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6 ways to make hand hygiene fun for children

Kids often forget to wash their hands and touch their mouth, face, eyes after coming home from the outdoors

By Dr SN Aravinda

Hand washing has become one of the most essential habits since the onset of Covid-19 and the pandemic has brought out the importance of following good hand hygiene. Although most of us have invariably started to follow this ritual regularly, getting children to follow regular hand hygiene can be a task for many parents.

Kids could have a tendency to forget or find excuses to skip it. Sometimes they may even practice it just to avoid getting reprimanded by parents, which is not the ideal way to inculcate good lifestyle habits. Kids often forget to wash their hands and touch their mouth, face, eyes after coming home from the outdoors or touching public surfaces like floor, window, railings. In such situations, there is a high risk of virus and bacteria transmission and the child could be affected in many ways.

Plenty of clinical research has shown that hand hygiene is one of the most important factors to avoid the transmission of harmful germs. Hand washing regularly can prevent about 30 percent of diarrhoea-related illnesses and about 20 percent of respiratory infections. Kids being kids are not entirely aware of the benefits and necessity of handwashing due to which they avoid it. However, turning this simple process into a fun and interesting activity and making it an enjoyable process is the right way to encourage children to have good hand hygiene. Listed below are a few suggestions which can help in making hand washing fun for kids:

Get different coloured and shaped soaps: Children mostly get fascinated by different shapes and bright colours. Keeping such soaps at home will excite them and increase their interest in hand-washing. Additionally, you can also try making your own soaps at home using different moulds. You can add a little toy in it and encourage kids to use the soap more often to find the toy surprise.

Sing while you wash hands: Encourage kids to sing a song while washing hands. It will help encourage them to properly wash their hands as they have more time to reach into all the nooks and crannies. Choose one verse of a family favourite song that will last for about 20-25 seconds as this much time is enough to thoroughly clean the hands. As kids love song and dance, this will help create the image of handwashing as a fun activity. Parents and elder siblings can even join them and turn it into a little performance so that further positive reinforcement is received around the activity.

Make it look like a challenge: To make the activity even more engaging for children, give them the challenge of washing their hands for a certain time. For example, you can use a sand timer and ask the child to wash their hands till all the sand gets accumulated at the bottom. Children love being challenged and winning games, so regularly doing this will encourage them to continue the activity.

Educate them about germs: Sit with your child and explain to them about nasty things that germs can do to our body and its effects on our health. To make the session more interesting, draw germs on their hands using coloured pens and ask them to wash it using soap and liquid hand-wash. You could even conduct a science experiment to show how easy it is for germs to transfer to the hands and how much rubbing with soap is required to clean the entire hand.

Encourage them to do soap surfing and bubble bursting: Children love playtime and do not want to miss a chance to engage in good play. While washing hands, ask the kids to later up well and show them how to create bubbles using the lather in their hands. Also, later up the sink or tub using soap water and let them play with the foamy waves.

Wash a toy: Ask your child to wash a toy when he/she is going to wash hands. It will be fun for kids when they have to spend time with their toys and clean them. Avoid picking a soft toy as it takes a lot of time to dry

It is important to know that washing hands under the running water is not sufficient. Ensure that children use soap or liquid handwash always while washing hands. In case of non-availability of water, advise kids to use sanitisers.

(The writer is Consultant – Internal Medicine, Aster RV Hospital, JP Nagar, Bengaluru.)

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