Published on August 17, 2016

Hand Washing Tips for Kids

By Michael Parry, MD, Director of Infectious Disease and the Thomas J. Bradsell Chair of Infectious Diseases, Stamford Hospital

Washing hands in sink

Last time, we talked about the dirty and not-so-dirty facts about hand washing. Now it’s time to exercise your patience and teach your kids the importance of doing the following:

1. When their hands are visibly dirty, encourage them to wash in warm, running water. This will help dissolve oils more effectively. 

2. Show them how to properly wet their hands and then lather with soap. Do this together for added fun. 

3. Don’t miss a spot! Make sure they wash all hand surfaces. This means palms, thumbs, back of hands, fingers, and even fingernails.

4. Walk them through rubbing hands together for at least 20 seconds. If they start to lose steam, sing a song together. Suggestion? Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star or the Happy Birthday song.   

5. Rinse hands thoroughly with running water, then dry. 

6. Is your child not quite sink height yet? Consider adding a safety step to your bathroom so he or she can reach. Do the paper towel trick* as a last resort if your child is too heavy to hold up or if a safety step isn’t in your future plans. Wipe his or her hands with a damp, soapy paper towel. Then, use another clean, wet one to “rinse” the soap off. Finish it off with a clean, dry paper towel. 

Don’t forget to set a good example… Wash your own hands after running through the above.  

*Soap and water are always best. However, hand sanitizers can also do the trick when soap and water aren’t available. Use an alcohol-based one that contains at least 60% alcohol. Apply it to the palm and rub all over the hands and fingers, letting them air dry.