Today is Global Handwashing Day. As the name suggests, this is a worldwide campaign to raise awareness about the importance of washing hands with soap and water.
Washing Hands Keeps Kids Healthy
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), teaching people about the importance of handwashing with soap and water has many benefits, including reducing:
- The number of people who get sick with diarrhea by about 23–40%
- School absences due to gastrointestinal illness by 29–57%
- Respiratory illnesses, like colds, in the general population by about 16–21%
How to Make Handwashing Fun for Kids
Washing hands well is important, but how can parents make it simple for kids to do every time? Use the following tips to teach your kids proper handwashing and help keep you and your family healthy.
Kids and parents need to wash their hands for 20 seconds to be the most effective at combating germs. This is especially important because 80% of all infectious diseases are transferred by human contact. This includes pneumonia, gastroenteritis (vomiting and diarrhea), cold and flu, and skin infections. Every time we touch a surface — desks, books, door knobs, sink handles, other people’s hands — germs get on our skin. Then they eventually work their way into our bodies.
Sing for 20
For kids, 20 seconds can seem like an eternity. To make them more likely to follow through, encourage your kids to wash their hands while they sing songs that are at least 20 seconds long. Songs like “Happy Birthday” (twice), “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,” the ABC song, and “Row, Row, Row Your Boat,” can make washing time fun and effective.
Play Follow the Leader
Set a good example for your kids by establishing a good handwashing routine at home and model the proper technique for them. The CDC recommends these steps:
- Wet hands with clean running water (warm or cold) and apply soap.
- Rub hands together to make a lather and scrub them well. Be sure to scrub the backs of hands, between fingers, and under nails.
- Continue rubbing hands for at least 20 seconds.
- Rinse hands well under running water.
- Dry hands using a clean towel or air dry.
Show Them Why
Young minds are notorious for asking “why?” Help them understand why handwashing is so important with these activities:
Activity: Germs, germs, everywhere
- Invite your kids to draw pictures of germs on small pieces of paper. Alternatively, use stickers or print pictures of germs from your computer.
- Have your kids stick the germs on everything they touch for a specific period of time (a morning or an afternoon).
- Observe all of the “germs.” Count how many there are and talk about where they ended up.
- Ask them if they think it’s a lot of germs, and what that means in relation to them getting sick. Discuss how washing hands can keep germs off of themselves and help keep them healthy.
- If your child is having a hard time remembering to wash their hands, consider using a sticker chart to track whenever your child washes their hands after touching a surface. When they reach a certain number of stickers, they can earn a prize.
Activity: Glitter germs and the importance of soap
- Invite your kids to put a small amount of glitter on their hands to represent germs.
- Have one child wash their hands with soap, and one wash with just water and without soap.
- Observe with your kids how soap gets rid of the glitter germs better than water alone. Talk about how washing hands properly is the best way to help keep from getting sick.
According to the CDC, nearly 38 million school days are lost every year due to the common flu alone. With cold and flu season upon us, now is the perfect time to reinforce proper handwashing techniques with your family, in addition to receiving the yearly flu vaccine.