For kids, getting your hands dirty is part of the fun of childhood. As a parent, however, you may be worried about all the germs they come into contact with, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s where hand hygiene comes in! Hands down (no pun intended), it’s one of the best defenses we have against bacteria and viruses, including COVID-19. But it’s important to teach kids how and when to wash their hands to make sure they’re being effective. Keep reading to learn more about the importance of kids’ hand washing and how you can instill good habits in your child.
The Best Hand Washing Technique For Kids
Unfortunately, a quick 5 or 10 second wash just isn’t effective at removing viruses and bacteria. The following hand washing technique is also used at a pediatric dentist office as part of their safety protocol – not only during the COVID-19 pandemic, but always.
With these 5 easy steps, you can be confident that your child’s hands are truly clean:
- Start by running their hands under clean, lukewarm water.
- Use enough soap to work up a rich lather (plain old soap is fine, especially as anti-bacterial formulas don’t offer any extra protection against viruses).
- Gently “scrub” their hands, making sure to include their fingertips and in between their fingers. An easy way to ensure they’re washing long enough (20-30 seconds) is to sing Happy Birthday, the alphabet, or Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star twice.
- Rinse thoroughly.
- Dry their hands well with a clean towel. If you’re using a public restroom, use a paper towel to turn off the faucet and open the door.
How Can You Teach Your Kids Good Hand Washing Habits?
With a little help from an adult and a sturdy stool in front of the sink, many kids can start washing their own hands around 18 to 24 months old (just make sure the water is at a safe temperature). To explain its importance in language they can understand, you can say something like, “It’s important to wash away the bugs on our hands to keep us healthy.”
It’s also important to model good behavior, which goes a long way towards instilling habits in children. Everyone in the family should be washing their hands or using hand sanitizer (if hand washing isn’t possible) in the following situations:
- After using the bathroom
- When leaving or arriving home from public places like the grocery store or gas station
- After coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose
- Before brushing and flossing
- Before preparing food
Hand washing is a fast, effective defense against bacteria and viruses. By helping your kids develop good habits from the very beginning, you’re taking an important step towards keeping them healthy.
About the Author
Dr. Layne Benzley is an award-winning pediatric dentist and also a father of four. With a commitment to providing kid-friendly dental care in a safe environment, he’s a big advocate of frequent, thorough hand washing, both at work and at home. If you’d like to know more about hand hygiene for kids or have any questions, you can reach Dr. Benzley via his website.