Getting your kids to regularly wash their hands can seem like a never-ending chore, but it’s something that will benefit the whole family. The basic rules are to wash hands before preparing or eating food, after coughing, sneezing, blowing your nose and after using the bathroom. Here are some tips to help encourage your children to wash their hands!
Step 1: Smart soap
Get them their favorite soap — many kids like the ease and tactile sensation of liquid and foam soaps, and some also smell great — to encourage them to wash well.
Step 2: “Happy washday”
Teach them to wash by rubbing with soap under running water for 15-20 seconds. This is about as long as it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice.
Step 3: The towel test
Leave out a white hand towel for them to use to dry their hands. If dirt shows up on the towel, they’re not washing their hands properly.
Step 4: The inkblot test
Check out a product like SquidSoap, which works by putting an ink stamp on the hand pushing down the pump to dispense the soap. The goal: Wash off the stamp. For a cheap at-home version, use a non-permanent pen to draw some little squggles on their hands, then tell them they need to wash off all of the ink.
Step 5: Timed soap
Try something like Inspector Hector Dirt Detector color-changing soap. The liquid contains beads that burst when the product is used, making the soap suds change color after 15-20 seconds of handwashing. The idea is that when the color appears, hands should be clean and ready to rinse.
Step 6: Doing it right
Washing your hands doesn’t just mean rubbing your palms and fingertips: you need to wash between your fingers, around and under any rings, under and around your nails, and even up your wrists.
Step 7: The rubdown
Every week (at least), wash down bathroom surfaces — such as handles and knobs and the toilet seat — with an antiseptic wipe.
Step 8: Proof of concept
Maybe your kids need to understand why handwashing is so important, so explain the basics: Germs get on your hands from everything you touch, and everything you touch gets germs from your hands. The simple task of washing hands has saved millions of lives and kept people from getting illnesses and infections.
Step 9: Give ’em a wipe
For times when soap and water aren’t available, give your kids individually-wrapped disinfectant hand wipes or a small bottle of hand sanitizer to use.
For more tips on getting kids do their daily clean-up, see:
Bathroom routines for kids: Tips for bath time, teeth brushing & more!