Handwashing with children

Teach children how to prevent the spread of germs.

Person washing hands.

Keeping children’s hands clean at home and school is an essential tool in keeping them healthy and stopping the spread of germs. Parents and caregivers can set a good example and teach children the proper way to wash their hands by demonstrating proper handwashing each time they wash their hands. This may take several times to have the children get the hang of it, although it will improve with practice and age.

How should we teach children to wash their hands?

  • Have clean disposable paper towel available.
  • Turn the water on to a comfortable, warm temperature.
  • Get both hands wet and then remove hands from the water and apply soap.
  • Rub hands together vigorously until the soap turns into lather or is full of bubbles
  • Rub the palms of the hands, the back of the hands, in between the fingers, underneath fingernails and around the wrist. Continue this process for at least 20 seconds.
  • Rinse hands until all the soap and dirt is rinsed from the hands.
  • Dry hands thoroughly with the disposable paper towel as germs like to grow in wet and warm places.
  • Leave the water running while you dry your hands, and then use the paper towel to turn the water off before throwing it away. This prevents germs from getting onto hands from the faucet handle.

When should children wash their hands?

  • Before and after handling food
  • Before and after eating food
  • After using the restroom (after washing hands, use clean dry cloth to open the door when leaving, then dispose the paper towel into the trash)
  • After combing or touching hair
  • After playing with or petting an animal
  • After playing outdoors
  • After coughing, sneezing or blowing their nose

Remember to wash your hands frequently throughout the day and practice proper handwashing with your children or students. This coloring page is one of many free resources from Fight BAC! that can be used with children to reinforce handwashing practice at home and at school. Michigan State University Extension recommends that you wash your hands thoroughly and continue to monitor your children’s hand washing techniques to keep them healthy and prevent illness.


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