Teaching your kids to wash their hands is not just about germs that cause illness. Have you ever looked at a young child's hands when she comes home from pre-school or her playgroup? They're usually covered in markers, dirt from the playground and probably a little bit of lunch. And anything else they've touched since the moment you dropped them off earlier that day.
So here's a little hand-washing 101 to help your kids out:
- Monkey see, monkey do. For little kids, wash their hands after you wash your hands. Let them participate in the process by getting the soap and creating suds. I tell my kids that if they don't see suds, they're not really washing their hands. And be sure to show them how to wash their hands, fingers and wrists.
- Time it. It should take about 20 seconds to thoroughly wash hands. Tell your kid to sing "Happy Birthday" or another song while they wash their hands.
- Rinse. Kids tend to put too much soap on their hands so they need to learn how to completely rinse their hands of soap. Otherwise they risk drying out their skin, especially in between their fingers.
- Routine. Let your kids know when they need to wash their hands. After they use the bathroom, eat, come home from school, touch garbage, play with a pet, touch anything that has contact with lots of people (shopping carts, buttons on elevators, counters at stores, etc.)
- Remind. Little kids who've just learned to wash their hands are always eager to practice their new skill. But as the novelty wears off, you'll need to remind them. Often. And you'll need to check because they become quite skilled at saying they've washed their hands when they've only washed a few fingertips. (This is where need to test them by sniffing their hands.)
And finally, antibacterial gels and sprays are a nice temporary solution when you're out and about with your kids. They may kill germs, but they don't get rid of dirt. And they're definitely not a substitute for soap and water. When you get home, send your kids to the faucet.