It's good to get children (and adults!) in the habit of washing hands frequently, because good hand hygiene is a way of stopping or at least reducing the chance of spreading diseases, from the simple cold and cough to more dangerous diseases such as meningitis and worms!
Does this mean children shouldn't get dirty?
Not at all! Children learn so much from getting mucky in the garden and playing outside. All you have to do is to ensure that they clean up properly afterwards. Then they get to enjoy and explore their world and lead a healthy life too!
We must instil in them that it is okay to get grubby to play outside to climb ladders and trees and stroke tame animals if they wish. However, we must make sure they understand why they must clean up afterwards to keep healthy.
When should we tell children to clean their hands?
Hands should be washed AFTER:
Hands should be washed BEFORE:
Eyes, nose and mouth
It is also important to teach children to respect their eyes, nose and mouth as a place where germs can get into their bodies. Don't frighten them, but try to make them aware that germs can get in and make them unwell if they are not careful about where they touch.
Hand washing is an important hygiene step both for your children, but also for you as a responsible parent. From the moment you have your baby, you must take extra care to ensure that you don't pass on infections unnecessarily, or indeed let anyone else pass on germs. There are lots of germs that can be passed from touch including common cold, infectious diarrhea and flu, including the strains of swine flu circulating the world at the moment.
Don't be embarrassed if you want friends and family to wash their hands before handling your baby - it may seem trivial but there's nothing silly about such a request, and no one could consider it rude if they really think through the consequences. If you are embarrassed about asking, just say that your health visitor or paediatrician insists on this level of hygiene.
Always wash your hands after changing your baby, and as children grow older and go to the toilet themselves, make sure that they always wash their hands. Lead by example and make sure that you always wash your own hands after going to the toilet, and your children will follow suit. Make sure that your children can reach the sink - buy them a plastic step so that they can reach the bowl and the taps, and buy them kids' soap in a squeezy dispenser - this will make hand washing more fun and encourage them in the pursuit of cleanliness!
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