There are a couple of things I’m a stickler about when it comes to raising my kids – manners, kindness, picking up after themselves, being respectful to people, and self-care, for example sufficient sleep, brushing teeth and regular handwashing (especially after coming home from school or public places, or before eating).
Much of it has become quite ingrained, but sometimes these things require reminders and explanations, like when they’d rather play than wash hands.
I’ve written before that one of the most significant pieces of medical advice came from a GP I once visited when I had a chest infection. It was close to Comrades Marathon time, and I asked him what I could take or do to prevent flu again before the race. His advice? Wash hands frequently, to prevent the transfer of bacteria/viruses. It’s something I try to practise often, and it’s why I’m regularly reminding my son to wash his hands. I’d like to think that this has gone a long way in keeping us both fairly healthy.
I might not be that way off… according to Lifebuoy, contagious germs can lead to infections such as dysentry, diarrhoea, fever spots, flu, sore throat, cough, and ear infection. Washing well and regularly can kill these germs, which in a kid’s world, can be found on animals, insects, clothes, other children, dirty surfaces, dustbins, toilets and bathroom fittings.
Lifebuoy also has practical advice for handwashing (I’ve long been following these ideas, and they’re very doable):
When to wash hands:
- After going to the toilet
- Before breakfast
- Before lunch
- Before dinner
- At bathtime
- After coming home from school/the park/sports activities/shopping malls/parties
It’s just as important to know how to wash hands. These are the correct ways to wash your hands:
- Wet your hands with clean, running water (preferably warm) and apply soap.
- Rub your hands together to make a lather and scrub your hands all over.
- Continue rubbing your hands for at least 20 – 30 seconds.
- Rinse your hands well under running water.
- Dry your hands on a clean, dry towel to ensure that they don’t get re-contaminated with germs.
Good to know: It should take at leaset 20 seconds to wash your hands – any less and you might not have killed harmful bacteria.
How to make handwashing fun for kids:
Lifebuoy has a fun approach to education and behaviour change in its programme, which has educated more than 1 billion people globally about handwashing since 2012, and more than 2 million Grade 2 learners.
1. Track & reward
Create a start or sticker chart if necessary, and add stickers as a reward for each time handwashing is completed.
2. Sing a song
The correct amount of time to wash hands correctly with soap is 20 seconds. Sing the alphabet or Old MacDonald or make up your own healthy handwashing song to sing while washing to track the time and keep kids entertained.
3. High 5s
Incorporate High 5s into the handwashing routine as a fun element. Give a High 5 after each successful handwashing experience.
4. Make it easier
Make it easier for kids to reach the basin by adding a stool or step so they can easily reach everything. Create a more fun bathroom environment by adding a fun soap dish or stickers to the mirror.
5. Make it routine
Many moms find it best to build handwashing into their everyday routine, adding it to a series of regular events, such as hanging up their coat and putting away their schoolbag, so that kids eventually do it automatically.