The Act of Hand Washing as a Learning Opportunity

The most effective way to avoid illness and infection is frequent, thorough hand washing. But, let’s face it, proper hand washing is not the forté of most preschoolers, nor is it their favorite thing to do. The abstract idea that germs they can’t see might affect them or others adversely is a tough one to communicate. So what can we do?

The first step is to teach your child how to wash her hands properly. Use warm water, soap, and scrub all areas of the hands, remembering the nails and between the fingers. How long should you wash? Try a simple song to help your child time herself. Things to Share and Remember highlights a great one:

song card 2_thumb[2]


Remind your child to wash her hands before eating or preparing food, after going to the bathroom, after outside play, or after coughing or blowing her nose.

Preschool-aged children love to create and admire their art, so work with your child to create your own reminders for your bathroom mirror. Small signs attached to the mirror that remind the family to wash their hands and the proper steps in order to do so. Your child can draw a picture and/or copy the words “wash hands.” Consider laminating the sign(s) so it holds up to bathroom moisture.

Allowing your preschooler to “own” their hand washing skills and feel confident will help them remember to wash their hands, and this activity helps teach word recognition, labeling, and proper hygiene.

Further reading:

A Lesson in Hand Washing

A Lesson in Hand Washing

Flu season is definitely upon us, and although we always stress the importance of proper hand washing in the classroom, preschool-aged children don’t always grasp this concept that they can’t see. We recently illustrated why proper hand washing is so important in a visual way.

First, we helped the children apply vegetable oil to their hands. They rubbed the oil in as much as possible.


Next, we sprinkled cinnamon on their hands to represent the germs.


We observed how dirty our hands can be!


Next, we touched paper towels to demonstrate how germs can spread to the things we touch. Ewwwww!


We all agreed that we needed to clean our hands, so we “washed” them in water.


Hmmmmm. The children observed that their hands still had “germs.” What was missing?

Oh! Soap! Then each of the students washed their hands properly with water AND soap. We had to scrub thoroughly to remove all the “germs.”


Once our hands were clean, we could go about the rest of our day, and we have all become better hand washers due to this fun activity!