Kids and germs go hand-in-hand. Now, more than ever, the importance of good hygiene for the whole family is imperative. But how do we get kids to understand the importance of washing their hands?

It can be hard to explain to your little one why we should take certain precautions from things we can’t see. It can be hard for them to understand the concept of germs and viruses, so we’ve put some ideas together for you…

Create a germ character

Start by introducing the concept of a germ to your little one with an imaginary thing called Mr Germ. Explain that although he isn’t like a normal friend or a pet who you can see, he is a living thing, just a tiny one that you can only see through a microscope. These tiny creatures can multiply and spread super quickly and they are the bad guys who try to fight the good guys in your body.

After you have covered the basics of germs for kids, Mr Germ will still seem confusing. Why are they the bad? How do they spread? How will they make me sick? How can I stop them? These are some of the questions your child might ask. That’s why the following ideas can help teach your child the valuable lessons and reasoning behind why Mum and Dad aren’t just telling you to “wash your hands” for fun.

Glitter germs

You know when the kids have been playing with glitter and you find it everywhere…. Glitter spreads like germs from contact so makes a really good example! It’s also really hard to wash off without soap, like germs! So get your child to rub their hands with some of their favourite glitter then let them touch a few surfaces around the house. The glitter will easily spread, which can be used as a great example as to how easy it is for germs to leave traces all around us. Next, get them to wash their hands with just water. Is the glitter all coming off? I doubt it. Now add soap and see how the glitter all washes away, just like the germs will with proper hand washing. 

The potato experiment

This is a great experiment to see the effect of germs. Wash your hands (but not the kids’) and peel a raw potato and cut it in half. Take one half and get the kids to handle it for a minute. Then get the kids to wash their hands with soap and water then get them to handle the second potato. Place each potato in its own zip-lock bag and label which one is which.

Place the two bags in a dark cupboard and leave them there for about a week then pull the bags out and compare the two. The unwashed hand potato will be showing signs of mould caused by the germs whilst the clean hands one should look much better. Discuss the results with the kids.  

Look at magnified germs online

It might be a good idea to show your child what actual germs look like. Google an image of a germ under a microscope and show it to them. This will help them put germs into a real-life context and make them want to avoid getting germs in the first place. 

Show them how a sneeze or cough can travel through air 

Mucous droplets from sneezes and coughs can travel quite far and kids need to understand the importance of avoiding this by coughing into their elbow and avoiding germs on their hands. To demonstrate this take a spray bottle and add some water and some food colouring. Pretend that the water is a sneeze. Spray it over a blank paper or tissue to see how far the coloured water ‘sneeze’ reaches.

Make a hand washing chart

Create a chart where you can tick off how many times and where you washed your hands. Stickers, stamps, or letting them add their own ticket are all a fun way to reward them for a job well done. Maybe a treat at the end of the day to reward them for their good hand washing.

Sing a hand washing song

Singing a song while washing your hands is a great way to both time kids and also make the task fun. You can try singing the below song to the tune of Row, row, row your boat, or make up your own little ditties! Repeat this several times and it will help drag out the washing time enough to ensure they cover all the dirty spots. Follow our hand washing chart overleaf to make sure you cover every inch of their hand.

The hand washing song

Wash, wash, wash your hands

Wash them nice and clean

Scrub them here  

Scrub them there  

And scrub them in between

(sung to the tune of Row, row, row your boat)