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KinderCare Daily Tips

How to Remember to Wash Your Hands and Why Handwashing Is Important

This is tip seven in a series from pediatrician Dr. Ray Fabius for families on maintaining health and wellness at home or on the front lines. Find more tips and actionable advice on our Dr. Ray resource page

Be sure to learn more about Dr. Ray and how he’s guiding KinderCare’s response to coronavirus. 

A tip for families on teaching kids about handwashing 

Here’s some language that I hope can help guide your discussion with your children about the importance of handwashing: 
Respiratory viruses like the coronavirus enter our body through our eyes, nose, and mouth. And we touch those areas of our faces with our hands a lot. In fact, scientists have conducted studies where they videotaped people while they worked and counted how many times they touched their nose, mouth, and eyes. Guess how many times we touch our face? They counted 15 times every hour!  
So frequent handwashing is a great habit for adults and children even after the coronavirus is gone. It’s also great to challenge ourselves to not touch our eyes, nose, or mouth with our hands. Try to use tissues when you need to touch them. Otherwise, try really hard to keep your hands away from your face. 
Good handwashing requires focus. It’s important that parents demonstrate good handwashing for their children. Here’s how: 
  • The entire surface of your hand needs to be gently rubbed with soap. That includes between your fingers and all around your thumbs.  
  • Don’t stop scrubbing with soap until you’ve said your ABCs slowly or sung “Happy Birthday” twice.  
  • Then the entire surface needs to be fully rinsed until the soap is gone.  
  • Finally, dry your hands completely with a paper towel or clean hand towel.  
Start a handwashing habit with these events throughout the day: 
  • Wash your hands when you wake up. 
  • Wash before cooking, preparing, and eating meals or snacks. 
  • Wash every time you use the bathroom or change a diaper. 
  • Wash every time you sneeze or cough into your hands. 
  • Wash before bed. It’s a good habit because we could touch our face in our sleep.  
  • Wash your hands every time you enter the house.  
This pandemic can teach us good lifelong habits that can make us all healthier in the long run! 

Educational activities to help children understand 

A note that these activities might best be enjoyed by school-age children. 

  • Place a paper chart at each sink and have every family member put a sticker on the chart every time they wash their hands (if using a pen, you should sanitize often and touch only after washing). Set a goal for the day. Collect the charts at the end of the day to see if the family hit their goal. If the family met the goal, a sticker or green star should be placed on a calendar. Celebrate with a prize after a week of green stars.  
  • Use shaving cream or foamy soap to demonstrate how to wash the entire surface of your hands. Encourage children to run the cream or soap over the entire surface of their hands, show their hands to an adult for approval, and then rinse.  
  • Write a rhyme or song together as a family that is 20 seconds long. Recite or sing it every time you wash your hands. It can be as funny or wacky as you want it to be! 

Resources to learn more about this topic