It seems like such a small gesture, but when your child washes their hands, it’s actually a significant action. Good hygiene is a step towards fighting illness and combating disease. The simple act of washing hands regularly can drastically cut the likelihood of illness. As parents, teaching our children good hand washing techniques and habits from an early age should be a top priority.
Global Hand Washing Day on 15 October is a perfect opportunity for you to revise the hand hygiene basics with your family.
Picture by Agência Brasil
Hand Hygiene for Children
Hands should be washed several times a day with warm water and soap for 20 seconds or more at these times:
- before and after eating
- before and after handling food
- after using the toilet
- after playing outdoors
- after touching animals
- after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
- before and after being around anyone who is ill
For good hand hygiene, tell your children to follow this method when washing their hands:
- Wet your hands.
- Put some soap in your hands.
- Rub your hands together with the soap. Be sure to clean the palms and the backs of your hands, and interlace your fingers to make sure you wash between the fingers. Also, make sure to clean under your fingernails as well.
- Rinse your hands with clean water.
- Dry your hands with a clean towel.
Personal Hygiene for Children
Young children often relish the opportunity to turn bathroom taps on and handle the soap themselves. An awareness of personal hygiene for children is something that goes hand in hand with an emerging sense of independence. But after all the fun and excitement of messy craft activities or getting dirty outside, it’s difficult for children to judge just how long they need to keep their hands under running water. Think about using one of these strategies to help your kids figure out how long they need to wash their hands for:
- Sing a song together that lasts for 20 seconds or more. ‘Happy birthday’ is a good option!
- Lightly sprinkle a small amount of glitter on their hands and ask them to wash it off – it takes a surprisingly long time!
There are also different ways that you can make hand washing fun for your little one:
- Let your child pick out a special bar of soap – maybe in a special shape or with a special fragrance. You can also provide them with a bottle of liquid soap featuring their favourite cartoon character.
- It might even be helpful to give your child a small plastic toy to wash at the same time – it’s a bit more of an interesting way of keeping little hands immersed in warm soapy suds for 20 seconds!
And don’t forget, clipping your child’s fingernails regularly will also go a long way towards keep germs at bay. Hand washing and other good health and hygiene habits (like cleaning teeth, brushing hair, and taking regular showers or baths) should be built into children’s routines as early as possible. And as parents you should lead by example.
Marking Global Hand Washing Day is a great way to emphasise how important good hygiene is for everyone.