It’s one of the most basic tasks young children learn, but also one that should rank among their most important lifelong habits. Whether preparing to sit at the dinner table or cleaning dirty fingers after a romp in the yard, regular use of soap and water is key to every little one’s health.
Hand-washing is sometimes introduced to toddlers as young as 2, but even adults often lack knowledge of the proper method. With Michigan’s ongoing cold and flu season underway, and as many students have returned to classrooms after the holiday break, encounters with germs and bacteria have increased.
To better equip both children and parents with a true skill in everything from personal hygiene to kitchen etiquette and first aid, some Flint and Genesee County childcare providers and educators are introducing a hand-washing exercise in their classrooms. Courtesy of the Michigan Fitness Foundation, following are steps and tips you can also use at home:
- Use a few household ingredients – ground cinnamon or glitter, oil or lotion
- Demonstrate “dirty” hands for your child by rubbing oil or lotion onto them, then sprinkling your hands with cinnamon or glitter, so it sticks to the skin.
- Pick up a stuffed toy, squeeze, and move it around in your hands, while your child watches.
- Hand the toy to your child and tell the child to squeeze, rub and play with it.
- Ask the child to give you the stuffed toy and say, “Now, smell your hands. What do they smell like?” (The child should say their hands smell like the cinnamon that was on the toy. If you’ve used glitter, have the child give you the toy, then ask, “What do you see on your hands?”)
- Say, “Germs move around, just like the cinnamon (or glitter) did, and germs can make us sick. Sometimes you can’t see germs, but they are still there.” Pretend to sneeze into your hands. Then say, “So if I sneeze into my hands and don’t wash them, germs on my hands spread to everything I touch.”
- Take your child to the sink, then clean the cinnamon or glitter from your hands while saying, “Here’s a poem to help you remember how to wash your hands: Wash your hands until they are clean; the top, the bottom, and in between; for 20 seconds scrub them right; say bye to germs, then take a bite.”
Editor’s Note: Check out this handy video on hand washing with your kids published by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)