When it comes to washing hands, most kids, (and disgustingly, most adults) only wave their hands just under water, that is, if they wash their hands at all. Washing hands seems obvious after using the toilet, changing nappies, handling animals and before and after handling food but if you’ve ever been to a public toilet you’ve seen plenty of people who don’t wash, and I don’t want to think about food handlers.
Clearly washing your hands helps prevent the spread of gastroenteritis, which can cause serious health problems; especially for young children, the elderly, or those with a weak immune system. But how do you train a toddler? They won’t get the importance of good washing techniques but they need to know how to do it properly. Tell them how everyone has germs; that our bodies have germs all over but some germs help us stay healthy and some don’t. We need to get rid of the bad ones that we pick up; germs from other people, toys, books or objects.
A good wash is with soap and water for about 15 to 20 seconds, (as long as it takes to sing “Happy birthday” under your breath), speaking of which I made a song up for my kids to remember that goes along with the “Happy birthday” tune:
Have them wet their hands and put a squirt of soap on their palms
“Slippery slimy for you” (Wash palms, then backs of hands)
“Octopus fingers too” (Spread fingers and rub between fingers)
“Monkey paw, monkey paw” (Hook your finger tips and scrape nails down over the palms to clean under nails)
“Milk the cow, milk the cow” (Grab the base of the thumb and squeeze down in a milking motion)
“Slippery slimy for you” (Finish off by washing around the wrists and rinse soap off.)
And don’t forget to dry well with a clean towel. Just check yourself next time you wash your hands – did you “sing the song”?
Top tip: Make it a game: sprinkle fine glitter on the child’s hands then tell them to wash all the naturally sticky glitter off with soap and water. See how well they do, checking between fingers, under fingernails and up to the wrist. Then remind your child to scrub off the “invisible glitter” (AKA “germs”) every time they wash their hands.