Cold and flu season has officially arrived! Because preschoolers are so hands-on in everything they do, germs easily spread to whatever they touch. This means even the cleanest classroom can host microscopic viruses that leave little ones with stuffy noses, upset tummies or worse.
Although there's not a foolproof method to eliminate germs, there is one simple way to dramatically reduce the spread of them: hand washing. The problem, however, as most teachers and preschool directors know, is that little ones aren't known for their stellar hand-washing skills.
That's why with a little encouragement, preschoolers can learn healthy hand-washing habits that not only protect them today, but will also help them remain healthy their entire lives.
Step 1: Know when
Most preschoolers don't realize just how often they need to wash their hands. Teachers should consider developing a lesson discussing different instances that require some bubbles between those wiggly fingers. Besides washing after going to the bathroom, kids should also wash their hands:
- Before and after eating food.
- After blowing their nose, coughing or sneezing.
- After touching garbage.
- When hands look or feel dirty or sticky.
- After helping someone who is sick.
- After touching or feeding a pet.
Ask students what other times they should wash their hands. Keep a running list and post in the classroom. No answer is too silly!
Step 2: Know how
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends five steps that everyone should follow to wash hands the right way:
- Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
- Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
- Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the "Happy Birthday" song from beginning to end twice.
- Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
- Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.
Post these steps in the classroom and in each bathroom to remind kids. Because preschoolers can't yet read, be sure to include visuals representing each step. ScrubClub.org offers a great free poster for teachers to print and hang up.
Step 3: Remind
Preschoolers will need gentle reminders about when and how long to wash their hands. While it's easy to line students up before lunch so everyone can take turns washing their hands, it's not as easy to monitor other instances that require hand washing, such as after a sneeze. Call on students to be "germ busters" to help remind each other when it's time to wash. When kids help each other with polite reminders to wash, everyone wins because the classroom is cleaner and kids stay healthier!
Do you have other methods to effectively teach kids about hand washing? Teachers are each other's best resource. Please share your ideas in the comments or post on the Lifetouch Preschool Portraits Facebook page.
Cold season has arrived! Because preschoolers are so hands-on, germs can easily spread. Check out the tips and tricks to teaching handwashing.