One important factor in keeping yourself and others healthy is in your hands – literally.

Proper hand-washing is one of the best – and easiest – ways to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But it takes more than simply placing your hands under running water for a few seconds.

How can you help make sure your children are washing their hands correctly? Here’s the correct procedure. Teaching these steps is usually a “work in progress”:

  1. Wet your hands with warm water.
  2. Lather up with soap. Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  3. Scrub your hands for 20 seconds – about the time it takes to say the alphabet slowly or hum the “Happy Birthday” song twice.
  4. Rinse your hands well under warm, running water.
  5. Dry your hands using a clean towel.

Do’s & Don’ts of Teaching Hand Hygiene to Kids

Knowing how to wash their hands doesn’t mean kids will actually do it. Here are some do’s and don’ts for instilling good hand-washing habits in your children:

  • DO make hand-washing more fun by singing the alphabet slowly or the “Happy Birthday” song twice. Both work as a good timer that children will remember – and enjoy.
  • DON’T be boring. Try using scented soaps to get small children excited to head to the sink to wash their hands.
  • DO explain that the simple act of lathering up their hands with soap and washing with clean, running water for at least 20 seconds can really help keep them from getting sick and spreading germs to others.

To make learning about hand-washing more fun for your kids, download the Water Quality & Health Council’s helpful activity sheets, created by the University of Nebraska Lincoln Extension and the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department.

Sometimes moms assume that kids know how to wash their hands, but it never hurts to show them how to do it properly. Who knows? They may even remind you someday if you get in too much of a hurry yourself!