As far as i know, just about every little kid loves water! Washing their hands… well… that’s another story! Unfortunately for those grubby little monkeys, hand washing is the ‘Golden Rule’ of hygiene for so many reasons…
- Regular hand washing with soap prevents the spread of germs like Salmonella, E.coli and norovirus (all very scary-sounding, nasty germs which we really don’t want to come into contact with)
- It prevents cross-contamination and the spread of germs (think of all those germs that are out there on that play-ground, being passed from kid to kid)
- It removes and prevents the buildup of dirt (apart from dedicated outside ‘dirty play’, grubby, mucky hands are a real ‘no-no’!)
- And it leaves our hands feeling fresh and smelling nice (always a selling point with any little aspiring princesses…)
Hand-washing can, in fact, affect your entire ‘family life’ and day-to-day routine. Research conducted by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has found that regular hand washing with soap and water can reduce the number of illnesses and infections in children under the age of 5 years old by at least 50 percent!
Let’s just take a minute to appreciate the gravity of that statement…
“So we’re talking only half as many doctors visits? Only 50 percent the congestion? Oh, yes please!”
Now i know, not many little ones take kindly to the idea of learning this new skill, but, while it can be hard getting them into good hygiene routines, the habits learned while they’re young are more likely to become ingrained and stay into adulthood. As with the other hygiene practices that we teach our children, like brushing their teeth or blowing their nose, we need to be vigilant in our approach, and incorporate the action or routine into our daily lives.
So, is there a way to get the little ones ‘Willing to Wash’? Of course! As with anything, a little creative thinking, and a patient, loving attitude can go a long way.
Here are the Top Tricks for teaching your toddler to wash their own hands
1. Make washing hands easy, comfortable and safe – There are plenty of ways to do this, but start by adding a great stepping stool. Your stepping stool should be sturdy, with non-slip, rubber grip feet (remember, the bathroom gets wet!), and not very high. You could even look at adding a homemade faucet extender to make things more comfortable for your little one.
2. Make hand-washing special – Next time you’re at the supermarket, let your little one choose a special soap. Liquid soap is a fun option for children. A great option is to buy a bottle of liquid soap, let the kids decorate it using one of my favorite products, Sharpies (affiliate link), and then use this clever parenting hack to make sure the little munchkins don’t squirt it all finished on the first day! All you need to do is tie a rubber band by the neck of the dispenser so that when it is pumped, it doesn’t go all the way down, so it only releases an ‘eentsy weentsy’ bit of soap – perfect for little hands!
3. Turn a chore into a fun activity – Scientist say that we need to wash our hands for 20 second if we want to get rid of 90 percent of the germs that are on our hands. If you count that out, 20 seconds can seem like an eternity, even to an adult. One of the best ways to make time pass quickly is to add in a fun element, and what do kids love most? Singing! Ask the kids to help you come up with a fun ‘hand-washing song’ to sing while you ‘suds up – alternatively, here are two great examples that i found online (for a little inspiration 😉 ). (picture credit -teachingmama.com and unknown)
4. Create ‘norms’ and ‘rituals’ – We know it, children respond well to routines. A routine is easier to follow, easier to remember and less stressful for everyone. Sit down with your child, and discuss the hand-washing routine. Make sure that they know when (and how) they need to wash their hands.
5. Educate your children – A child-friendly book, like this great combination educational reader and activity craft book – Germs by Judy Oetting can help you and your little one explore the world of germs in an exciting, educational and non-threatening way. Your child will know exactly why they’re washing their hands, and are more likely to stick with it.
6. Draw up a hand-washing chart – My Littlest Lady has just discovered the joy of stickers. I swear – it doesn’t even have to be a sticker of anything in particular… i could probably get away with using price stickers off of the groceries! Lol! Whether you decide to go with a sticker chart , or a chart that your little one ticks off, it doesn’t really matter. The special part of an ‘accomplishment chart’ is not the ‘tick’, or the ‘sticker’… it doesn’t matter whether or not you give them a little surprise at the end of the week or not… What really matters most is that feeling of pride and sense of accomplishment that your child gets each time they see that chart fill up. henrythehand.com have a great free printable for home (and even one for the classroom for all our teacher friends!) They have hand puppets, and all kinds of other fun things too! Check it out!
7. Get the kids to help and create your own hand-washing poster – Grab some cardboard, paints, and old magazines and get crafty! You could do a poster showing the 5 steps of washing your hands – Wet, Lather, Scrub, Rinse, Dry – or you could do a poster showing the reasons why we wash our hands. Either way, turn it into a fun, rainy day craft, and take the opportunity to talk about the importance of hand hygiene in a relaxed environment.
8. Let science teach your kids – There’s a very cool product called ‘Glogerm’ on the market that helps kids see how well they’re washing their hands. All you need to do is have the kids spread the gel all over their hands before washing them as normal, then have each child hold his hands under ultraviolet light after washing — any germs that are left behind will glow, and show your child where they didn’t wash well. Normally, it’s going to be the areas between the the fingers, and underneath the nails that show up the most germs. Ask your child to practice washing their hands again, paying special attention to the areas that glowed. Get yours now, and watch the magic work!
It’s important to remember, children learn best through repetition and reinforcement, so don’t expect them to grasp the concept, or the importance, of hand-washing, overnight. But with a little practice, patience, and perseverance your little one should be well on the way to developing a healthy hand-washing routine in no time!
Do you have any secret tips?
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