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Encouraging Children to Practice Hand Washing

With the start of the school year comes the spread of germs! Kids don’t always understand why they need to wash their hands, and it’s a difficult habit to instill. How can you encourage your children to wash their hands?

Kid-Friendly Tips for Hand Washing

Here are some tips on teaching kids how to wash their hands regularly and properly:

  1. 20-second rule

Many people do not know this, but washing your hands is only effective at killing germs if you wash for 20 seconds. Most children wash their hands for a few short seconds. 20 seconds is a long time for a short attention span! Make that 20-second period fun. Sing a song, count, or do a dance.

  1. Praise for hand washing

Even though hand washing can seem minor, it is an important part of your health. Turn handwashing into something your child can take pride in. Give them praise for doing it right. Treat it like you would potty-training and reward them (even if it’s with a big smile) every time they get it right. It may seem silly, but remember that proper hand washing needs to become a life-long habit.

  1. Personalize the Experience

Personalize the sink space: invest in some fun soap, a kids-only drying towel, and a fun, easy to use stool to reach the sink. The more color and fun, the more a child will look forward to washing up after using the restroom or when getting home from school.

  1. Routine, Routine, Routine!

Incorporate hand washing into the daily family routine. When you get home from school or shopping, have the whole family wash up. When dinner is almost ready, remind everyone to wash their hands. The more routine it becomes, the easier it will be for kids to remember.

  1. Explain why.

Kids love the “But why? But why?” game. The good news is that there is a good reason why you should wash your hands. When you explain the purpose of hand washing, do it in a simple way.

Be careful not to scare them.

Forming a Habit from Childhood

Eventually, proper hand washing becomes a habit. While teaching your little ones, keep other illness-spreading habits in mind. The most common way to catch an illness is by touching your nose, eyes, or mouth after touching a contaminated surface. Tell you kids not to touch their faces and to avoid sharing food or drinks with friends.

What is the Best Hand Washing Method?

It is surprising to know how many adults are confused about the proper way to wash your hands. Stick to the 20 second rule, and use warm (not hot or cold) water and preferably a liquid soap. Bar soaps can harbor bacteria, especially in the cracks that form when the bar dries. It is also best to use a fresh hand towel. It may be a good idea to give each family member their own, personal hand towel to use.

Know when to wash your hands. Keep a mental checklist: before and after meals, after every restroom visit, after playing with animals, and as soon as you get home.

What if My Child Does Get Sick?

No matter how well you teach your child to wash their hands, sickness can still happen. If your child does get sick, contact our Kids First Pediatrics office in Raleigh, NC. We offer Well-Child Visits. At your appointment, our pediatricians can diagnose minor illnesses. If your child is sick, we can arrange a same-day appointment.

*This article is informational but is not a substitute for medical attention or information from your provider.

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