By now we have repeatedly heard about how important it is to wash our hands. Of course, this information is not new, but knowing what to do is not the same as doing it. How do we make handwashing a habit, especially for kids? Here are a few tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
Give frequent reminders. Building handwashing skills takes time, just as with any skill. Remind kids to wash their hands after using the bathroom, before eating, after touching animals, after playing outside, and after coughing, sneezing, or blowing their nose.
Lead by example. Show them how to wash their hands by washing your own! Kids learn by imitating behaviors, and when handwashing becomes a part of your routine, you set an example to follow.
The CDC says the best way to get rid of germs is to wash hands with soap and water, scrubbing hands for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that has at least 60 percent alcohol, and wash your hands with soap and water as soon as you can. Be aware that baby wipes may make your hands look clean, but they are not designed to remove germs. Instead, wash your hands with soap and water!
Handwashing sounds easy enough, but how do kids effectively develop this skill? The CDC says to keep it simple and make it fun. Teach kids handwashing with five easy steps – wet, lather, scrub, rinse, and dry. Make handwashing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds into a song or game so kids can learn a lifelong healthy habit while having fun!
Looking for an activity that is both easy and educational for kids? Try this experiment from fightbac.org that helps build handwashing skills:
You will need: Cooking oil, cinnamon, measuring spoons (teaspoon and tablespoon), and access to a sink to wash hands.
1. Rub 1 tablespoon of cooking oil all over your hands until completely coated. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of cinnamon on hands and rub it around until it’s evenly distributed. The cinnamon will be like bacteria. It’s all over!
2. Wash hands as follows, rubbing them briskly for 20 seconds:
Experiment #1: wash hands with cold water and no soap
Experiment #2: wash hands with warm water and no soap
Experiment #3: wash hands with warm water and soap
Follow up questions: Which experiment removed the least “bacteria”? Which removed the most “bacteria”?
For more information visit: cdc.gov/handwashing and fightbac.org
Sara Meeks is an OSU Extension Family & Consumer Sciences Program Assistant and may be reached at 330-264-8722.
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