Top Tips to Get Kids to Wash Their Hands

Frequently washing hands has never been more important these days, especially with the coronavirus outbreak. As parents, we are all thinking as we watch our children “wash” their hands, happily splashing away in the water, there’s no way those kids hands are actually being cleaned! Sure, they may be having fun, but unless we’re teaching our kids how to properly wash their hands, most are skipping steps and severely shortening the time in which their hands are spent covered in soap and water.

Now is a particularly good time to ensure everyone (including children) is washing their hands the right way, killing germs, and avoiding spreading their own germs to others. Not touching faces and avoiding surfaces in public are equally important. How can this be done, you might ask? Easy! As with most things related to children, keep it simple, repetitive, and fun!

A child washing their hands

Wet, lather, scrub, rinse, dry

This recommended handwashing sequence developed by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is a helpful guide:

1) Wet
2) Lather
3) Scrub
4) Rinse
5) Dry

According to the CDC, a good routine for washing hands is vital - especially for kids - as it has been proven to prevent a large portion of both diarrhea-related illnesses and respiratory infections. Proper handwashing can prevent serious illnesses such as meningitis, bronchiolitis, hepatitis A, the flu, norovirus or coronavirus.

Creatures of habit

Modeling good behavior and proper hygiene is very important for children, especially with the threat of coronavirus. Wasn’t it just last week when your daughter stole your makeup, stating she wanted to look grown-up “just like mommy?” Rather than losing your best Estee Lauder eyeshadow and liner to your darling mini-you, teach her to imitate you by frequently washing your hands!

As a parent, make it a habit of your own to wash your hands frequently or in any of these circumstances: 

  • After playing outside or in sand (or in public areas)
  • After using the toilet
  • After feeding or playing with pets
  • After changing a dirty diaper
  • After sneezing, blowing your nose, or touching your eyes or face
  • Before cooking or eating

In addition to the sequence of handwashing suggested by the CDC, be sure your kids know what parts of their hands need the most attention! We like this little chant in our house: 

“Under, over, around the sides! In between the fingers and everything behind!” 

This little tune refers to children needing to wash the tops and bottoms of their hands, the sides of each hand, in between the fingers, and their wrists (“everything behind!”). Once they’ve mastered scrubbing all surfaces of their hands and wrists, move on to some happy, fun songs that kids can sing while washing their hands. It is recommended that hands be lathered with soap for at least 20 seconds and these popular songs can be sung to last that or longer!

Sing a song!

Kids often respond well to new habits such as handwashing when it’s made easy to remember and fun for them. One of those ways is to get musical with your child! Sing and dance (well, sway your hips in place, that is!) to the tune of popular songs such as “Happy Birthday,” “The Alphabet Song,” “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,” or “You Are My Sunshine.” As a bonus, this timer could also be used for other activities and routines, especially when working on forming good teeth brushing habits!

Hand sanitizer works just as well, doesn’t it? 

It is important to note that not all germs may be efficiently killed with hand sanitizer. Some type of more resistant bacteria may include those found in norovirus, C.Diff, and certain parasites; these require a thorough 20-second (at least) scrubbing with soap and water to completely be eliminated from the skin. The efficiency of hand sanitizer may also be reduced by children or adults not using the recommended amount, found on the label of the bottle, or touching surfaces before the hand sanitizer has had time to dry. 

That being said, the next best thing to soap and water is a 60-95% alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Teach the kiddos the same tune of “under, over, around the sides! In between the fingers and everything behind!” to ensure hand sanitizer efficiently covers all areas of their little hands and fingers.

Having trouble?

It can be hard to start something new and we totally get that! That’s why handwashing can be made a part of the Goally routine on our handheld device! This will help build up the importance of efficient handwashing and help to make it part of the everyday routine instead of an added chore. Here’s an example of a successful Goally handwashing routine:

Handwashing routine for coronavirus

We simply want to make it easy, fun, and habitual for kids to learn good handwashing techniques early in life to keep them as healthy and safe as possible, now and in the future.


Ashley Lavoie is a mom of 3 and manages both child and adult ADHD and Neonatal Diabetes. She is advocating for awareness and loves writing and connecting with other families like hers.

Editor's note: This information is not meant to diagnose or treat and should not take the place of personal consultation, as needed, with a qualified healthcare provider and/or BCBA.

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