Good hand hygiene habits have always been important as they prevent the spread of germs and reduce the risk of falling sick. With the current COVID-19 situation, the importance of hygiene cannot be further emphasised. Simply washing hands with soap and water has become a crucial personal hygiene practice for adults and children to protect against the coronavirus and prevent the spread of disease.
While adults are able to easily adopt these practices, children require more time to understand why such practices are important. In this article, Dr Wendy Sinnathamby shares some fun ways you can teach your children about good hand hygiene.
However, before you start talking to your children about the importance of good hand hygiene, you should first talk to them about what is currently happening in Singapore and around the world. While it might be tricky to broach the topic of Covid-19, Dr Wendy shares a few tips on how to navigate this new territory.
Talking to Your Children About Covid-19
1. Don’t Be Afraid to Talk About Covid-19
Your children have probably heard about the coronavirus at school. Now that there have been stricter measures implemented in Singapore, it is good for you to take this opportunity to have a chat with your children about what is actually going on.
2. Be Developmentally Appropriate
It can be quite overwhelming for children to be bombarded with a lot of facts, some of which they might not even understand. You should keep the information you give them simple, and leave more room for questions instead. Here’s a quick guide:
3. Let Them Share Their Fears
You should encourage your children to share what they are feeling. This is a new and uncertain situation for all of us, including children. It is important for you to hear their fears and worries, and do your best to comfort them.
4. Focus on How They Can Stay Safe
In addition to listening to the fears your children might have, you can also share with them how they can help to fight the virus by practising good hygiene. This way, your child feels empowered and in control instead of feeling scared.
5. Follow a Routine
Now that schools have closed, it is important to still have some structure to your child’s day. You can work together with your child to create a daily routine that is both fun and productive.
6. Remain Calm
In these uncertain times, it is normal for you to be a bit anxious. If you feel the anxiety creeping up, take some time to calm down before answering your child’s questions.
Teach Them About Hygiene In a Fun & Interactive Way
You should teach your children good hygiene practices yourself. Apart from just talking to them and instructing them, you can reinforce this by showing them an age-appropriate video clip. You could also read a storybook that is about good hygiene practices with them.
In addition, visual demonstrations are always helpful to show children why washing hands with soap and water is important.
Here are a few fun experiments you can do with your child to emphasise the need for good hygiene practices.
The Glitter Experiment
This is a simple yet effective method to show young children why rinsing our hands with just water is not sufficient to remove germs. It is important to use soap too and this is how you can show this:
Step 1: Add glitter to a large bowl of water.
Step 2: Then let your children play around with the bowl of water for a while.
Step 3: When they are done playing, get your children to imagine the glitter on their hands is actually germs.
Step 4: After which, get your child to wash his/her hands with water and ask them to observe if the glitter comes off or not.
Step 5: When the glitter does not come off, ask your child to try washing his/her hands with soap for 20 seconds and see what happens.
They will definitely be surprised by the difference and hence be able to better understand the importance of washing their hands with soap.
The Flour Experiment
Flour is a great alternative if you are not a huge fan of glitter (it can be a pain to clean!).
Step 1: For this method, you will need to spread some flour on a plate and ask your children to place their hands on the plate firmly.
Step 2: Once again, you can ask them to imagine the flour is actually germs.
Step 3: Then ask them to bring you a couple of their favourite toys and let them play with the toys for a while. They would need to do this without washing their hands!
Step 4: After a few minutes, ask them to take a look at the toys to see how much flour is on them.
Step 5: One other demonstration you can do is to gather some flour in your hands and blow on it. Tell your kids to imagine that you just sneezed. You can then get them to observe all the surfaces that now have flour on them.
Both these methods are a great way to visually demonstrate how easily germs can spread if we do not wash our hands after sneezing/coughing and using the toilet.
The Black Pepper Experiment
(Source: Coffee Cups and Crayons)
A third way to teach your children about germs is this fun and interactive experiment. This method emphasizes the importance of using soap to wash your hands.
Step 1: For this experiment, you would need to fill up a large bowl with water about ¾ of the way.
Step 2: When adding pepper to the water, ensure the pepper is still visible but does not fully cover the water. The experiment works best when there is less pepper.
Step 3: Then you would need to prepare 2 more bowls- one with water and another with some soap and water.
Step 4: Now is the fun part! Get your child to dip one hand into the bowl with just water and then subsequently dip that hand into the pepper bowl and remove their hand after a few seconds.
Step 5: Then, you can ask them to dip their other hand into the bowl of soapy water and into the pepper bowl.
Your children will be amazed at what happens next. The pepper will “run away” from their soapy hand. This is when you can explain the pepper represents germs and the way the pepper “runs away” from the soapy hand shows how soap actually removes germs from our hands.
You can visit Our Little Play Nest to find out how they conducted this experiment (and for other educational game ideas).
Now that you know how you can teach your child about hygiene, here are some tips on what you should teach them about.
Ensure your child is washing their hands multiple times a day for at least 20 seconds. You can get them to sing the Alphabet song or any nursery rhymes that last about 20 seconds!
- Teach your child to sneeze or cough into a tissue. They should also use a tissue to blow their nose. Remind them to discard the used tissue into the waste bin immediately rather than leaving it lying around.
- If there are no tissues available, teach your child to sneeze or cough into the bend of their elbow so that their hands are not contaminated. This will also stop the spray of droplets into the air.
- Always ask your child if they have washed their hands before/after eating and after using the toilet.
- Point out to them whenever they touch their eyes, face, nose and mouth, and remind them why they shouldn’t be doing it.
- Your children should cultivate the habit of washing or sanitising their hands when they have touched any surfaces in public
- Encourage them not to lean against walls, escalators in public and to refrain from touching surfaces in public where possible.
- Teach them to keep a distance from others in public. You can also explain the concept of social distancing to them and the reason why we are doing it.
- Discourage touching each other, shaking hands or embracing for now.
- Avoid enclosed areas. Take your child to parks and encourage running around playing games like “catching” or playing with own toys and bikes, ball etc brought from home instead of playing on the structures in public playgrounds.
- Encourage healthy sleep habits and a regular exercise routine.
- Encourage a well-balanced diet and consumption of good volumes of water.
Most importantly, be a good role model and lead by example! Ensure you follow the same practices stated above as children often watch and learn from their parents.