How to get your toddler to wash their hands

Recent reports have said that amidst the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic one of the most efficient ways to prevent the spread is through washing our hands thoroughly. Washing our hands is something easily done by adults, but can be a little trickier for toddlers - especially when they are just not in the mood to do so.

Washing hands can be done quickly with the right routine, and it can also be made fun for toddlers who might see it as a chore. Here are some tips on how your child should wash their hands and some simple ways to encourage them to do so:

how should my little one wash their hands?

There are a few methods out there that can be used but the most efficient is a technique typically used in the hospitality industry. A teacher recently posted a video on how they get their students to wash their hands, and can apparently get 30 hands washed in 5 minutes.

She lines up her little ones and they go one by one putting soap on and rubbing it in whilst moving to the back of the queue - once they get back to the front to rinse they have been washing for 20 seconds. Great for if you have more than the one child at home!

During that process it’s important to get toddlers and children to wash correctly and get every spot on their hands, so here is how to do that:
  • Wet hands and lather with soap
  • Rub palms together
  • Interlock fingers and rub
  • Place right hand palm down on top of left, interlock fingers and rub
  • Repeat with opposite hand
  • With palms facing in, place opposite fingers to palms and cup fingers together - this helps to clean under nails
  • Use opposite hand to wash thumbs by grabbing and rubbing
  • Grab opposite wrist with hand and wash in a wringing motion
  • Rinse thoroughly and dry hands

how can I encourage a toddler to wash their hands?

1. singing - Little ones love to sign and this is the perfect opportunity for it. It’s suggested that a child should sing happy birthday twice to wash properly but that can take some time. They can sing any song they like - a nursery rhyme, a made up song or something from the radio.

2. bubbles - Things might get a little messy but if you can make it fun for your little one, they will be more likely to want to do it themselves. You can add some soap to the sink and lather up hands enough to get lots of bubbles floating about.

3. rewards
 - Not everyone likes to reward good behaviour with a material good so it could something as simple as a sticker or positive affirmation. Helping your toddler feel like they’ve done a good job will keep them feel encouraged.

4. do it with them - Instead of telling them what to do, you can do it with them too! Seeing an adult doing something and enjoying it will show them that there is nothing to worry about and they can do it too.

5. add a friend - This could simply be their favourite teddy bear or rubber duck, it doesn’t have to be another child. When your toddler is going to wash their hands, you can also wash teddy bear’s hands to show that everyone has to keep clean.

should I speak to my child about coronavirus?

This is a very personal decision to make, and we believe that whatever you decide is the best approach. If you do decide to tell them, it’s important to make sure they do not feel scared or worried about the health of people in their lives, especially grandparents. If they are scared, it could cause distress for them so make sure you explain it in a way that is understandable and not frightening.

If you decide not to tell your little one about it, that’s also fine. They might ask questions on why they need to wash their hands so much or stay off school (if advised) but you can find other explanations for them to process. Alternatively, your little one might not ask any questions if they are even younger.

The information we currently have about coronavirus (COVID-19) is constantly changing as we discover more, so it’s important to keep up to date with reliable news sources for more information.

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