Teaching your little ones about hand hygiene

You know the importance of washing your hands, but how can you get the message across to your kids?

Handwashing is vitally important. Each day, we come in contact with thousands of germs. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 50 percent of healthy people have the S. aureus bacteria residing on their hair or skin.

With all of those germs, it’s clear that handwashing and other hand hygiene practices need to be taught to kids early in life. Read on for some tips on how to do so.

Share the message in multiple ways.

Just like adults, different kids learn in different ways. So, it’s important that you teach kids about handwashing in multiple ways.

One of the most fun ways to teach kids about handwashing? Bring germs to life.

There are a couple different ways to do this. Using construction paper, work with your kids to create germs, complete with faces and other fun features. Once you’ve cut out the creatures, attach them to toilet paper rolls so that they stand upright. Then teach your kids that washing their hands knocks over the germs — and let them have fun knocking over their creatures.

For a more visual look at handwashing, trace your kids’ hands twice on light-colored construction paper and cut them out. On the first set of hands, have them draw “germs,” then on the second set, have them draw soap bubbles and keep the hands clean.

Show them the handwashing basics.

You’ve been washing their hands for them since they were tiny. But have you stepped them through how to wash their hands themselves?

The best way to do this is to model for them by washing your own hands. The CDC recommends a specific handwashing process for maximum effectiveness:

  • Wet hands using running water, then remove hands from water and apply soap.
  • Rub hands together to create a soapy lather. The soap needs to come in contact with all parts of your hands, including between your fingers and under your nails.
  • Continue lathering for at least 20 seconds — or the length of time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice.
  • Rinse hands using running water, then dry using a clean towel or air drying.

Let them have fun with it.

When it comes to teaching your kids about hand hygiene, you don’t have to go it alone! There are a ton of fun activities available to help them learn.

The American Red Cross offers a particularly good resource — the “Scrub Club,” which features videos, games, stories and even a handwashing song. The handwashing song takes kids through the entire handwashing process from start to finish. And the website also features fun items you can download for your kids, including a storybook, coloring pages and stickers.

When illness or injury strikes, feel confident knowing that Children’s Hospital at Erlanger is nearby to care for the unique needs of your little ones. Regular checkups get your health headed down the right path. Has your child seen the pediatrician lately? Find a doctor here.