How to Teach Your Child Proper Hand Washing

Hand washing can prevent illness, but only if done correctly

Family eating lunch
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Washing one's hands properly is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of illnesses. Young children, in particular, need constant reminders about hand washing, which is especially important after sneezing, nose-blowing, using the bathroom, and before eating.

School-age children are in close contact throughout the school day, are more likely to share school materials, and frequently touch their faces.

And since germs from sneezes and cough droplets can survive on surfaces for up to eight hours, teaching kids proper hand washing is very important for keeping kids healthy during the school year. Here’s an easy step-by-step guide to teaching children how to wash their hands correctly:

Time Required: 30 seconds

Here's How:

  1. Tell them to first turn on the tap until the water is warm but not too hot.
  2. Show them how to rub their hands together to get a nice, soapy lather.
  3. Remind them to wash their palms, the back of their hands, their fingers and under their nails.
  4. Demonstrate how long they should wash their hands (either by having them sing "Happy Birthday" or by counting up to 15 to 20 "Mississippi’s").
  5. Have them dry their hands on a paper towel (or if they are at home, on a clean hand towel).
  6. If they are at school or in a public bathroom, have them get into the habit of turning off the faucet with the paper towel when they are done.
  1. When exiting a public or school restroom, teach your children to use the same paper towel on the handle of the bathroom door to open it and to throw out the paper towel after exiting.

Teaching children to wash their hands properly is one of the most important ways to keep them healthy, not only during cold and flu season but throughout the entire year, at school and at home.

Making sure that kids are washing properly—using soap, lathering, and washing thoroughly for a long enough period of time before rinsing completely—can help keep kids from picking up common illnesses at school, such as a cold, the flu, and gastroenteritis, and bringing them home to spread to the whole family. School-age children can be exposed to many infections during the course of the school year, but with this simple but effective measure, families can reduce the risk that their child will get sick.