As parents, we all know that hands have the potential to carry germs into our bodies via our eyes, nose and mouth. And right now, we want nothing more than for our kids to get into the hand-washing habit so they do it without constant reminders.
Here are some tips to get your kids into this habit before school starts:
Give kids the facts. The truth is that their hands could be dirtier than a public toilet seat. Even if they wash their hands after using the bathroom, things that they’ve touched while out may have other people’s fecal matter on them. (Gross, but important for them to know!)
Set your family expectations around hand-washing and stick to them. Make sure they’re washing hands when they come home from school after bags are emptied, after going to the washroom and always before a meal. When we reinforce the habit, it becomes second nature.
Use a reminding picture and/or words to help. Diagrams or notes on the bathroom mirror can help to cue kids to wash their hands. Teach them how to do it properly (singing a song for the correct duration) and then have them teach Grandma or even you so that they are sharing helpful knowledge and feel capable.
Are you wondering why your child says she washed her hands when she didn’t? This is a common behaviour for preschoolers. One of the easiest ways to stop the lie is to stop asking a question when you already know the answer. Instead, state what you know: ‘I didn’t hear water. You need to go back and wash your hands.’
Or, try a different script. When your child comes out of the bathroom, say: ‘Hand check!’ If soap and water were used, the child will be happy to let you touch and smell her hands. If not, she’ll head back in and wash them. No more arguing and no more lies.
Here’s a great resource from Public Health Agency of Canada that introduces the ‘how-to’s’ of proper handwashing.