Learning the proper way to wash hands is an essential part of every young child’s education. It is also vital to public health, since unwashed hands can pass along germs to others, spreading contagious illnesses such as the common cold and influenza. Children are most likely to follow and remember your instructions when you use songs and other activities to turn hand washing into a fun game.
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Bean Bag Game
Use a bean bag toss game to reinforce the importance of hand washing, suggests the University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension. Explain to children there are six times they should always wash their hands, which include: after playing with a pet, after using the bathroom; after sneezing, coughing or blowing the nose; after touching a cut or sore; after playing outside; and before eating. Using six bean bags, explain to the children that the bean bags represent germs and that they will attempt to “sink” the germs into a container.
You can use glitter as a teaching tool in “Glitter Germs,” suggests the Columbus Public Health website. Divide a group of children into two groups and then put a small amount of glitter on each child’s hands. Direct the first group to wash their hands without soap, and the second group to wash with soap; let the children compare hands. Discuss how using soap more effectively cleans glitter--and germs--off the hands. You can also put a small amount of glitter in your own hands and then touch each child's hands, shoulders and hair to demonstrate how easily the glitter, or “germs,” is spread from one person to another.
Teaching children a hand-washing song not only makes the activity more enjoyable, it gives them a time gauge for how long to wash. Teach children to wash their hands for 20 seconds--as long as it takes them to sing or hum the “Happy Birthday” song twice. Other familiar songs can be adapted to a hand-washing routine. The Arizona Emergency Information Network suggests changing the words of “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” to:
Twinkle, twinkle little star, Look how clean my two hands are. Soap and water, wash and scrub, Get those germs off rub-a-dub, Twinkle, twinkle little star, Look how clean my two hands are.
You can also change the words of “If You’re Happy and You Know It” to “if you’re happy and you know it, wash your hands,” singing the verse twice.
Hand Washing Chart
Turn hand washing into a game by using a hand washing chart with your child to track her success, suggests earthskids.org. Reward her with a sticker each time she correctly follows the steps of proper hand washing. Encourage children to spend more time washing their hands by providing them with soaps with appealing scents and children-themed towels for drying hands. Be sure your child can reach the sink by providing a step stool if necessary.