- Soap and water are two of the most important substances we can use to maintain health and well being and hand washing is one of the simplest ways to help reduce the spread of disease. Helping children establish effective hand washing practices will stand them in good stead throughout their lives and Medibank and The Wiggles are here to make it fun!
- In ancient times, individuals would bow in greeting to one another (rather than shaking hands as we do today) not knowing that this simple act helped to reduce the spread of infection as the hand and not the mouth is the most common spreader of disease. (This is not because germs enter unbroken skin but because we frequently put our hands to our mouths. This is particularly so in the case of young children)
- Hand washing not only removes dirt and germs from the skin’s surface but also makes it less likely they will enter the body through small uncovered cuts and scratches. While hand washing is relatively simple, generally it is not done as often as it should be. Children, whose immune systems may not as yet be fully developed, often get their hands dirty as they explore the world. Children’s hand washing practices therefore should be effective and thorough.
- All of us know that we should wash our hands before we eat, (including before fruit or other snacks), after going to the toilet and after engaging in activities that leave the hands dirty and this practice is particularly important for young children.
- Early childhood centres tend to incorporate child hand washing times into their daily routines so children learn to accept it as a normal practice and parents can reinforce the same practices at home. Teaching children to wash their hands may not be as straightforward as it might sound. Hand washing for children is a routine that needs to be well taught by parents and carers to make sure it is done properly.
- When practising children’s hand washing, encourage children to wash their hands for between 15-20 seconds. The hands should be wet, using soap which enables a good lather to be worked up. Washing both the inside of the hands (palms) as well as the outside (backs) and between the fingers is important.
- Singing a well known song for about 15-20 seconds will make children’s hand washing a more enjoyable activity. Adapting the lyrics to the circumstance can make it even more fun. The song “This is the way we wash our hands” can be adapted for children’s hand washing activities. If children and parents sing the song together, hand washing can be fun and not a chore. It takes about 20 seconds to sing these lines twice.
This is the way we wash our hands, wash our hands, wash our hands This is the way we wash our hands after we’ve been to the toilet.
- The Wiggles’ song “Wah, Hoo, Hey! I’m combing my hair today” can also be adapted for any other activity, such as child hand washing. (it takes about 5 seconds to sing each line)
Wah, Hoo Hey! I’m washing my hands today! Wah, Hoo Hey! I’m washing my hands today! Wah, Hoo Hey! I’m washing my hands today!
- A fancy cake of soap can be an attractive addition to children’s hand washing activities. (The Wiggles’ soap or the Dorothy the Dinosaur soap can encourage children who might be reluctant to wash their hands.)
- Teach children to rinse their hands thoroughly and to dry them using a clean towel. As part of the routine, don’t forget to clean behind the nails. Until they develop those motor skills most children will need some help with this.
- While children need to learn the skill of hand it is not only important for children! Parents and careers need to be equally careful to wash their hands regularly, before preparing food (including babies’ bottles), before and after changing nappies, after cleaning up vomit, faeces or blood, after wiping children’s noses or after handling garbage. (If this seems time consuming it is worth remembering that it is the best preventive action anyone can take to prevent the spread of disease.)
- Hand washing for children is a simple, and effective way for children to become involved in good health practices.