While it may seem like a no-brainer to us, our littles probably don’t know just how important hand washing is. Even at the age of 8 or 9, a lot of kids still haven’t grasped this concept—they just don’t realize that eating a sandwich with their hands or fingernails covered in dirt is actually dangerous for their health. So let’s teach them!
Good hand washing is the first line of defense against the spread of many illnesses—from the common cold to more serious ones like the Norwalk virus, meningitis, the flu, hepatitis A, conjunctivitis (pink eye), and most types of infectious diarrhea and respiratory infections.
When should kidlets (and adults) wash their hands?
- Before a meal
- After using the bathroom
- After playing
- After riding public transit or being outside
- After touching or petting pets or other animals
- After sneezing* or coughing* (if they haven’t mastered the “sneeze into your arm” method)
*When kids and adults are sick hand washing should be done more often.
Easier said than done? These guidelines (read: strategies) will help you foster the hand-washing habit in your wee one, and teach them how to do it right.
Hand Washing Strategies
1. Use warm water—not cold or hot—to wash hands.
2. Use water and soap. Rinsing with only water isn’t enough–soap is necessary to get hands clean. If your babe tends to skip the suds, consider buying a colorful foamy kind made for kids or put the regular soap you have in a fun container to tempt them. Afterward, make them dry their hands on a clean, dry towel.
Antibacterial soaps are not mandatory. A good, nice smelling soap does the trick every time. We are loving the line of liquid hand soaps from Dr. Bronner’s. They come in lovely scents (think peppermint and lavender), are fair trade, eco-friendly and certified organic.
3. Aim for 20 seconds of solid scrubbing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend washing hands with soap and warm water and scrubbing for about 20 seconds. That’s the time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” or the ABC song. Sing it out loud with them as you both wash your hands to show them how long they need to scrub.
4. Make it routine. Before every snack and meal, announce that it’s time to wash their hands. Do the same after they go to the bathroom or come in from outside. Eventually, they’ll link these times to needing to lather up and it will translate into times when you’re not around too.
5. Use your words. Don’t be afraid to tell kids about the importance of hand washing and how all the soap and water is working together to remove bad bugs from their hands.
6. Go hard-core. Your tot’s still not convinced? Ask their pediatrician to talk to them about the importance of hand washing. It may make a bigger impression on your little one if their doctor explains it.
7. Have a backup. Just like with everything else involving kids, make sure there’s a backup plan. Carry hand sanitizer or hand and face wipes with you or pack them in an on-the-go dispenser in their lunch bags and sports bags so that hands can be kept clean on the go.