We all know hand washing is important to reduce the spread of germs. We also know that there is a right way and many not as effective ways to wash hands. Below are the recommended steps to hand washing.
- Moisten hands with water and use liquid soap.
- Rub hands together away from the flow of water for 20 seconds.
- Rinse hands free of soap under running water.
- Dry hands with a clean, disposable paper towel or air dry with a blower.
- Turn off faucet using paper towel.
- Throw the used paper towel into a hands-free trashcan.
Information was taken from Caring for Our Children: The National and Safety Performance Standards for Out-of-Home Care, 3rd Edition, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Public Health Association, and National Resource Center for Health and Safety in Childcare (2011).
The trick is how to get young children to follow the process. Here are a few ideas to try when working with young children on hand washing.
Tip number 1 is careful supervision. Make sure a staff member is watching children as they learn how to properly wash hands. Remind them of the steps as they complete each one. Help the child remember what to do next. You may want to point to picture/word reminders/instructions that are displayed near hand washing sinks. Plus, when you are watching them, the children are less likely to skip steps just to be finished.
Tip number 2 is use songs and timers to make sure everyone is washing for the full 20 seconds. Some simple songs you can sing that take 20 seconds include The ABC’s and Happy Birthday (twice). There are even songs that are about hand washing. One example is, (sung to the tune of Row, Row, Row your boat) “Wash, wash, wash your hands, got to get them clean, every finger one by one and lather in between, wash, wash, wash your hands, got to get them clean, every finger one by one and lather in between.” Sometimes children sing too fast or only sing the verse one time. So, another technique is to use a 20 second timer. There are many different timers available on the market these days. Some have flashing lights that change color or go off when the 20 seconds has passed, others have countdown timers, so the children can see how much longer they have.
Tip number 3 is about keeping the children from lifting the lid up on the hands-free trash can. Have you ever seen a child play the game “the floor is lava”? They walk around trying to avoid stepping on certain parts of the floor, so they don’t get burned by the “lava.” Why not use that to keep them from touching the trash can lid. Put a simple sign on the lid that says “Don’t get Burned” with a picture of a volcano. When instructing the children on hand washing, let them know to use the foot pedal (or other device) to open the trash can by reminding them in a fun and creative way that the lid is lava so don’t touch.
There are many ways to make proper hand washing fun and easy for children and adults. These are just a few tips to help along the way.
For information on best practices, please consult Caring for Our Children.