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Teaching healthy habits to elementary students

We love teaching our kids to share, but not when it comes to germs. Review these hygiene habits with your kids to help them avoid germs at school and stay healthy all year long.

little boy washing hands

Wash hands

Remind kids to always wash their hands before eating and after going to the bathroom. Ideally, they should also wash after touching animals or garbage, after gym class, after blowing their nose, coughing or sneezing, and after recess. If it’s not always possible to get to a sink to wash, put a travel-size package of hand wipes or a small bottle of gel hand sanitizer in their backpack.

Cover coughs and sneezes

Call it the “chicken wing,” the “Dracula cough” or the plain old “elbow cough.” Just make sure your kids know to direct their coughs and sneezes into a tightly tucked elbow instead of spewing their germs all over their classmates. Give them lots of praise every time you see them doing this, and you’ll be setting a lifetime habit of germ containment.

Keep hands away from face

It’s impossible for kids to avoid touching germy surfaces at school. Studies have shown that harmful bacteria thrive in school cafeterias, bathroom surfaces, desks, computers, door handles and pencil sharpeners. It’s pretty much a given that your kids’ hands will be crawling with bugs. Help prevent illness by teaching your kids to keep their hands away from their eyes, nose and mouth.

Avoid sick kids

Tell your children to be aware of kids who are hacking all over the place and not practicing the chicken wing cough themselves. While they don’t need to shun their schoolmates, they can easily lean away when the kids are coughing or sneezing, or pick a spot at the far end of the cafeteria table. If other kids cough or sneeze on their hands while doing teamwork, make sure they wash immediately.

Drink from a water bottle

It’s become pretty standard for kids to bring their own reusable water bottles to school. Just make sure your kids are actually using them! Staying hydrated will help keep active little bodies healthy, and avoiding the drinking fountain will reduce kids’ exposure to illness-causing germs.

Eat healthy

Skip the cereal and feed your kids a protein-rich, low sugar breakfast like a plain yogurt parfait with berries and honey, a bowl of oatmeal, scrambled eggs or cottage cheese pancakes. Pack a healthy, well-balanced lunch and talk to your kids about which foods to eat first. Lunch time can be rushed and slow eaters often run out of time before finishing their meal, so it’s helpful if kids know how to make the most of their lunch break.

Watch: So why should we direct our sneezes into our sleeves instead of our hands? Find out in the “The Story Behind the Sleeve” video from the Center for Disease Control (CDC).

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