School Health Information for Kids and Handwashing 101 - NY Requirements Blog
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School Health Information for Kids and Handwashing 101
Posted by Julia Tortorice

Teaching Kids to Wash Their Hands

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it's more important than ever for everybody to wash their hands, but sometimes, it can be difficult to get kids into the handwashing habit. It's crucial to help kids understand why it's important to wash their hands, when to wash your hands or use hand sanitizer, and what to do if they need help staying healthy.

When to Wash

There are a few key times where you are more likely to get and spread germs, and washing your hands before or after those times can be beneficial in washing the germs away and decreasing the likelihood that you and your loved ones can get sick. These times include:

  • Before eating
  • Before touching your mouth, eyes, or nose
  • Before touching any cuts or scrapes on you or another person
  • Before, during, and after preparing a meal
  • After going to the bathroom
  • After playing with any kind of animal, whether they are your pet or another animal
  • After touching any kind of animal food, treats, or waste
  • After playing on the playground
  • After you've spent time around somebody who is sick
  • After you've touched a dirty diaper
  • After you've touched the garbage

Four Steps to Clean Hands

Once you know when to wash your hands, it's important to know how to clean them. It's not enough just to douse your hands with water; you have to use soap as well. Here are a few easy steps to ensure that your hands are clean:

  1. Wet your hands with clean water and put enough soap on your hands to make suds. You want to be sure your hands are completely wet and soapy.
  2. Scrub your hands together long enough to sing the alphabet song, "Happy Birthday" twice, or another song of your choice. As long as you're not rushing through the lyrics, you should be getting 20 seconds of scrubbing in. While you're scrubbing, make sure you're cleaning the palms of your hands, the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and underneath your nails. Your fingernails can trap dirt and germs, so it's important that you make sure to scrub there, too.
  3. Once you've scrubbed your hands enough, hold them under running water and rub them to fully rinse the suds off.
  4. Shake your hands a bit to dry them off, and then finish by drying them with a clean towel or a hand dryer.

Can't Reach the Sink?

If your children are too small to reach the sink by themselves, you can hold them up to help them reach the sink or place a small step stool by the sink to help boost them up so they can reach the faucet.

If there's no step available and they are too heavy to lift, you can still help them wash their hands by wiping them off with a wet and soapy paper towel. Then, you can use a clean wet towel to wipe off the remaining suds. Finally, use another clean paper towel to dry their hands. After your children's hands are clean, wash your own hands as well.

When to Reach for the Hand Sanitizer

Soap and water are the best tools for removing dirt and germs completely, but it's never a bad idea to have hand sanitizer as a backup, especially if you can't get to a sink right away to wash up. You should use an alcohol-based sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Have your child put a quarter-sized dollop of sanitizer in the palm of their hand and then rub it into the front and back of each hand and in between the fingers until both hands are completely dry.

Tips for Success

  • Set a good example and practice what you preach so your kids can pick up on good handwashing habits. Wash your hands before, during, and after cooking a meal, after using the bathroom, and after working with your hands.
  • Have patience. It can take some time to get children in the habit of washing their hands, especially if you want them to do it properly. Make sure you're available to give them the help they need.
  • Don't forget to remind them to wash up. Kids may remember to wash their hands if they are obviously dirty, but they may forget that sometimes, germs can't be seen, and it's still important to wash those germs away.

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