Toddlers guide to Hand washing

Helping Toddlers to learn about keeping their hands clean and themselves healthy

Hand washing is a simple but powerful way that can help you or your child stay healthy. Establishing healthy hand washing habits in childhood is key to helping not only your little one, but your wider family stay healthy by stopping harmful germs spreading and causing illness.

Those precious hands can get into all sorts of germy messes on a daily basis.  They’re exploring and finding out about the world, but the germs they pick up could make your little one, or other members of your family ill.  Fortunately regular hand washing can remove these germs meaning they don’t need to limit their fun, helping to keep them healthy.

When teaching children, particularly young children about hand washing, it’s really important to make it fun and to reward them when they’ve got it right. 

Everyone likes knowing that they’ve done well and children are no exception.  Give them lots of praise and encouragement, it may seem strange at first but it’s a great way to help them repeat this simple but powerful habit to stay healthy.  Consider using a sticker chart to track each time they wash their hands properly, once they’ve got a number of reward stickers you could even give them a special treat to help keep them on-track.

Those young eyes are sharp and will pick up when you don’t wash your hands, so set a good example and always wash your hands when you need to.  If you’re together at the time, tell them why and show them what you are doing…you know how they often repeat things you say and do, so help them to follow your great hand washing example.

You may feel a bit self-conscious at first but it's really important to embed a healthy hand washing routine as early on in life as possible to keep not only your child but your entire family healthy. 

There’s more to hand washing however than a quick rub with soap if you want to keep your hands healthy and free from illness causing germs so here’s your definitive guide to toddlers healthy hands.

When your toddler needs to wash their hands

Three key points for them to get right is to wash hands;

  • Before eating any food 
  • After every time they have visited the toilet or used the potty. 
  • Before being involved in preparing any food

Even if your child isn’t an aspirant chef, if you’re in the kitchen together and you are going to prepare food, show them that you’re washing your hands.

Naturally, if they come into contact with any germy messes, if they’ve been touching any cuts or grazes or even if they’ve been playing outside it's always a good to get them in the habit of washing their hands because as you well know, those little fingers have a habit of getting into everything you don’t want them to!

Hand washing, 9 steps to healthy hands

Did you know to wash your hands thoroughly, you'll need to take around 40 seconds to a minute to get them properly clean?  Teach your little one to take the time to do it properly.  Make it fun, singing happy birthday twice is around the right time that you need to do a thorough job, you can even sing it out loud together!  Show the shapes with your hands that you’re making and get them to copy you.  You could even ask your little-one to show you how to wash your hands.  The odd little reminder may be needed but its amazing how quickly they’ll be reminding you to wash your hands!

Happy hand washing 

  1. Wet hands with clean warm running water
  2. Apply a small amount of soap
  3. Rub your palms together, (away from the water)
  4. Rub your fingers and thumbs and bits in between
  5. Rub your nails on your palms
  6. Rub the back of each hand
  7. Rinse with clean running water
  8. Dry with a clean towel or paper towel
  9. Praise your child for getting it right. Remember the adage of ‘an action rewarded is an action repeated’

Even though at times it may not all be plain sailing and your best efforts may not quite go to plan, remember that you are teaching your child a vital life-skill that will help keep them healthy for the rest of their life.  

Sadly, every year, thousands of people, mostly children and other vulnerable groups particularly in developing countries, die from illnesses that could be easily prevented by the simple action of hand washing, so get your little ones into healthy habits it could make a bigger difference than you think.