Reading, writing and hand washing? Yes, you could argue that hand washing is another skill important for children to master, whether at school or home.
Kids need to learn to practice a variety of healthy habits that help prevent the spread of germs that cause illnesses. School nurses such as myself probably know that better than most.
Hand washing continues to be one of the easiest and quickest ways to prevent the spread of germs. Remind your child to use soap and warm water and to wash all parts of the hands, including the sides and between fingers.
Encourage your child to gently rub his nails on the soapy palms to get the soap under them. Have your child dry his or her hands with a paper towel.
Before the cold and flu season starts, also practice with your child how to cough and sneeze into her sleeve rather than hands. Covering a cough or sneezing into our hands is no longer considered effective in preventing the spread of germs. Instead, teach your child to cough into his or her elbow or sleeve to catch airborne germs. This will prevent germs from transferring from hands to other items such as toys and surfaces. Not touching the eyes, nose or mouth with hands is another effective way to prevent introducing germs into the body.
Parents play an important role in developing healthy habits in their children. By using a variety of fun activities, they can motivate kids to do just that. Here are some suggestions:
* The Mayo Clinic recommends that each person take at least 20 seconds to properly wash their hands. Twenty seconds can feel like an eternity to a child. Try making it fun by having your child sing the "Happy Birthday" song twice. Or urge them to create their own hand-washing song with silly words that lasts 20 to 30 seconds. Soon the whole family will be singing along.
* Consider creating a family hand-washing chart for monitoring good practices. Look in the education sections of stores for chore charts. Have your child choose fun stickers for each person in the family to put on the chart every time they wash their hands correctly. Have a small reward for kids when they have accumulated a certain number of stickers each week.
* Make a "Caught You Doing It Correctly" jar. Use a small jar or orange juice glass and add a dry bean or piece of macaroni to it every time you catch your child covering his cough correctly. When the jar or juice glass is full, reward him with a fun activity such as playing his favorite board game or an extra trip to a favorite park.
* Check out the local library for children's books about hand washing and preventing illness. Ask your school librarian or school nurse for suggested titles. Read the book with your children. Not only will they learn about the topic, but they will also improve their reading skills.
* For younger children, get out the crayons and construction paper to create hand-washing posters that show the proper steps. Hang the posters in the bathroom and the kitchen to help remind your children of the steps.