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How to Teach Your Child to Get in the Habit of Hand Washing

Ah, weekends … For a child, that means no school. Just play, eat, sleep, repeat; everything a little body needs to grow big and strong. Your kiddo might enjoy throwing pebbles into a pond before catching a frog, frolicking with the dog in the backyard, coloring with markers until their hands glow from the ink, or eating snacks that aren’t allowed at school; the kind that turn their fingers (and teeth) orange.

Getting your child to wash their hands throughout the day can be difficult, especially when they spend most of their time getting them dirty. These tips and tools will help you explain to your child the importance of handwashing and staying germ-free.

Whatever the weekend activity, chances are you are asking your kiddo to wash their hands. All. Day. Long. To your child, this may seem a little (or a lot) redundant. They might by thinking, “I washed my hands this morning, why on earth would I want or need to do that again, let alone again and again?” While the answer may be obvious to you, your child may need some coaching on the finer points of hygiene. Our tips and tools should help.

The Basics

To help your child build awareness for when and how to wash their hands, we’ve compiled a quick and clean list of the basics for you both to follow.

  1. Wash hands before eating
  2. Wash up after playing outdoors & after school
  3. Always wash after using the bathroom
  4. Take the time to wash more frequently when you (or someone you know) has a cold, the flu, or allergies (especially if that someone lives in your household)
  5. When washing, use warm water and soap like Kandoo Hand Soap to build a frothy lather
  6. Wash fronts and backs of hands, and between fingers
  7. Wash for at least 15 seconds or about the time it takes to sing the Happy Birthday song twice through, then rinse well
  8. Dry hands on a clean towel

“But Why Mom?”

Recognizing your child has way more important things to get to during the day than hand washing, try talking with them about the importance of clean hands when they’re not in the moment (i.e. during dinner, at bedtime, etc.).  This way, they are more apt to absorb what you are trying to say.

For example, let kids know the number one reason we wash our hands is to keep from getting sick.  Help them understand that throughout the day, our hands touch a lot of surfaces (including other people), and those surfaces can house a lot of germs.  Germs are tiny organisms we can’t see but if they get into our bodies (by touching our eyes, nose, or mouths with germy hands), they can make us sick.  Washing hands regularly with soap and warm water will ensure we wash all those nasty germs right down the drain.

Another reason we wash our hands is to keep our skin looking its best.  Show your child how their hands look after they’ve been playing outside or drawing with pencils or colored pens.  Have them notice the dirt under their nails or the ink marks on their fingers and palms.  Wash their hands with them and then have them notice how clean they look and how good they smell.  Chances are your child will prefer the neat and tidy hands over the dirty, messy ones!

How Not to Spoil the Fun

From your child’s perspective, washing hands might take all the fun out of getting dirty.  To them, getting dirty is fun … and it should be.  From the tactile experiences it affords them to the creativity it encourages, getting their hands dirty is downright delicious for kids.  Encourage it.  Help your child understand that you applaud their messy playtime but when they are done, they need to wash up.  Then, show them that getting clean isn’t so bad after all.  How you might ask?  Try some of these helpful tips.

  • Turn hand washing into a game rather than a chore. You might fill the sink with bubbles when they lather up with soap.
  • Provide your kiddo with incentives such as nickels, stickers, etc. each time they wash up without you having to ask.
  • Have a hand washing chart near the sink so your child can mark down each time they wash.  Once the chart is filled in, honor their work with a small, agreed upon reward.
  • Have scented or colored soaps your kids enjoy washing with near the sink.
  • Let your child keep small, water-proof toys near the sink so they can play while washing.
  • Wash your hands when your child does.  Show them that even grown-ups have to wash regularly.
  • Empower your kids to wash hands themselves by providing the tools they need to be successful such as a footstool to reach the sink, a bottle of pump soap (vs. a bar) to administer soap easily, etc.

From asking your kiddo to wash to having them take the initiative to wash on their own is a big step for both beginners and for busy older kids.  Don’t blame them for not washing regularly or well.  They will get there.  Encourage the process but do not micro-manage it.  Repetition and leading by example are two of the best things you can do to make sure hand-washing happens.

Kandoo Frog

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