Apps for Teaching Kids to Wash Hands
Picture this: A kindergartener sneezes. She wipes her nose with her hand, then goes back to playing with the classroom stash of MagnaTiles. A second later your son grabs one of the tiles she has just put down. But wait! His loose tooth calls to him. He finds it with an exploratory finger and wiggles it. Ah, relief arrives — along with the germs the girl just sneezed out. In fact they’ve just entered your child’s body through the front door, his mouth, and he brought them in himself.
A recent, informal survey of parents on Facebook revealed, not surprisingly, that the vignette above is on the tame end of kid antics that defy adult hygiene norms. We cringed at stories about tots who have dipped toothbrushes into toilet water, gleefully rubbed a sneeze into the kitchen table, and chewed on gum they found stuck to the bottom of an airport lounge chair. The little people among us have lots of curiosity and few inhibitions about bodily fluids!
If you think this lack of attention to cleanliness wanes as they get older, consider the research: according to the site GetReadyforFlu.org, only 58 percent of teen girls and 48 percent of teen boys wash up after using the restroom.
So how is a parent to wage battle against all this accidental germ swapping? The answer is teaching kids to wash hands well and frequently. As Dr. Julie Gerberding of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explained to ABC News, "If we were really compulsive about washing our hands we could have a lot less colds.” Kids should wash their hands and fingers for as long as it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice using warm water and soap. They should do this before and after eating or touching food, after going to the bathroom, after playing, after touching an animal, and after coughing or sneezing.
But here’s the key: kids don’t do this on their own. The adults in their lives have to lay it out clearly and then reinforce the lessons. We do this by modeling good hygiene and by making hand washing a part of our routines at home. And even then, we will find ourselves reminding them — over and over again.
Tall order you say? To make it all a bit easier, we went searching for fun ways to impart the hows, whens, and whys of hand washing to toddlers, preschoolers, and school-age kids. If you have time for a slightly messy activity, Jill Riley’s blog, Mom with a Lesson Plan, details a clever cinnamon and oil hand-washing exploration that shows kids how germs and dirt can hide in the crevices of their hands. If you prefer to go digital, our app recommendations follow.
Oh, The Things You Can Do That Are Good For You!
Where: iPhone, iPad, iTouch