While it may be the most wonderful time of the year, it is, unfortunately, a time of year riddled with coughs, sniffles, fevers, and then some. It is safe to say we have all learned a lesson in washing our hands this past year! However, hand hygiene has always been important, especially when it comes to our children. Learning and practicing the art of washing hands can be a work in progress for our little ones, but with the right amount of fun and patience, can still be a fun experience. Here are 5 tips to try when teaching your child proper hand hygiene.
The Why and When
What a fantastic opportunity to practice listening skills! As you start teaching your child hand washing hygiene, let them know why it is important and when they need to wash their hands. You can make this a recall or memory game as well.
Keep It Fun
Children use play to explore new experiences and environments, so make sure to have some fun along the way. Assign a sound, song, or game to each step. A well-timed “PSSHHH” when turning on warm water can go a long way. Singing the alphabet as you help them scrub away not only keeps them practicing letters, it gives them a sense of timing. Maybe a dance that goes with shaking hands out and rubbing them with a towel. Whatever you think of, just keep it fun so they keep coming back for more!
Reduce Sensory Overload
Some children can be very sensitive to different temperatures, smells, and textures. You may discover these the easy or the hard way as you go, but that is natural. Breaking down what you are doing and what they will feel can help, but also make sure you are listening if they say the soap smell is too strong or the towel is too rough. The more you adjust, the more familiar it will all start to feel.
Read your labels and remember to let your child know what the sanitizer will feel and smell like before applying. Try a drop at first to see what they think and adjust accordingly. Let them know what the sanitizer does. Whether you describe it as a germ force field or invisible gloves, the more they know the “how” and “why”, the more likely they are to stick to the routine.
Teaching is one thing, but demonstrating is another. Wash your hands together so your child can see just how important hand washing is because you’re doing it, too! If they see you having a good time, they will want to join in the fun with you. So, make it a game, a dance, a song, or some combination of all three.
The more our children learn that routines can be healthy, fun, and broken down into enjoyable parts, the more likely they are to retain and continue these practices. As always, stay patient and receptive to what your child needs as they begin learning something new.
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