How To Teach Your Child To Wash Their Hands Properly

With all the talk of the coronavirus pandemic, healthcare professionals are urging families to stay on top of their hand hygiene more than ever.

Proper handwashing is one of the best and easiest ways to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others.

Not sure where to start? Try these simple tips and tricks and wash the worries away with these simple steps. 

How to teach your kids to wash their hands properly.

  1. Show them the correct procedure.

    Teaching young children to wash their hands correctly is a work in progress, and it takes more than placing your hands under running water. Show them how to wet their hands with warm water, lather with soap and to scrub for twenty seconds, getting all areas including under the nails, thumbs, wrist and back of your hands before rinsing and drying using a clean towel. 

  2. Be a good role model.

    Naturally, children are visual learners, and by modelling excellent hand washing skills, they will want to mimic you. Model good handwashing behaviours around your home and make sure they see you doing it.

  3. Create rituals.

    Strict handwashing routines should be in place in every home. Get them into a habit by talking about the importance of washing, especially after using the toilet, after playing with pets and before eating. 

  4. Do an experiment.

    Show your children the importance of thoroughly cleaning your hands using a loaf of bread to demonstrate the spread of germs and bacteria. Get them to press an unwashed hand on a slice of bread and repeat on another piece with cleaned hands. Place each slice into a ziplock bag and watch how the slice with dirty hands decays over the coming weeks. 

  5. Make it accessible.

    It's one thing to enforce strict handwashing rules, but have you ever considered if it's easy and safe to do so? For example, small children sometimes struggle to reach the tap or sometimes the basin. If this is the case, consider a child-safe stool or direct them to the taps at the bath. 

  6. Make it fun.

    Wash your hands the right way with Rufus, a fictional character created by Safefood Ireland. Order a free handwashing programme including a Rufus storybook which helps teach the crucial times children should wash their hands, a sink poster and reward stickers to help make learning good handwashing skills fun. 

  7. Sing a song.

    Make sure all the harmful germs are washed away with a singalong to the tune of Row, Row, Row Your Boat, which everyone knows. Alternatively, sing Happy Birthday together, twice. 
    "Wash, wash, wash your hands, 
    Thumbs and fingers too, 
    Rinse and then make sure they're dry, 
    That's the thing to do!"

  8. Don’t substitute handwashing.

    Remind your children that hand sanitizer is not a substitute for handwashing. Hand sanitizer should only be used when water and soap are not available. And remember, hand sanitizers can be a poisoning risk - if ingested they can cause serious toxicity. Keep them out of reach of young children and call the Poison Centre on 01 809 2166 if ingested. 

  9. Teach them how to cough or sneeze.

    And finally, we must teach young children to catch a cough and sneeze in their elbow to prevent the further spread of germs. Recognise, praise and reward them with words of encouragement when they successfully use their elbow or sleeve. 


Kellie Kearney

Kellie Kearney is a Dublin mammy of five kids aged newborn right up to nine. She loves coffee, cloth nappies, travel and sharing her every day true to life family moments on Instagram.

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