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Children washing hands together at sink

The Parent’s Guide to Teaching Handwashing – The Fun Way

Ensuring that your child knows the right way to wash his hands is always important, but especially during cold and flu season. With so many germs that can be shared between kids at school, daycare or in the home, proper handwashing is the first defense against infection. Need some tricks to get your child interested in learning the right technique? Try these four simple tips:

Child listening to music and singing

1. Sing a Song While Scrubbing

If your child loves music, use one of his favorite songs to illustrate how much time he should spend washing his hands. A good rule of thumb is singing through “Happy Birthday” two times or through one round of “The Alphabet Song.” You can also use a song he likes personally – just make sure it is at least 20 seconds long. Encourage him to sing out loud or in his head, whichever he feels more comfortable with. If your child is motivated by creativity, challenge him to create a handwashing song of his own – for example, “Scrub, scrub, scrub your hands, gently in the sink,” in place of “Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream.”

Mother hugging child

2. Use Positive Reinforcement

Praising your child after a proper handwashing session will help instill good habits. Ask him to announce when he’s done washing his hands at home – this will enable you to give him a thumbs-up and reminder of how doing so will help him stay healthy. You can even create a special chart in the bathroom that he can place a sticker on when he’s done washing his hands. This chart can serve as motivation as well as a continued, visual reminder.

Young girl washing hands in sink

3. Make Soap Exciting (yes, this is possible)

Handwashing seems fairly boring, but children can find excitement in the task by using soaps that smell good, foam or have fun colors. You can even buy a soap dispenser with his favorite cartoon character or pattern on it. Bring him along when you’re shopping so he can pick out a model he loves. This can be extra motivation that gets him excited to wash his hands.

Adult and child washing hands together at sink

4. Let Him Watch, As You Wash

Kids love mimicking their parents. And because kids often learn the most from watching their parents, washing your hands properly is one of the best ways you can teach your child to do the same. Whether it’s after you use the bathroom, before you eat or cook a meal or after you cough or sneeze, announce to your child that you are going to wash your hands and explain why. Bring him with you to the sink so you can show him how to do it and encourage him to ask questions at any time.