Teaching the Habit of Washing Hands to Kids

You want your kids to be healthy, safe and free from infection. Plus, you don’t want them to be told when they grow up that they were not taught to do the right thing as regards cleanliness and hygiene. Start your kids early in life. It’s pretty simple though.


When you teach your kids how to wash their hands, start by telling them the idea of defense. That is, the idea of protection – that they need to wash off harmful organisms. Kids like looking at pictures. So, show them pictures of bacteria. Afterwards, teach them the basics of handwashing. Here are the steps.

  1. Wet hands with running water.
  2. Apply soap. Lather hands and rub them against each other.
  3. For 20 seconds, rub your palm against the back of the other hand and vice versa. Rub the fingernail. Rub palms using the fingertips of the other hand.
  4. Rinse both hands with running water.
  5. Dry hands with a clean hand towel.

Sounds simple, right. To make the time more fun for your kids, sing some tunes as you wash. “Twinkle, twinkle little star” can take away the boredom of routine washing or any tune that they like humming while playing together or taking a bath.


There is the idea called Hawthorne Effect, which is used as a technique for teaching. This is the idea that people perform better when they are being watched. The Hawthorn Effect was derived from several experiments where an observer is assigned to monitor employees as they perform their duties. Though the setting is basically in the workplace, the application can be extended to any setting such as the home.

In your home, you are the observer and you make it clear to your children that you want nothing less than compliance and that you will reward them for complying. The Hawthorne Effect is applicable in everything that you want to teach your children, not only in washing their hands.

Or you work in tandem with your children. That is, you set some goals related to hygiene and one of them is washing hands. Then you observe them and give them a score, but just the same, your kids will also observe you and give you a score. At night time before going to bed, you review your performance and you try to give them a thumbs up for complying.

Another strategy is by role modelling. That is, kids do what their parents do. You wash your hands as frequently as possible or use hand sanitizers and they will do the same thing too.


When playing, kids may have touched dirt, or bugs, or a frog, but they don’t know they have also collected germs and deposited them in their hands.

Since playing has made them hungry, they rushed to the dining able and sat down to eat. They should be told to wash their hands first before touching food.

So, that is three times a day for all the meals that they will take. Add the times for snacks.

Add also the time when they sneeze and cover their mouth as they sneeze.

And toilet time. Place that wash-your-hand reminder near the doorknob.

Then, after touching garbage, pet, and pet food.

There’s no particular number for that question “how often”. As long as there is doubt as to the cleanliness of the hands at any given time, WASH!

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