Encouraging children to wash their hands


Children love to get their hands in and on everything. With all the hands-on fun come germs and the need for good hand hygiene. Quite often parents ask Pediatrician Parul Singh, MD, what they can do to get their children, who are busy playing, to wash their hands. Here are a few tips and tricks Dr. Singh shares with her families.

Make it fun
Washing hands for 20 seconds with water and soap is key to fighting diseases and illnesses. “Ask a child to sing the Happy Birthday song slowly two times. This gives them enough time to lather up soap in between their fingers, on the back of the hands and under nails, and scrub, scrub, scrub for 20 seconds,” Dr. Singh said.

Have a routine
Children are very busy and in their mind don’t have time to wash their hands. Dr. Singh recommends putting a sign up in the bathroom and repeating the need for them to wash their hands. “My daughter tends to come home with mulch under her nails and she knows the first order of business is to wash her hands,” Dr. Singh said.

It’s also important to reiterate when to wash hands. Dr. Singh recommends children should wash their hands when families:
· Get home after school
· Before eating
· After coughing and sneezing
· After using the bathroom and touching a pet

Warn them of the consequences
Some germs are contracted in the air while others are by touch. In a school or daycare setting, this can lead children to come down with a number of illnesses like influenza, pneumonia, pink eye, diarrhea, and more. “The fear factor does help. Tell your children if they don’t want to get sick and go to the hospital, they need to wash their hands,” Dr. Singh said.

Give them hand sanitizer
Of course parents aren’t always around to remind their children to practice good hand hygiene. While it may not be as effective as warm water and soap, Dr. Singh said hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol is a good substitute. “Sometimes I recommend parents put hand sanitizer in their child’s school bag because they enjoy it and think it’s fun,” she said. “Fifty years ago, hand hygiene was seen in a different light, but studies show that hand washing reduces the risk of contracting an illness or disease. For your children to remain healthy enough to play as much as they want to, remember to enforce the need for good hand hygiene.”

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