How to Teach Your Child to Wash Their Hands
by Jeannine Laubner
“Did you wash your hands?” is a common question that parents ask their young children every day. It is usually followed by the child running off to the sink to complete their forgotten task. A task so simple has a very important purpose: to keep our bodies safe from infections. The Centre for Disease Control (CDC) states that 80% of infections are transmitted via the hands. Between playtime, holding hands, and sharing snacks, developing a proper handwashing habit will keep germs at bay. Here are five strategies to help your child wash their hands more.
Model Correct Behavior
Children look up to adults for correct behaviour, including hygiene. Show your child the correct way to wash hands by performing the action yourself. When it is time to wash up before mealtime, wash your hands first so they can observe the correct technique. When your child sees that you are washing your hands, they will understand the importance of doing it themselves.
Easy to Reach Sink
Is the sink easy to reach for your child? If not, use a step stool and teach your child how to stand on it safely and how to put it away when they are finished. Also, keep the soap and towels within easy reach of your child.
Consider purchasing a fun soap for your child to use. Drugstores and grocery stores carry soaps of various scents and colours. Alternatively, you can select one with your child’s favourite character on it. Have them join you on the shopping trip and let them select the soap themselves for a more personal experience.
Talk about Details
Something that is common sense for an adult is not the case for a child. Have you ever watched a child run their hands under the water with no soap and call that washing their hands? Take the time to go over the details such as how much soap to use and how long to scrub hands for. Washing hands takes about 20 seconds, or singing the ABC song twice.
Talk about Importance
Discuss with your child why it is important to wash your hands whether they look dirty or not. A quick object lesson you can do is place a small amount of glitter (or flour) on your child’s hands. Have them touch one of their toys (preferably something that can get wiped down easily later). Touch the toy yourself and note the transfer of glitter from your child’s hands, to the toy, and finally to your hands. Explain that the glitter represents germs and when we do not wash our hands, they can go everywhere and make others sick. We can’t always see germs but we can still wash them away.
Hand washing is a basic, yet vital part of hygiene. Sometimes it is difficult for children to grasp the reasoning for it, or how to wash their hands correctly. Using these five strategies will give your child healthy habits for life.
About the author:
Jeannine Laubner is the Academic Director of Kipinä Kids Nurseries and Preschools, the world’s fastest-growing international Finnish preschool franchise. She is a fourth-generation teacher, and mother of two Kipinä-educated children. Hailing from San Francisco, USA, she is a successful leader in education with over 18 years of experience. Jeannine holds a Masters degree in Teaching, a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology, and Cross-Cultural Language and Academic Development certification. When she is not developing teaching tools for the Kipinä Enhanced Finland Curriculum, she is supporting green initiatives, animal welfare and Girl Scouts Overseas.