How to Teach and Encourage Kids to Wash Their Hands

by | Jun 14, 2021

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Need to teach or encourage kids to wash their hands? Here’s how it goes in my house: The bathroom door closes, my son bolts as fast as he can so he can play his video games, and 5 words come out of my mouth: “DID YOU WASH YOUR HANDS?”

9/10 times an instant turn around and response is “NO, I forgot”

Washing our hands, let’s be honest, this really has always been a thing you had to do. Wash before you eat, wash after the bathroom, wash after playing. These words now a days are less like a thing, and more like an immediate panic. Hand washing is generally just a part of good hygiene, which nowadays is extra important. But how do we get our little ones to follow suit and not have to go all crazy panic mom on them?

Educate them, talk to your children, teach them why we wash our hands, don’t just tell them they have to; explain it to them. Just don’t scare them, our kids are all so out of sorts these days, some may not show any signs of nervousness, but its pretty hard to be an adult in the world right now, never mind a child.

So let’s not terrify the kids that their hands are covered in alien skin or something and can’t be touched, lets teach them the importance of washing their hands. Its about making it part of their routine, it should be no different than brushing their teeth.

The Easiest Ways Teach or Encourage Kids to Wash Their Hands (From a Daycare Teacher)

Help them understand the importance of not only washing their hands but the proper hand washing technique. Use the bowl of pepper trick to demonstrate.

Teach toddlers to wash their hands with the Pepper Trick

  1. Take a bowl of water and sprinkle on some pepper (the pepper is the germs)
Bowl filled with water and pepper

2. Now have your child dip their finger in the water and pull it out, said finger will now be covered in pepper

Finger dipped in bowl showing pepper sticking to the finger

3. Take a different finger and cover it in a few drops of soap (dish washing soap works well for this)

Clean finger that has been covered in dish soap and dipped into the ppepr bowl

4. Now have them put this finger in the bowl, the pepper will all shoot away from the finger.

Pepper in the bowl has moved away from the soapy finger

Explain to them that the germs don’t like the soap so they run away, now take the bowl, and dump and rinse it (now clean it, with maybe a few tiny pepper traces left) and dry the bowl (It should be sparkly clean). This is showing all the steps to ensure they are properly washing their hands. Soap, scrub, rinse and dry!

Now the reality is throwing soap on our hands and rinsing it off doesn’t quite do the trick, there is a time factor in there that we need to teach to the kids. Also, teaching them to actually spend 30 – 45 seconds washing and scrubbing them is just as important. But how can we get a 4 year old who cant tell time to wash long enough?

Singing Songs While Washing Hands

I bet you already know, sing the ABC’s , Row row row your boat, Twinkle little star, one of the many hand washing songs circulating the internet these days, or make up your own family song. Let it be whatever their favourite song is! Let them belt it out and sing, tell them the louder they sing the more germs they scare away. Yes I’m encouraging some rather loud yelling right now, but truth is, what kid doesn’t like to scream? With your permission, it will make them even more excited.

My kid hates singing and just whines when I tell him to do so. For kids like my own, here are some non-singing ways to pass the time. And why not have a little fun while doing. So get them to count out loud to 45, 50 or even 100. The chances are they will try to do this as fast as possible so give them a bigger number.

Getting your kids to wash their hands like this girl

Silly Faces to Keep Kids Engaged With Handwashing

You can make funny faces in the bathroom mirror and try to hold them each for as long as possible while washing. Or put some glitter on their hands while soaping their hands up and they need to scrub till the glitter all comes off.

If you don’t like glitter, make a x on the back of their hands with a washable marker and have them scrub until its gone. You can even make animated noises while washing such as telling them to make 5 -10 different animal sounds.

When all else fails, get mom (or dad) to wash with them; learning from an example is always the easiest for a child to do something.

Hand Washing Bubble Bath Trick

Does your child still whine regardless of all your best efforts to sing songs and dance? There’s one more trick mom (and dad), and that is to make it a bubble bath. That is, a hand washing bubble bath.

Fill the sink with bubbles and a couple of little toys. Then tell them they get 5 minutes to play at the station.

This might be the messier and longer option of all the tricks, but if its going to get those hands clean, and nothing else works, a little playtime fun in the bathroom won’t hurt anyone.

Teaching your kids to wash their hands can be easier with toys

In a world full of uncertainty, and with all the self-isolating, let us not forget the impacts on our children. They don’t have to remember this time as scary and uncertain. Let them remember the silly songs, the extra movies, the extra snacks, the long walks and all the cuddles.

This shouldn’t be a rushed life for them, so take the time to talk to your kids. Show them the simple things, teach them to wash their hands and make it a fun experience, instead of a making it a moment of panic.

To encourage kids to wash their hands let it be their routine and let it be fun. Let them make the mess and spill the soap, slop the water and drop the towel. The reality is it only takes a moment to clean up, but leaves them happy to enjoy the rest of their day.

Watch How to Teach Kids to Wash Their Hands With the Pepper Trick

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