Hand Washing - Make It Part of Your Teaching Routine

Hand washing is so important, because germs love schools. The nature of the school environment makes it an ideal place for germs to spread. There is a broad spectrum of microbes out there just waiting for the opportunity to re-infect and multiply - everything from the common cold right through to whooping cough.

Hand Washing

As an educator it is an essential part of your teaching strategy to teach the importance of hand washing and the correct techniques. Research has shown that this is the best method to combat the spread of germs, so it is the first line of defense.

What Children Should be Taught About Hand Washing

It’s important that children should be taught the following about hand washing:

• Eating
• Touching or preparing food
• Visiting someone who is sick so as not to take infection with them
• Treating or touching wounds - eg changing a Band-Aid
• Before cleaning their teeth

Children should be taught to wash their hands after:

• Going to the bathroom
• Coming indoors after being outside
• Sneezing or coughing
• Putting rubbish in the garbage bin
• Preparing food (also during if they are touching raw and cooked foods so as not to cross contaminate)
• Patting animals or cleaning up after their pets
• If they have been to a doctor or dental appointment
• If they have been in contact with someone who is sick

When teaching children to wash their hands:

• Have a 'How to Wash Your Hands' chart laminated and placed on the wall near the hand basins. For younger children ensure that this has pictorial as well as written instructions


• Demonstrate how to wash their hands - show them how to wash their fingers, back of their hands, the palms, wrists and most importantly under their fingernails. Use soap and warm water if possible


• Reinforce the importance of drying their hands on a clean towel or paper towel


• Make sure that they wash their hands for 20 to 30 seconds


• For preschoolers incorporate a favorite song into the hand washing procedure. Use a Transition Verse to make the transition from their current activity to hand washing easy and fun. Send only three to five children at a time to avoid 'mayhem' at the basins.


• For older children establish a three foot rule. Encourage the students to stand at least three feet (1 meter) away from their peers when interacting with them whenever possible.


• Discourage children from sharing items which have been in their mouth, such as lip balm, mouth guards and eating and drinking utensils. Even if they are washing their hands thoroughly it has been shown that the sharing of such items spreads germs.

How You Can Easily Teach Children About Hand Washing

Incorporating hand washing procedure into the general routine or the class environment, no matter what learning setting you are in, will enable your students to learn this as a part of normal routine.

If this is then reinforced in the home environment then the child will have learned an effective and essential cleanliness habit for life. Send a leaflet showing the correct hand washing technique in your newsletter to encourage this.

The simple technique of effective hand washing will decrease the spread of germs within the learning environment, keeping all children in the environment safe and prevent a pandemic!

There is plenty of research that shows that keeping hands clean can stop or prevent the spread of germs in almost all cases. It’s better to emphasize this habit as a daily part of the routine, rather than NOT at all.

Wouldn’t you want to know that after another child or adult used the restroom that they washed their hands before touching your food or anything else that you would come into contact with?

Offer an Open House with Parents to Encourage Hand Washing at Home

As you know the children are not in your hands once they go home, and their parents may or may not encourage this practice of washing their hands. So, what do you do? It might be best to offer an Open House type event so that you can share your thoughts and techniques on hand washing to prevent the spread of germs and encourage good health in the school environment.

Don’t worry as to whether or not parents would be offended. You can simply tell them that you wanted to share with them what you were teaching in class, so that they will know more about what you are trying to accomplish with the children while they are in your care.

It’s important that you share what you have found in research, and how that translates into better care for their children overall. Parents would surely want you to do what is in the best interest of their children’s lives, right?

Are you a new teacher just starting your career? You will find some great information in our New Teacher Survival Guide to help you get started.

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Heather Collins

Heather Collins is an Early Childhood and Special Education Teacher who makes developmentally appropriate resources for teachers and parents to use with their children. She is author and co-author of poetry books and children’s books. She is a passionate collagist and has crafted beautiful finger puppets and story aprons suitable for early childhood education.

Her resources can be purchased on this website or she can be contacted at Create-Ed by emailing heathercreated@gmail.com. You can order an original apron for any favourite storybook.

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