Let’s face it, little kids’ hands get dirty-often! So teaching them when and how to wash their hands is an important part of their daily hygiene routine that should begin in toddlerhood. If you give your little ones the basics and make hand washing a part of their daily routine at home, it will become ingrained in them before they reach school age. It will also help to cut down on the spread of germs and hopefully minimize illness.
You can make a chart for your children that you keep near your sinks in the home. For preschoolers use photos or pictures cut from magazines and for older kids use a combo of pictures and written instructions.
When To Wash Hands:
- Before we touch food or help cook/prepare food
- Before we eat food
- Before we brush/floss our teeth
- Before we put a bandage on a cut
- Before visiting sick, elderly or very young babies so not to spread germs/infection
- After using the bathroom or changing diapers
- After coughing, sneezing, blowing our nose
- After we come inside after playing outdoors
- After being together with someone who is sick or not feeling well
- After playing with our pets
- After helping to cook/prepare food
- After throwing thing into the garbage can
- After going to the doctor, hospital, dentist or other medical appointment
- Anytime they get messy!
How to Teach Hand Washing
- For younger children get a step stool that gives them the ability to safely reach the sink
- Demonstrate and repeat hand washing steps for younger children frequently and monitor them to be sure they are washing properly, as little ones often need adult assistance to be thorough
- Always have pump soap and/or bar soap available and within reach
- Keep clean towels or paper towels within reach for easy drying
- Teach kids to wash the backs of their hands, palms of their hands, in between fingers, wrists and especially under their fingernails (a small nail brush by the sink is a great idea)
- Tell kids to sing Happy Birthday or the ABC song while washing to give them a general idea of how long to wash (average 15-30 seconds)
- Toddlers and preschoolers enjoy getting stickers put on a chart for hand washing as much as potty training
The American Academy of Pediatrics states that “hand washing may be the single most important act you and your child have for disease prevention.” They also say that antibacterial soaps are not necessary, because plain soap and water do the job just fine. It also doesn’t hurt to keep a few bottles of hand sanitizer around the house for quick cleaning between soap & water scrubs, but these alcohol based sanitizers are not as effective when hands are visibly dirty or greasy, so use sparingly.
Books are a great way to reinforce hand washing for young children and Amazon has a nice selection of toddler and preschool titles available.