10 personal hygiene teaching activities for kids
- Teaching routine
- Washing germy hands
- Using songs
- Positive reinforcement
- Making visual displays
- Exciting science experiments
- Classroom games
- Assigning homework
- Invite a guest speaker
- Germ detectives
1. Teaching routine
The past year has made us more aware of the importance of personal hygiene, especially washing our hands. Getting your students into a handwashing/germ-busting routine will help make it become second nature with practice and patience. It’s good to have your classroom stocked with plenty of hand sanitizer. So, at the beginning of the year, ask parents if they would be willing to help by bringing sanitizer or a labeled handwashing kit from home to donate to the classroom.
Next, teach good hygiene routines like:
- Setting up a handwashing station
- Meeting in the morning and before and after breaks and lunch to wash hands
- Modeling correct handwashing techniques
- Demonstrating how to cover coughs and sneezes
- Using hand sanitizer after sneezing or coughing
- Wiping down surfaces in the classroom together
You should also be aware of advice from the CDC on preventing the spread of infection in our schools.
2. Washing germy hands
Grasping a tricky concept like invisible germs can be aided by using video, interactive, or visual activities. If you’re not afraid of a little mess (I mean, you work with kids – of course, you’re not), you can teach kids how long they should wash their hands with some glitter!
Steps for washing our germy, glittery hands:
- Ask your kids to suggest how long they should wash their hands
- Have them demonstrate how they wash their hands
- Talk about who they think does it the best
- Sprinkle glitter into their hands
- Ask them to rub their hands together to spread the glitter all over
- Let them try to wash it all off and time how long it takes
- Show early finishes any glitter they have missed
- Send them back for more washing
- Share ideas about what they have learned
The aim is to teach the kids that proper handwashing takes 20 to 30 seconds and requires covering all parts of your hand. Otherwise, germs will still be there. You can follow this by seeing how using soap makes a difference.
3. Using songs
Creating a simple, catchy song to sing while the kids are learning about hygiene is a great way to help them remember important information (See example “Handwashing song”). Kids’ songs always use fun, exaggerated gestures that you can make up to model correct hygienic practices. Repeating these gestures will help them become muscle memory for your young learners. With practice, your students will be able to perform the actions independently and effectively, and hopefully, you’ll have to give friendly reminders about good hygiene less and less.
Handwashing song (to the tune of “Old MacDonald”)
After (lunch), we wash our hands,
Wash, wash, wash our hands.
After (going to the toilet/riding the bus/playing with toys), we wash our hands,
Wash, wash, wash our hands.
After (sneezing – mime “achoo”/coughing), we wash our hands,
Wash, wash, wash our hands.
After patting my (cat/dog/goldfish), I wash my hands,
Wash, wash, wash my hands.
- Get creative and add extra verses.
- Use plenty of hand gestures to engage the kids and to model correct handwashing.
- Test kids on when to wash hands: “After math?” “After show and tell?” “After playing with your friends?” “Before we eat our lunch?”
4. Positive reinforcement
Never underestimate the power of using stickers and rewards in your classroom. First, have your students trace and cut out their hands. Then have them write their names on them for a “Clean Hands” chart to be displayed prominently in the classroom. During the day ask, “Who has clean hands?” and have your kids raise their hands for inspection. Allow time for students with dirty hands to quickly wash them. Provide plenty of praise to keep the whole process positively framed – being hygienic is a good thing! Finally, allow them to add a stamp or sticker to the hands they traced.
5. Making visual displays
Kids love drawing and being creative so instead of buying or making your own hygiene displays, divide your students into small groups, hand out poster paper and art supplies, and get your kids to make them. Give each group a “hygiene duty” to represent on their poster. When finished, groups can present their finished posters to the class. While explaining their posters, they’ll be processing important information in their own language.
You can ask questions like:
- “Why is covering our coughs and sneezes important?”
- “What type of personal hygiene products do people use?”
- “What do germs do to our bodies?”
- “Why do we brush our teeth?”
- “Who helps us to stay healthy?”
- “How do our bodies fight germs?”
