it reaches a certain goal, he can get a reward, like a new toy or extra time to watch tv.
What you need:
- A printed PDF file of the handwashing chart (letter size)
- A laminator, like this one
- Stickers. This sticker is the perfect size for the chart, but any sticker under 1 inch will do
- Dry erase marker
Download and print the chart on a letter-size paper. Laminate it and put it on a fridge or any places that are reachable to your kids. Write the activities where washing hands are needed (for example: before eating, after playing outside, etc) with a dry erase marker. Let the kids put on a sticker every time they properly wash their hands after (or before) the particular activity.
Decorate Your Soap With Toys
To make washing hands a little more fun, we can put little toys inside a hand soap with a clear soap pump. It’s really simple but made my son excited to wash his hands! Here are the directions.
What you need:
- Clear soap pump bottle. You can get it a dollar store, Amazon, or better yet, use your old soap bottle if you have any.
- Clear hand soap. Like this Seventh Generation Hand Wash Soap or other brands.
- Small toys. Any plastic small toys like lego, buttons, or small figurines will do.
Peel the labels off your old soap pumps and give a good wash o the outside to remove any glue residue. Pour the soap inside. Add in the small toys and give a little shake to spread them evenly inside. Done!
Do you have other activities that work for you to teach hand washing to your kids? Please write in the comments below. I would love to hear more ideas!