When Should Hand Washing Education Start For Children?

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Hi! I’m Ofir Broides-Vavker, Soapy’s content writer, and I am currently finishing my Bachelor’s degree in education, focusing on curriculum building. I’ve worked with kids since the moment I was allowed to get a job. What a lot of people don’t understand is that education is the one way to really get something through to someone. Whether we’re talking about important life principles or just plain knowledge, through education you can reach anyone on a deeper level. Hand hygiene for infection prevention is very important for children.

Hand hygiene for infection prevention

Why is it important the children wash their hands in school?

Kids don’t have a fully developed immune system as they’re still growing. Kids who go to school have a higher chance of getting sick than kids who stay at home.  Studies have shown kids who go to school are sick twice as many times!  Germs spread easily in environments where people congregate (when hand washing is not practiced correctly).

Getting sick and missing school can really affect children’s academic careers. More importantly, concepts like “hand hygiene” and “wash cycle” are foreign to kids – it is our job to teach them that. If kids were left to their own devices when it came to hand hygiene, some kids wouldn’t wash their hands at all – ever. Especially kids who struggle with sensory integration where it takes a lot for them to feel outside stimulation and require deep touch to sense these things.

For the children’s future academic careers, and their health, we need to make sure kids are washing their hands inside and outside schools.

Hand hygiene for infection prevention

When should we start to educate children about hand hygiene?

Early life experiences shape the way we are today. Some sociologists even claim it starts from the womb, with the sounds of our native tongue around us and the local foods our mothers eat. The way our environment is made shapes who we are, immediately.

In regards to hand hygiene, this concept is crucial. That’s why hand hygiene should not only be taught from as early as we can manage it, it should also be a regular practice in the child’s home life. That way, the transition to maintaining high hand hygiene standards at school will be easier for everyone.

For example, a child doesn’t question having lunch break at 12:00, as most schools do. At 12 the bell rings and everyone pulls out their little brown bags and rush to the cafeteria. It’s just the way things are. There are no objections or suggestions to change it, because it’s the most ordinary thing, and everyone expects it. The same structure needs to be applied to hand washing at schools. We need to get to a point where hand washing thoroughly during key points of the day, using the correct movements, is so ingrained in us that we don’t question it or think about it too deeply anymore. It should be as obvious as having a lunch break. Hand hygiene for infection prevention is very important for children because children are very sensitive.

Hand hygiene for infection prevention

So, how do we get there?

Schools need to make sure they have the correct infrastructure to deal with so many kids washing hands. There should be enough available sinks, enough soap, enough warm water. How many schools do you know who have those readily accessible for kids to use? Because I don’t know a whole lot of them. Indeed, the first step to ensuring hand hygiene is kept – is making sure that kids have access to these important components.

After making sure that they can handle kids actually washing their hands, schools need to teach kids about hand hygiene. The WHY’s are sometimes just as important as the HOW’s. Children learn quicker than we give them credit for, provided with accurate teaching. We need to practice the correct hand movements with them several times a week and make sure that they remember it. Having teachers ask students if they’d washed their hands before entering the classroom and encouraging them to do so is also critical. The school’s atmosphere needs to be one where hand hygiene is valued.

What’s the best way to teach them?

Gamifying hand washing is a big part of the solution. Kids love games, and today more and more educators understand the role games have in learning new abilities. This is part of the reason I believe that Soapy’s solution is so fitting for schools – the ability to get real-life marks turns hand washing into a healthy competition. It also allows kids to learn from their mistakes and try again and again until they perfect this new skill.

The CleanMachine is Soapy’s unique solution to the hand hygiene problem. The automatic hand washing machine is ideal for schools, as it provides a quick and accessible solution for kids to wash their hands. The CleanMachine dispenses the exact amount of soap and warm water needed per wash cycle, all while scanning the hands and letting each washer know how well they did.

There are a lot of lesson plans for elementary schools and even kindergarten out there. Finding the right activities to get the children’s attention is really key here. There are numerous ways to help kids understand hand hygiene, like using glow in the dark goo on your hands to show them how germs stick to objects and surfaces, and how soap and water can wash them away. We even wrote about a science experiment that can help teach preschoolers about hand hygiene. Another great way to do that for the younger ages is with a “play” or a demonstration where the kids learn to wash their hands through song and show it to their parents. The process of rehearsing the show helps them get the correct movements down and interpret them. The most thorough type of learning is when you give meaning to what you’ve learned, and that’s exactly what we want to do with these kids. Hand hygiene for infection prevention is very important for children because children are very sensitive, so save their child and wash their hands.

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