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How to Make Handwashing Fun

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kid washing hands; How to Make Handwashing Fun

If you’re a parent to young children, you know handwashing can be a battle. And, with the spread of the coronavirus, we know the importance of handwashing to stay health and prevent the spread of germs. Andrea White, MD, UnityPoint Health says if you make it fun, it’ll seem more tolerable for everyone involved.

When Should Kids Wash Their Hands?

Kids, especially younger kids, need frequent reminders to wash their hands with soap and water. Here’s when it’s most important:

  • After using the bathroom
  • Before eating or handling food
  • After touching a pet
  • After sneezing or coughing

Dr. White says adults should act as good role models by using good handwashing practices themselves.

What Age Should Kids Start Handwashing?

“Even babies benefit from handwashing, especially if they or other family members are ill. Keep in mind handwashing can especially help when babies start putting their hands in their mouths and when they begin to feed themselves,” Dr. White says.

By the time kids are starting elementary school, they can often tackle handwashing by themselves. However, intermittent reminders and “quality checks” are still helpful as children grow.

Is Hand Sanitizer a Good Option for Kids?

“Washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds is the best way to eliminate germs. If this isn’t an option, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol. Baby wipes, while convenient, do not eliminate germs from hands,” Dr. White says.

What is the Best Way to Teach Kids Handwashing?

Dr. White says to stick with the basics and go over the five steps for handwashing: wet, lather, scrub, rinse and dry. 

“Have them lather all over their hands, including the back of the hands, and under nails. Again, scrub for 20 seconds. The key is repetition. Practicing good handwashing routinely and giving reminders of appropriate times to wash hands will ensure good habits down the road,” Dr. White says.

What are Ways to Make Handwashing Fun?

Dr. White offers six tips to help make handwashing more fun and less of a chore.

  1. Use different colors/scents of soap. Then, let them pick which soap they want to use.
  2. Sing a song. You can go with Happy Birthday twice or come up with your own 20-second handwashing tune.
  3. Make it a game. Track down the germs in all their favorite hiding places, kind of like scrubbing off the “sugar bugs” when brushing teeth.
  4. Start a sticker chart. Hang a sticker chart in the bathroom and give away a gold star or smiley face each time they wash.
  5. Try a washable marker. Make a smiley face on the back of their hands with the marker and wash until it disappears.
  6. Add some glitter. Put glitter and water in a spray bottle and spray “germs” on your kids’ hands. Have them wash and then look for the “germs” to see where they’re still hiding.