The Secrets to Keeping Children Washing Hands in School | Muse Health

Handwashing     Kids     School

All parents want the best for their children. From instilling good habits to encouraging exercise and physical activity, there are so many aspects of a child’s life that are directly related to the influence of their mother and father. As children return to school and interact with teachers and friends, creating good personal hygiene habits keeps not only your child but other people safe. An important part of good hygiene is clean hands.

Often ignored by children as they hurry to get to class or the lunchroom, hand hygiene has a direct impact on the likelihood of getting sick. Since children spend most of their day at school, enforcing good hygiene habits during those hours promotes a safer environment for everyone. In conjunction with reinforcement of these standards at home, schools will become a safe space where learning is the only focus.

Woman with two little girls in the restroom

The importance of handwashing in schools

It should come as no surprise that handwashing in school is very important. Although schools are primarily responsible for teaching children about math and other subjects, another aspect of going to school is the social element. From meeting up with friends in the cafeteria to group projects, children are always around their peers.

While this constant interaction helps children build social skills, it increases the chance of infectious disease spreading. When a child goes to the bathroom or outside for recess, their hands come in contact with several foreign objects like door handles. Without proper hand washing practices, children can unknowingly contribute to the spread of germs.

The consequences of these actions could result in increased absences and medical visits. If this child were to come in contact with a teacher, causing him/her to get sick, this would cause the need for a substitute teacher. This not only has an effect on a child’s learning but also the school.

Although a simple task, lack of proper hand washing practices can result in a domino effect of unwanted consequences.

kid washing his hands

The secrets to keeping children handwashing in schools

When it comes to keeping children safe at school, there are several things that can be done to ensure that good hygiene practices are promoted. Children tend to have short attention spans which means that constant promotion and encouragement is key to making changes that stick.

Below are some secrets you can use to keep children washing their hands.

Source handwashing posters

Posters are always a great option when it comes to laying out information in a digestible manner. While you could buy hand washing posters from cleaning companies, there is also the option of sourcing your material from local graphic designers. From a local high school to community college, get in contact with representatives, and ask if anyone would be interested in creating posters that promote healthy practices. Since these are children, place an emphasis on images and cool patterns. Use social media to find inspiration that appeals to preschoolers and young children.  

These images should have sequential steps of the handwashing process and even touch on how easy it is to move germs from one area to the next. By placing these posters outside of bathrooms and classrooms, it reinforces the need for children to become active participants in ensuring health and wellness of the school.

Regularly check that soap and paper towels are available

A top priority for schools should always be providing students and staff with appropriate resources. Having posters hung around without any antibacterial soap or paper towels available defeats the purpose and minimizes the intended effect. Most bathrooms have multiple soap and clean towel dispensers. With so many students going in and out of bathrooms every single day, schools have to figure out a schedule of refilling supplies to ensure that resources never run out.

This could be every single night during a janitorial service or every other day. Without regular availability children become lazy. If schools also provide hand sanitizers in every classroom, it further reinforces positive healthcare standards.

Be creative - design posters about handwashing

If you want a concept to stick with students, it may be best to have them become a part of the solution. During school hours, create class projects that revolve around the concept of handwashing. Provide students with colored pencils, markers, paper, and any other objects they’ll need to create cool and interesting posters.

As your class creates these posters, reiterate the importance of hand washing by providing supplemental materials like videos. High-quality videos with instructions on how to correctly lather hands are a great visual marker. As the children create these posters, hang them around the classroom and use them as constant reminders.

Adult and kid hands being washed together

Teaching kids how to wash hands at home

In order to ensure that handwashing practices stick, parents need to do their part. While school is a great place to learn about hand hygiene, the most valuable lessons are learned at home. Taking time to instill the value and importance of hand washing at home will translate when they are in school or at a friend’s house.

Below are some easy ways to teach your kids how to wash their hands at home.

Make handwashing fun

If there’s one thing that everyone knows about children, it is that they like to play games. When it comes to a topic as serious as hand washing, sometimes you need to incorporate the element of fun into your lesson to help the concept stick. Even though it only takes 20-30 seconds many people view hand washing as a laborious activity. Instead of providing your children with facts and figures, make handwashing more interactive.

Ask your children to help you create a hand washing song or even add the aspect of gamification. For example, if your child washes their hands well and thoroughly, reward them. Since the standard song used by many to calculate the appropriate time need to wash hands is "happy birthday", try recreating it. By bringing the concept of handwashing down to their level of understanding, it helps make those teachable moments more impactful.

Teach them why

In combination with making hand washing fun, teaching your children why it is important to have good hand hygiene reinforces the point. Young children are curious and naturally ask a million questions. When they are provided with a thorough answer to their questions, it is much easier to get them to follow through on your demands. If you’re not sure how to explain the why to your child, there are several resources online like articles or videos that can help. You can also consult a pediatrician to learn more.

Try to keep things simple and visual.

Lead by example

Children observe and retain information at an alarming rate. This means that they pick up on both your good and bad habits. When it comes to hand washing, drive the point home by being an example. After getting home, or putting something in the trash, make it a point to wash your hands often and thoroughly. If you tell your child to wash their hands but neglect to do the same, it causes confusion.

Just as with schools, make sure to always have an ample supply of soap at home so your child never feels like they didn’t have the option to wash their hands.

Handwashing can be a family affair!

A perfect way to tie everything together is to make handwashing a family affair. A great place to incorporate handwashing family activity is before dinner. After dinner has been cooked and everyone gathers in the kitchen, hold each other accountable by checking and even grading each other on their hand washing technique. This way, your children are engaged while also learning the value of having clean hands before eating.  

These small moments can make a major impact as a child continues to grow and strengthen their immune system.

Kid hands with soap foam

Washing your hands is key

There is no denying that cleaning your hands is important. Hand washing prevents the rapid spread of infections, resulting in a safe learning environment for everyone. With cooperation from schools and parents, children can learn the importance of hand washing in school and make hand hygiene a priority. Whether during the covid (coronavirus) pandemic or a normal school year good hand-washing practices develop and instill healthy habits.