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Teaching Your Child to Properly Wash Their Hands

Washing hands regularly is the best way to prevent the spread of germs. Children must learn the importance of hand washing early, and it’s up to parents to teach them the proper technique. They’ll not only stay healthier but they’ll have the foundation for good, overall personal hygiene to last a lifetime.

How can you teach your young child to properly wash their hands? While it can be difficult for them to understand how important hand washing is, starting early and making it fun is key to turning hand washing into a habit.
Try these activities, which are appropriate for children up to about age 7 or 8.

Soap and water lesson

  1. Have your child and one of their friends go outside and get their hands dirty by digging in the dirt. When they come back inside, have them look at their dirty hands through a magnifying glass.
  2. Next, get one child to wash their hands with water only. Have the other child wash their hands with soap and water. When finished, have them again look at their hands with the magnifying glass. This will show them how soap is needed to remove the dirt and clean their hands.
  3. Tell them that germs are just like dirt, only you can’t see them, and that regular hand washing with soap and water is necessary to keep germs and sickness away. This also is a good time to explain to them that good hand washing requires rubbing hands together quickly with soap and warm water for about 30 seconds. Point out that they always need to wash their hands before eating and after handling shared items, like toys, computers and shopping carts; after touching animals or pets; after sneezing or coughing; and after using especially the restroom.

Demonstrating how germs spread

  1. Place flour on your child’s hands and show them how, when surfaces are touched, the “germs” spread.
  2. Sprinkle flour in your hand and pretend to sneeze into your hand. Flour will disperse and land on objects around you and the rest will remain on your hand. Shake hands with someone and touch a couple of objects to transfer some of the “germs” onto those objects.
  3. Put a little more flour into your hand and pretend to sneeze again. This time, however, cover your hand and face with your arm. Your child will see that much less flour and “germs” make it out of your hand. This shows your child how properly, and politely, sneezing and coughing can help prevent the spread of germs. Wash your hands right after the demonstration to again stress the importance of hand washing.

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