Back to School Hand Washing Tips for Healthy Kids



Safety Smart Science Germs

Back to School Hand Washing Tips for Healthy Kids

Whether you’re grocery shopping, reading a magazine, or at the doctor’s office, you’ve probably been reminded of some rules for taking care of your overall health. Maybe the start of a new school year has reminded you of the importance of getting enough sleep, drinking plenty of water, eating well-balanced meals, exercising, and of course washing your hands.

Of all of these rules, hand washing is one of the easier healthy habits to abide by. In a school setting, a culture of proper hand hygiene can make a big impact on student absenteeism and health. This healthy habit only requires running water, soap, towels or hand dryers, and time. And student know-how!

Why is Hand Hygiene Important?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), hand-washing is the single most important means of preventing the spread of infection and acts like a “do-it-yourself vaccine.” Proper hand washing could prevent 22 million days, or 60 thousand years, of student absences related to the common cold each year.

With skill-based health education gaining in popularity, there is a growing emphasis on providing instruction to students on not only the facts surrounding a topic, but also teaching the skills they need to act appropriately on those facts. Hand washing is no exception; students not only should know why it’s important, but also how to do it effectively!

Pro Hand Washing Steps

The CDC recommends 15-20 seconds of vigorous hand washing with soap and water to effectively kill germs. Unfortunately, only about 5% of people wash their hands for 15-seconds or more and a significant number (especially kids) don’t use soap.

  • Is soap really necessary? Contrary to popular belief, soap does not actually kill germs or bacteria. Rather, soap reduces the barriers to the germs that are surrounded by fats and proteins that aren’t water soluble.
  • What about the water temperature? Warm water is best, but the water temperature is not actually killing any germs (the temperature required to kill bacteria would be too great for our skin anyway). Instead, the warm water acts to penetrate the oil on our skin which can harbor germs.

Here are some tips for teaching early elementary school kids about hand washing:

  • Teach them how to properly wash their hands by having them scrub their hands as long as it takes for them to sing “Happy Birthday” twice.
  • Remind them to pay attention to the areas often missed; the back of the hands, underneath fingernails, and in between fingers.
  • To make the concept of germs more memorable, have students play catch with a ball that’s been covered in glitter, where the glitter symbolizes germs (spray glue works to adhere it). The glitter will transfer to the students’ hands, which must be washed thoroughly, with soap, to be fully removed.
  • For a complete lesson on hand washing and other ways K-2nd grade students can stay healthy, share our Staying Healthy program found here.
  • For upper elementary and middle school students, our FREE Safety Smart® Science: Germs and Your Body program is available to teach the background and skills necessary for proper hand hygiene.

Does your school face obstacles related to hand washing?  Supplies, stigma, time restraints?  If so, we want to hear from you!

Contact us today to ask about our other programs or if you have any questions.





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