The CDC reports that hand washing plays a critical role in keeping you and your family healthy. Since the pandemic we as parents are even more focused on protecting our children’s health and well-being, in all ways.
Common ways to transmit illness are through touching items that are contaminated, as well as blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing and then touching things or people. Touching your eyes, nose, and mouth, as well as preparing or eating food or beverages with unwashed hands are also typical forms of transmission. So here are some quick tips on how to teach your little ones proper hand washing hygiene.
Note: Handwashing can prevent 1 in 3 diarrhea-related sicknesses and 1 in 5 respiratory infections, such as a cold or the flu. (CDC.gov)
Embed hand washing education into daily routines.
Below are key routine-based times that are recommended by the CDC:
Before and After
- Touching their eyes, nose, and mouth
- Food preparation (throughout as well)
- Caring for an open wound/cut
- Caring for someone who is ill
- Toilet use or diaper changes
- Blowing their nose
- Cleaning up after animals (i.e. after petting them, cleaning up their urine or feces, and touching their toys, feeding them)
- Touching garbage
Teach a hand washing song.
Teach your child a hand washing song that promotes the Wet—Lather—Scrub—Rinse—Dry sequence, such as the song above developed by pediatric occupational therapist, Kim Bandi. Words are also listed below.
Wash Your Hands
(Sing the first section for 20 seconds—approximately 2 times)
Scrub, scrub, scrub your hands to make the bubbles come.
Nails, palms, and in between. Scrub until they’re clean.
Rinse, rinse, rinse your hands. Rinse the bubbles off.
Swirling, twirling down the drain. Rinse the bubbles off.
Dry, dry, dry your hands. Dry them with a towel.
Nails, palms, and in between. Now your hands are clean.
If you want to understand the science behind the wet—lather—scrub—rinse—dry sequence see the following CDC link: https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/show-me-the-science-handwashing.html
Model proper hand washing.
Modeling is always the best way to teach a skill and more importantly influence carryover. If you tell your child to do something but you don’t do it yourself, by nature they will be less likely to consistently carry over what you have taught them. So, after you have embedded teaching the proper hand washing sequence (including 20 seconds or more of scrubbing) into your daily routines with your child, and incorporated songs to improve their memory, model proper hand hygiene consistently.
Although using soap and water is the best way to clean hands, there will always be times running water and soap are unavailable. Being prepared with alternatives until you are able to get your child to a sink is helpful.
Note: Hand sanitizer is not as effective as washing your hands with soap and water. However, if you need to use hand sanitizer having one that has 60% or more of alcohol in it will be most effective. It will not kill all germs, does not work well when hands are greasy or dirty, and does not remove all chemicals. Due to alcohol-based hand sanitizer having the potential to cause alcohol poisoning it must not be accessible to children. Keep in mind that baby wipes are not considered effective.
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