Ask your students to lead class demonstrations and role-plays on different hygiene practices to follow. This will help your kids to become more independent and take ownership of their personal hygiene.
6. Exciting science experiments
There are some fabulous examples online of simple experiments that you can set up to demonstrate how germs spread and why we need to wash our hands.
For example, you could demonstrate how soap repels germs:
- Supply kids with a shallow dish filled with water
- Let them grind some pepper (or empty a pepper sachet) into the water
- Explain that the pepper represents germs
- Let the pepper spread all around the dish
- Ask the kids to dip their fingers into the dish
- See how the “germs” can stick to them
- Have each student dip their finger into some dish soap
- Explain that this represents washing their hands
- Let them dip their finger back into the dish
The “germs” should race to the sides of the dish, leaving the water around their fingers clear. It’s a fun, easy, and tactile way to teach kids the lesson that germs don’t like soap.
The moldy bread experiment is another easy experiment that allows kids to see how clean hands can stop the spread of germs and prevent them from getting into our bodies.
7. Classroom games
Making learning about personal hygiene fun will help your kids remember your lessons and make it a positive and active experience.
There are some excellent handwashing songs available from clever individuals on YouTube. Inspire your class to create their own parody of a popular song to teach handwashing as they entertain… “if you wanna wash your hands, you gotta use lots of soap…?”
You might make several props available and let your kids come up with crazy ways to brush their teeth or wash their hands and make everyone laugh. Then, have them demonstrate the correct equipment and technique to use, or have their classmates explain what they really should be doing.
Alternatively, you could have your students sit in a circle and pass around things like a toothbrush, hairbrush, a washcloth, and picture cards of the corresponding body parts they are used on. When the music stops, the students with items will need to find a partner with the correct picture card and together mime how to use their item correctly.
8. Assigning homework
The responsibility of teaching personal hygiene habits is not yours alone. It’s also important that efforts to develop good practices at school are reinforced (rather than lost) at home.
Involving parents and caregivers in the responsibility of teaching and modeling good hygiene at home may include:
- Asking your PTO/PTA to host an information night about teaching children good hygiene
- Sending information home in the school newsletter
- Developing a simple “yes/no” hygiene practice survey for families to complete at home (e.g., “Do we brush our teeth?”/ “Do we wash our hands?”)
- Drawing pictures to illustrate how mom or dad practices good hygiene
- Making a video with someone at home demonstrating good hygienic practice
- Completing a weekly healthy home hygiene checklist
Bring parents and caregivers into the hygiene conversation with their children through thoughtful homework assignments. Hopefully, having family members play a part in teaching hygiene awareness will make them more willing to encourage those same habits at home.
9. Invite a guest speaker
Kids understand that adults do different jobs for many reasons so invite hygiene specialists in various capacities to speak to them and reinforce how important personal hygiene is. It’s also great when students have an opportunity to watch someone else teach for a change.
Maybe a student’s parent is a doctor or a nurse. Kids will love seeing health professionals in their uniforms and the different types of equipment they use. Kids also love to role play, so ask the speaker to let the students volunteer to help with demonstrations using willing participants or “patients” from the room.
The kitchen and catering staff can show the kids how they keep the dining hall clean in your school. Students can also help them clean it and make sure where everyone eats is germ-free. Another great person to enlist would be someone from the custodial staff since they work daily to keep everybody safe from germs.
10. Germ detectives
This activity can be done with some washable, luminescent paints and blacklight torches (for a big budget) or simply with different colored post-it notes (for smaller budgets).
The idea is to demonstrate how easy it is to spread germs:
- Have several students be germ spreaders by painting their hands or giving each a post-it booklet.
- Have the rest of the class – germ detectives – shut their eyes and put their heads on the desk (no peeking).
- Ask the germ spreaders to walk around the room, touching different areas with the paint or post-it notes.
- When you think they have had enough time, have the germ spreaders stand at the front of the classroom.
- Instruct the germ detectives to trace the spread of germs around the classroom made by each spreader.
Hopefully, each student can have a turn spreading the germs. Afterward, ask the kids to explain why washing their hands is so important and where germs can be found, even if they can’t be seen.
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