30th Oct 2020

When it comes to maintaining healthy hygiene habits, teaching your child to wash their hands is one of the easiest ways to help prevent the spread of unwanted bugs (1). After all, from shaking hands to touching shared surfaces, there’s ample opportunity for us to come into contact with hidden germs.

Hand washing is so engrained in our day-to-day routines that it’s hard to imagine a time when it didn’t feel like second nature. But, for your little one, proper hand hygiene is a skill that must be mastered over time.

Helping them understand the importance of good hand washing (and some handy tips) can help lay the groundwork for a lifelong hygiene habit

What Is The Proper Way To Wash Hands?

Although your little one may make an attempt at washing their hands, proper hand washing is a prescriptive practice.

For squeaky clean hands, the temperature of the water, the use of soap and length of the lather are all important.

Teach Your Child These 5 Steps To Wash Their Hands

  • Wet their hands with warm running water
  • Add soap to their hands and lather (making sure to get in between their fingers and the backs of their hands)
  • Rub their hands together for at least 20 seconds
  • Rinse off the soap with clean water
  • Dry with a clean hand towel or paper towel to finish

Explaining the Importance of Hand Washing to Your Child

For some children, understanding the “why” behind hand washing can be an important step in getting them to practice the hygiene habit regularly.

This can be a tricky concept for your little one to grasp. So, a brief discussion about bugs, germs and their immune system may help them to comprehend the logic behind hand washing.

This can be as simple as explaining that there are teeny tiny germs (so small they can’t seem them!) that cause sore throats and runny noses. Tell them that these live on all kinds of surfaces that your child’s hands come into contact with every day. Finally, explain that by scrubbing their hands regularly, your little one can wash away these germs and stop them from getting inside their nose and mouth.

Simple Tips to Help Teach Your Child To Wash Their Hands

While some children may take to hand washing like a duck to water, others may need a little further encouragement to stick out the full 20-second lather.

These helpful tips can help reinforce your little one’s progress and help engrain the hygiene habit.

To make handwashing fun and engage your child in understanding more about proper hygiene, you may like to include some fun activities to go alongside hand washing. If you’d like to make more of the handwashing experience for your child, our handy tips can help:

Sing a Song

Construct an original masterpiece or sample your little one’s favourite soundtrack to help keep them engaged while washing their hands.

The happy birthday song, the alphabet, and Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star are all popular options. But, any 20-second chorus that your child is familiar with will do.

Not only can this make the whole process more enjoyable, it can also help your little one comprehend how long 20-seconds really is and therefore how long they should lather for.

Give Frequent Reminders

Like forming any new habit, it may take a little while for your little one to remember to wash their hands every time.

By giving them a little nudge and regularly reminding them of how and when they need to wash their hands, (like before eating or after playing with pets) your child will eventually recognise which scenarios require a freshening up and head to the sink all on their own!

Lead by Example

Based on the concept of monkey see, monkey do, make sure you  practise what you preach.

This means washing your hands before and after eating or cooking, after using the bathroom, and after coughing or sneezing. It may also be helpful to point out to your little one what you’re doing (and why) and encourage them to wash their hands alongside you (for example, after a meal).

Be Patient

Being patient and understanding with your child can make for a positive learning experience. Show them that handwashing is a good thing, rather than something arduous or to be dreaded.

With these tips and tricks in your arsenal, your little one will be well on their way to washing up a storm. In the meantime, keep in mind that hand washing is a brand new concept for your child and it might take a little while before they start scrubbing their mitts completely unprompted. Remember, patience and persistence are key in laying the foundation for lifelong hygiene habits. Bugs and germs, be gone!

Of course, if you have any concerns about your child’s health, speak with your health professional.

What's Next?


  1. (2019). Hand washing. [online] Available at:


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