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The Best Way to Teach Kids The Importance of Hand Washing

December 5, 2017

Washing hands.jpgI’m sure if you had a nickel for every time you had to tell your kids to wash their hands, you could probably hire someone to help them do it. The fact is, we can stress to them over and over how germs and bacteria are spread by not washing your hands with soap and clean, running water, but getting them to do it is not always easy. The first step is teaching your kids the importance of hand washing.

You can start by telling them that hand washing is so important, it’s gets its own week. The first week of December is “National Hand Washing Awareness Week.” And Global Handwashing Day is recognized each October. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention celebrates the day and provides some science behind the reasons you should wash your hands regularly.

Microbes and germs top the list. Microbes are tiny living organisms that may, or may not cause disease. Germs are types of microbes that do cause disease. You can’t see or smell them, and your best defense against them is a good hand wash. It’s just one of the reasons to teach your kids the importance of hand washing.

Hand Washing Best Practices

When teaching your kids how to proper hand washing techniques, you should probably start with this; when to do it. Here’s the short list from the CDC:

  • Before, during, and after preparing food
  • Before eating
  • Before and after caring for someone who is sick
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound
  • After using the toilet
  • After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste
  • After handling pet food or pet treats
  • After touching garbage

Researchers with the World Health Organization say teaching your kids to properly hand wash could prevent about 1 out of every 10 episodes of diarrheal illnesses and almost 1 out of 6 episodes of respiratory infection like pneumonia. It’s also a good way to prevent a cold and seasonal flu.

How To Hand Wash

Asking how to hand wash may seem like a silly question, but there is a right way and a wrong way to do everything—including handwashing. The experts at kidshealth.org recommend these tactics:

  1. Wet your hands with running water — either warm or cold. A Rutgers University study found cold water is just as effective at killing bacteria as warm water.
  2. Apply liquid, bar or powder soap.
  3. Work up some lather on both sides of your hands, your wrists, and between your fingers.
  4. Rub your hands vigorously for at least 20 seconds.
  5. Rinse well.

Hand Washing Tricks

To get your kids to hand wash thoroughly you can try things like:

  • Telling your kids to say the alphabet slowly or hum the “Happy Birthday” song twice while they’re doing it.
  • Use scented soaps to get your kids excited about washing their hands. Even try some seasonal scents, like soaps that smell like Christmas trees around the holidays.
  • Build it into your routine from a very early age, then it will be expected.

It’s all about wanting what’s best for your kids, even when it comes to some of the simpler things in life, like hand washing.

To get some more commonly asked questions answered for your kids, download our free guide “From Crib to College: Caring for Your Little Ones.”