Health experts insist that regular hand washing is vital for good health and to prevent the spread of respiratory and diarrheal infections.
This is as germs can spread from person to person or from surfaces to people.
This too is the case with youngsters.
"Teaching your kids proper hand washing techniques is essential for their health and the well-being of your entire family and community," Murray Hewlett, the CEO of Affinity Health, a leading local health cover provider explained.
"Hand washing may seem mundane, but it's one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of illnesses."
Hewlett added that the practice of hand washing dates back centuries and has evolved as society’s understanding of hygiene and disease transmission continues to evolve.
“Viruses that cause respiratory infections, like the common cold and flu, can survive on surfaces for hours,” he said, “and regular hand washing reduces the likelihood of touching contaminated surfaces and transferring the virus to your eyes, nose, or mouth.”
Hewlett added that proper hand hygiene is also essential for curbing the spread of food-borne illnesses. This is as hand washing prevents the transfer of bacteria and pathogens from one surface or ingredient to another during food preparation.
“For example, if you handle raw meat and then touch vegetables without washing your hands, you can contaminate the vegetables with the bacteria from the meat.”
And with the health of all, and in particular youngsters, in mind, Hewlett has provided the following simple and practical tips to make hand washing a habit for your children:
Make it fun with singing
Hewlett said that kids love to sing, and you can use musical strategy to make hand washing enjoyable for them.
“You should encourage your children to sing a song while they wash their hands,” he said. “He recommended teaching them to scrub their hands with soap for the duration of the song, which is about 20 seconds.
Use visual aids
“Visual aids are a fantastic way to help kids understand the importance of hand washing and the steps involved,” Hewlett said. He suggested finding posters or videos on the internet that illustrate hand washing.
Lead by example
Children often learn best by watching and imitating adults, so Hewlett believes that grown-ups are the best role models when it comes to hand washing.
“Demonstrate the proper hand washing technique, emphasising the importance of using soap, scrubbing all parts of the hands, and rinsing thoroughly.”
He added making hand washing a family affair by doing it together. “This will show your kids the right way to wash their hands and reinforce the idea that hand washing is a routine everyone should follow.”
Teach the five-step hand washing technique
To ensure thorough hand washing, Hewlett recommended teaching children the following five essential steps:
Wet: Start by wetting their hands with clean, running water. Make sure the water is at a comfortable temperature, not too hot or too cold.
Soap: Apply soap to their hands. Encourage them to use enough soap to create a good lather.
Scrub: Instruct them to rub their hands together vigorously. Ensure they scrub all parts of their hands, including the back, between the fingers, and under the nails. This step should last at least 20 seconds, or as long as it takes to sing "Happy Birthday" twice.
Rinse: Rinse their hands thoroughly under clean, running water. Help them ensure that all soap is washed away.
Dry: Use a clean towel or an air dryer to dry their hands. Remind them not to use a towel that has been used by someone else, as this can transfer germs.
Reinforce the ‘why’
Explaining the reasons behind hand washing can help children understand its significance, Hewlett believes.
“Discuss how germs and bacteria are invisible but can make them sick if they get on their hands and touch their face, eyes, nose, or mouth.”
Additional tips for effective hand washing education
Hewlett advised encouraging children to wash their hands at specific times, such as before eating, after using the toilet, after playing outside, and when they come home from school.
While soap and water are the best options for hand washing, hand sanitiser can be used when they are unavailable.
“Teach your children to use hand sanitiser with at least 60% alcohol content and supervise their use,” Hewlett said.
Hewlett believes in making hand washing a routine activity.
“Praise your children when they wash their hands properly,” Hewlett said.
Explain hand washing after coughing or sneezing
“Teach your children to cover their mouth and nose with a tissue or their elbow when coughing or sneezing,’ Hewlett advised, adding that, “Afterwards, they should wash their hands to prevent the spread of germs.”