Put simply, some germs aren’t great. They make us sick and feel poorly. As a community, it’s also important for us to learn collective responsibility and try our best not to spread bad germs to our friends. Handwashing is an easy, cheap, and effective way to prevent the spread of germs and keep children and adults healthy.
Forming good hygiene practices is a fundamental practical life skill and we’d like to think that Dr. Maria Montessori would agree! We always practice good hand hygiene in school and we’ve been using the current COVID-19 situation as a real-life example to demonstrate to the children why they should be mindful when they wash their hands! But sometimes, the lesson is easier to learn, and more effective, when it’s fun!
Here are two activities to teach children about germs and why it’s so important to have good hand washing habits:
1. Flour Germs
This is a fun and easy way to visually demonstrate to small kids that rinsing our hands with water will not remove germs. We need to use soap too! Spread ¼ of a cup of flour on a plate and ask your children to place their hands firmly overtop of the flour while telling them to imagine the flour is actually germs. Next, provide them with a couple of easy-to-wash plastic or wooden toys for a few minutes, and then ask them to stop what they are doing and examine how much of the flour has transferred from their hands to the toys they are playing with. This is a great activity to visually demonstrate how easy it is for us to spread germs when we sneeze and cough into our hands and don’t wash them afterwards.
2. Black Pepper Soap
This ‘experiment’ is another great way to teach children about germs and the importance of using soap when washing our hands. Fill a large bowl ¾ of the way full with water and add a couple of sprinkles of black pepper. You want a sufficient amount of pepper to be visible along the top of the water, but not so much that you can’t see the water. Next, add a couple of drops of dish soap to the water using a dropper, and watch as the germs ‘run away’ from the soap and cling to the side of the bowl. Children will find this really cool, and the visual it provides will help them remember the importance of using soap to get rid of germs while washing their hands.
Creating a “hand washing accessible” environment that allows children the freedom to wash their own hands is key to integrating this important habit into your home. Provide a suitable step stool to allow the child to have accessibility. Show them where they can wash their hands at home and teach them the five easy steps for handwashing—wet, lather, scrub, rinse and dry. Let them know when the key times to wash hands are, such as after using the bathroom or before eating. You can find ways to make it fun, like making up your own handwashing song or turning it into a game.
Does this look familiar? This is the poster we use in school to remind the children to wash their hands well. Let’s keep reinforcing good habits in school and at home!