Teaching young children about hygiene and germs isn't always easy, but it's important!
- Understanding the connection between germs and illness helps children comprehend the need for good hygiene practices.
- Less time missed from school or work because of sickness.
- Children develop care and concern for the health and welfare of those around them.
- A foundation for healthy practices throughout their lives will be built.
- Education is the key to establishing good handwashing habits. Talk with your child about all the ways our hands get dirty- after using the bathroom, petting animals, playing in sand, or touching objects others have handled.
- Get creative! Because your child cannot “see” germs without a microscope you must be resourceful in your attempts to teach him they do indeed exist.
- Demonstrate the need to wash hands by applying a small amount of glitter to your hand and then touch your child’s hands. He can now see how your “germs” have been shared. He can also touch items such as the table or a toy and see the glitter transferred there. Next, let him try to get the “germs” off with just a dry paper towel, and then only cool water. Show him the only way to completely get rid of germs is by washing thoroughly with soap and water.
- Teach him to recite his “ABC’s” while he washes his hands so he will learn to scrub long enough to fully cleanse the dirt and germs away.
- Illustrate for him how sneezing and coughing spreads germs. Have him draw a face on a paper plate and then cut a hole where the mouth is. Place a spray bottle behind the hole and show him how sneezing and coughing “sprays” germs to those around him.
- Because hands are the primary source of contamination, it is important to remind him to sneeze and cough into a tissue or the bend of his arm. Try using the phrase, “catch that sneeze, please!”
- Discuss a time when your child was sick. Have him recall how it felt to miss out on a fun activity, take ‘yucky’ medicine or miss playing with his friends. Help him understand that using good hygiene can significantly reduce the chances of this happening again. Remind him how important it is to protect others from getting sick too!
- Set the example! Children learn by watching adults model appropriate hygiene practices.
- Keep disinfectant wipes or liquid hand sanitizer in the car or your purse for those times when soap and water aren’t handy.
Handwashing education will be a continuing process with young children. Encouragement, modeling, reminders, and patience are the keys to building good hygiene habits. The rewards will be fewer illnesses and less time lost at work and school.